Anxiety

Anxiety Is ‘Normal’

It is very natural to feel anxious at times.  It is totally understandable to feel nervous, worried and anxious under certain circumstances and it would be strange not to experience some anxiety e.g. at a job interview, doing exams, taking your driving test, going on a first date, getting married, getting divorced.

It is when the level of anxiety is not matched to the situation or event that anxiety can become a problem.

When Anxiety Becomes A Problem

Anxiety starts with negative thoughts, which may be very clear or may be going on behind the scenes (subconsciously).  These thoughts originate from the belief that something bad is going to happen.  However, this belief is usually not completely logical or rational.  You may have learnt to be an ‘anxious character’ as you have picked this up from the influence of anxious parents, or parents may have taught you that the world is a dangerous place, and as you have grown up, you may have internalised, or taken this on as your own belief (out of awareness), which may mean that you continue to be fearful and anxious of the world in general.  Others or, may have had a very frightening experience which has become lodged as part of your future expectation, that is, you believe frightening things are going to happen again.  The feelings of fear and the physical symptoms seem like a very real threat.  Others can tip into anxiety when life’s pressures become overwhelming and you they do not feel in control.

Symptoms And Impact Of Anxiety

Suffering with anxiety can really get in the way of day to day life.  Some of the physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Racing heart
  • Shallow and rapid breathing
  • Shaking hands and wobbly legs
  • Light headed and dizzy
  • Butterflies or a churning stomach
  • Feeling sick
  • Pins and needles
  • Fidgety and restless
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep
  • Grinding teeth in your sleep
  • Panic attacks

The mental and emotional impact may involve your negative thoughts becoming persistent and overwhelming, making it difficult to concentrate on work or studies, family relationships may become strained and you may feel short tempered and impatient, and not feel like seeing friends, you may not want to be out and about doing your usual leisure activities, and day to day decision making can become very hard to think about.  Your behaviour can change e.g. not wanting to go out of the house, increased use of alcohol or other substances, withdrawal and isolation from friends and family, fear of being around lots of people, loss of appetite, disturbed sleep, depression.

Whereas life before was manageable despite difficult times and stresses, certain situations or even much of the time can feel overwhelming as you lose your sense of internal sense of safety and security.

If you become very anxious it is easy to lose perspective,  and it may seem that there is no other way to feel or think at that time.  This is extremely distressing and difficult to go through but, the GOOD NEWS is that as anxiety has been learnt, it can be unlearned.  Physical symptoms can be managed.  Unhelpful and unhealthy behaviours can be replaced by healthy and nurturing activities and actions.

Is Your Anxiety A Problem?

The following may help you to identify if your anxiety is problematic:

  • The level of your anxiety is out of proportion to the situation
  • Your feelings of anxiety are frequent, very strong or last for a long time
  • You find that you are avoiding situations that might cause you to feel anxious
  • You are not able to reassure yourself and your thoughts and feelings are upsetting and hard to control
  • You experience panic attacks
  • You become withdrawn from your usual activities and find it hard to do the things you usually enjoy

Getting Help And Support

Seeking help from a counsellor/therapist gives you space and time to talk about what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling with someone who is there to listen to you and help you.  Together you can focus on getting better, managing the symptoms, trying out some different behaviours, and exploring the negative thought patterns and beliefs that are causing so much fear.  Painful aspects of past experience may need to be processed, in order to acknowledge feelings and thoughts which may have been too frightening and overwhelming to have faced before.  With the support and guidance of therapy, feelings can be expressed in a safe place, and finishing unfinished business can take place.

Self Help Actions

Alongside dealing with the underlying issues which may have caused or at least contributed to anxiety, it is helpful to focus on some actions which help reduce the symptoms.  Helpful actions include:

  • Breathing and relaxation techniques (there are plenty of resources on YouTube)
  • Yoga, mediation, mindfulness (again, YouTube is a great resource)
  • Regular exercise – something enjoyable be it gentle walking or a vigorous workout
  • Adopting a more healthy lifestyle, including exercise, a healthy and nutritious way of eating, reducing intake of caffeine, sugar and alcohol.
  • Leisure activities which may be personal to the individual e.g. reading, listening to music, seeing friends, gardening, creative arts.
  • Try to manage your worries – write things down or keep a diary which can help gain awareness of triggers and help to externalise and give less power to frightening thoughts and feelings

Untreated Anxiety

If anxiety is left untreated, the symptoms and thought patterns can worsen, making life feel more unmanageable, causing other emotional and psychological difficulties such as depression.  This can lead to isolation, or further use of alcohol or other substances.  Consequently, work is likely to suffer, possibly leading to long term absence, relationships and family life suffers.

Getting Help

If you are aware of the signs of anxiety in yourself or others, you can consider putting help and support in place.  For further information or to book an appointment, please get in contact via the contact page.

More info can be find here on the MIND website

 

What happens in a MIAM?

What happens in a MIAM?
If you are going through a separation or divorce, you will probably have heard the word ‘MIAM’ being spoken about. This stands for Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, and is the first step in family mediation. It is a meeting with a family mediator where you get to find out how mediation works and whether it would be suitable for your situation. You may need to sort out what will happen with the family home and other properties which you may own, other finances including your pensions, child and spousal maintenance, as well as where the children will live and how they will spend time with each parent.

At a MIAM, I ask questions about the specifics of what needs to get resolved, plus some background information, as well as how the current communication is between you and your ex partner. This enables me to build a picture of how mediation might work for you, and some of the things I may need to consider that may help and support you both, as well as some of the things that you may need to think about. I will explain what happens if you both decide to go ahead with mediation, and the process you will go through in order to reach a financial settlement, or agree on a parenting plan / arrangements for your children. I will also give you an estimate of how many sessions you are likely to need and the all inclusive costs so that you can plan your budget accordingly, and compare this with the costs of the alternatives.

You can attend a MIAM on your own (£75), or with your ex partner (£60 each). Either way, time will spent with you both separately. If you attend alone, the meeting lasts for approximately 45 minutes and if with your ex partner, about an hour and a quarter. Attending a MIAM is a legal requirement before being able to make an application to the court regarding financial matters and arrangements for children.

Many people feel reluctant to come to a MIAM, seeing it as a tick box exercise with no intention of seeing what mediation might offer. In my experience however, talking to a mediator, asking some questions, and finding out a bit more often leaves people thinking that they have nothing to lose, and can save on legal and court fees, time, stress and emotional upheaval.

With a background in counseling, I understand a lot about how people are feeling at the time of divorce and separation, the stress, anger and upset that they may be feeling at the same time as having to sort out the huge issues of what will happen to the family home, and who the children are going to live with. Being empathetic to this helps as people feel validated, heard and understood, and this can make it a whole lot easier to navigate what might feel like a baffling minefield.

Mediation offers a space where both parties are treated fairly, where the mediator makes sure that parties listen to each other (even if they don’t agree), and where there is the opportunity to share ideas with each other whilst a neutral and impartial professional guides you through the process.

 

Therefore if you have preconceived ideas that mediation is not for you, my suggestion would be to come to your MIAM with an open mind — you have nothing to lose.