Dealing with anxiety, panic attacks and overwhelm
Why is anxiety so pervasive? And why do so many people struggle with feeling anxious or overwhelmed?
A 2014 YouGov survey for Mental Health Awareness Week showed 1 in 5 of those surveyed experienced anxiety all of the time or a lot of the time. And only 1 in 20 people said they never feel anxious. That’s an extraordinarily high proportion of people experiencing anxiety to a greater or lesser degree.
So what does anxiety mean for you? For me it was a hidden feeling for a long time. It had become so normalized that I couldn’t even have told you that was what I was experiencing.
Over time and with the help and support of counselling, I started to get a feel for what anxiety was. Yes a label to describe a generalized feeling, but also something quite specific. It was a knotting in my chest, a feeling of being wired and on full alert. Once I started to recognize the feeling, I started to notice how often I was in it.
Anxiety is one of the most common issues clients come to counselling with. Together with panic attacks, it can be a debilitating feeling which leaves it difficult for us to function healthily and at ease in many different situations. The catch all term is ‘Generalised anxiety disorder’ but behind that rather cold label, is a vast range of experiences and intensity for anxiety.
Of course there is healthy anxiety, which helps us tap into our sense of whether a situation is dangerous or unhealthy, but when that tips into an all pervasive feeling which dominates or controls our ability to act with enough freedom in our lives, then perhaps it’s time to ask, am I ok with this?
I’ve been really interested in the research that shows the impact of nature and green spaces on reducing anxiety. Anna Jane Adhemar in her dissertation “Nature as clinical psychological intervention:evidence, applications and implications” (2008) completed a comprehensive meta study of the evidence for nature based counseling on well being. In that she cited a range of evidence of the impact of green spaces and nature on stress and anxiety levels. Included in this was a Dutch study (cited p21) which found “that 95% of respondents believed that visiting nature was the most effective way of recovering from stress.” (Frerichs, 2004).
This is just one piece of evidence of course but I cite it as it resonates with my own experience and I wonder if it might with some of you reading this article? Other studies have measured stress recovery in individuals when subjected to natural scenes vs manmade and documented improved recovery rates from those presented with the natural scenes.
As a counsellor and ecotherapist, it’s important to me that we work with a growing evidence base for the positive impact of nature on mental health and wellbeing. And equally important for me as a Psychosynthesis counsellor, is listening to the inner wisdom that mirrors these findings. I know how I feel when I amongst the trees and plants compared to how I feel when I’m in a city.
If anxiety is something you are struggling with and feel you would like to get some help in Totnes, Paignton and Newton Abbot, get in touch. Whether its support in the counselling room or finding space to breathe and give attention to those difficult feelings, out in nature, I’d be glad to see if I can help. Why not get in touch for a first appointment or call me on 07443 640556
References and resources
Anna Jane Adhemar in her dissertation “Nature as clinical psychological intervention:evidence, applications and implications” (2008)
Freirich cited in Van den Berg, A. E., Hartig, T. & Staats, H. (2007). Preference for nature in urbanized societies: stress, restoration and the pursuit of sustainability. Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 63 (1), 79-96.
Author: Matt Fox, Counselling in Totnes, Paignton and Newton Abbot
Photo copyright Porsche Brosseau licensed under creative commons.