Overcoming Anxiety

– by Lynne Wu Psychologist, M.A.P.S. Breathe Holistic Health


What are the indicators of Anxiety?

Anxiety is on the rise in our society. Clinical  researchers  show  that   there is  a  high correlation  between  the following tendencies with anxiety:  Perfectionistic  traits ,  rigidity of  Black and-White  thinking,  All –or –nothing  approach to  life ,  Over-ambition ( with  unrealistic  goal –setting and expectations),   tendency to  Over-generalize and Over-exaggerate  with  negative  thinking,   comparison of  oneself with others  and  the tendency to underestimate self and over idealize others –  to name  just a  few.  
In most  cases, unresolved past significant  traumas, loss, and grief in a  condensed  time frame  can also cause generalized  anxiety or panic attacks.   The overall  theme underlying anxiety is  a sense of “ being out of control”, “tendency to  overreact due to  hugely  distorted negative views about a  situation” combined with “ fears of the unknown”.  As the result of  being out of control, the  anxious person often would try to  balance such by  taking “excessive control”, which at times can result in  having  obsessive-compulsive traits or  disorder.

Can a Psychologist help?

Clinically, exploring the original wounds  using  the  evidence-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy  combined with Acceptance Commitment Therapy and  needed  psycho-educations,  often  can lead  to  good results with much improved coping.   After all,  in  most of the clinical cases I have seen,  anxiety is  a learnt  response  over time as our  society  demands more and more “ image-oriented” ,” speed-orientated” , “ goal-orientated”, “ materialism-orientated”, “ ego-orientated”  and “ perfection-orientated” ways  of thinking and living.    If anxiety is a learnt maladaptive response in life, it can be unlearnt too.  The  good  news  is, it does not have to take years to relearn  positive  ways of  thinking and responding  to replace the above  tendencies to overcome anxiety.

What does an anxious person focus on?

Take Perfectionistic traits for example, whilst being reinforced and cherished by our society as a “good virtue”; when overused, they dampen our self-confidence and psychological wellbeing.   Perfectionism  often produce the best–looking or most-impressive results, but in the process of doing so,  the  focus is often on “ what is not right yet” and “ fault-picking” with the intent that  by so doing , it will push us  to  “strive for the best”  each time.  
Whilst the intent is  decent,  “ fault-picking” with the “focus on the lacks and weakness“ and over-emphasis  on what is  “still not good enough yet “ repeatedly often  make us  feel  inadequate over  a  period  of time.   Without  sufficient  praises  and rewards to  acknowledge our  “good intent” and “decent efforts” (even though we have not produced excellent or perfect results immediately yet),   if all we hear from others  are “not good enough”, “ not good enough yet”,  “ far from perfect yet”,  it’s  easy  for us to  feel  overwhelmed, frustrated,  out of control and internalize  the repeated comments of “not  good enough”  as “ never  good enough” after a while.  Thus, resulting in lower self-esteem with self-inadequacy despite  high  achievements.   
Over time,  it becomes a  highly self–critical  tendency  that extends to  criticism of and being  demanding of others  to match the same.  The harder we strive for an “unrealistic goal” by being too perfectionistic, the more we feel  like a failure. The process is a self-sabotage by itself.   The more we feel like a failure, the higher the goal we set to strive to with the mindset of “if only I try even harder”!  It’s a never ending loop.


Are there physical symptoms involved?

This emotional loop makes  everyone  “ tip-toe on thin ice” and  with highly strung exhaustion. Typical  physical  symptoms of generalized anxiety include:  psychologically ( often stress and worry) –induced : headache,  blur  vision,  dizziness,   dry throat, dry mouth,  chest pain,  pounding  heart,   chest tightness,  stomach ache & discomfort,  diarrhea,  shaking,   sweating,  physical numbness, tingling,  cold  chills  , hot  flushes, fears of dying, fears of going crazy, fears of being out of control etc.