Tag Archives: Fear

Anxiety – a monster under the bed?

We can’t escape it. The worrying thoughts. Sometimes a pounding heart or sweaty palms. At times the sense of unease. Anxiety in its various forms can be present in all of us at different times. It is called many names. Fear, panic, phobia, stress, freaking out, concern, etc. At times it arrives because of a specific event (like an examination or doctor’s appointment). For others it may be the sight of an unwanted visitor. Good morning Incy Wincy Spider!

None of us escape the experience of anxiety. It is in essence hotwired into us. Hotwired neurologically and like electricity runs through our central nervous system. But why do we have anxiety? This uncomfortable and even disabling experience. Why is it often part of our daily lives? Not everyone will agree on “daily “, but I find that the majority of clients presents with a higher or lower degree of anxiety. This is very often the case when anxiety was not their initial complaint or concern. I am thus not surprised when a referral to me is due to depression or other challenges , but it becomes clear that anxiety is part of the package.

When it comes to emotional obstacles, a major challenge can be fighting against what we can not see or what we believe “is part of whom I am”. In essence the fight can then turn against one self. Me versus I. Instead of me against anxiety. To see anxiety as the enemy is not beneficial and can be visualised (imaginative or symbolised by a real object) as the problem the requires management. And the starting point? At the beginning. Understanding how anxiety operates and why we experience it.

Step 1. Feelings of anxiety start with a trigger or catalyst. This may be a smell, seeing an external object or by internal feelings . The amygdala jumps into action by preparing us physically and mentally into a fight or flight mode. This response is triggered by the release of adrenaline into the bloodstream via the kidneys. As a result our blood pressure and blood sugar rises, muscles are fueled with energy and we focus on what may be the potential danger. This may stifle some into a passive state; others are thrown into chaotic action, while others become extremely focussed and structured.

The Shadow ManStep 2. To identify the threat or potential danger. The importance of this that we may be (1) confronted by a real danger or problem, (2) that we responded incorrectly to an external or internal stimulus or (3) that when nothing happens, uncertainty may be appear to be a threat. This step is within the context of anxiety being a survival mechanism. If not for anxiety, we would not have survived as a human beings over centuries. However, when exposed to anxiety on a regular basis or growing up in an environment where anxiety flourished, it might have become behavioural patterns and even part daily routines.

Step 3. Ask yourself, “What purpose does anxiety serve in my life?” Does anxiety enhance my experiences of love, beauty, creativeness and (importantly) logical thoughts. Does it impede in the pleasure I may gain from a loving relationship, my sleep or even my ability to complete my studies or a piece of art? What does anxiety steal from me?

Step 4. Finding ammunition to manage anxiety. Before you fire away, know we cannot rid ourselves of anxiety . We all have times when anxiety visits and times when it serves an important function. However, consider the following:

  • How many of your worries become true? If you write down your weekly worries. Say you start at the floor, write them down one for one till you reach the ceiling. How many did repeat? Then tick each one that became true. How many ticks? Interesting.
  • Stay in the here and now, the present. Anxiety often let us dwell on decisions we made (“Did I do the right thing?”, “What did they think …?”) or focus on the uncertainties of the future (so many “What if?” questions).
  • Know that your experience of anxiety does not imply something is wrong with you. Anxiety visit people from all ages, religions, cultural backgrounds. You are one of us if you experience anxiety. You are not alone. You are not the problem. Anxiety is.
  • Do you ever worry that someone will knock on your door and say, “Congratulations, you have won a wonderful holiday!” No, anxiety does not focus on possible positive outcomes. It tells us the potential bad stuff, what may go wrong and the worst possible scenarios.
  • Know that physical sensations are anxiety gearing you up for action. Your dry mouth, hairs on the back of your neck rising up, having cold feet and pins and needled in your fingers, butterflies on your stomach, shallow breathing and increased heart rate are all part of the fight or flight package. You can use it if you are under threat. But if all is fine, know that it is just anxiety being unpleasant. Know YOU WILL NOT DIE FROM THIS.
  • Breath in. Breath out. Slowly and deeply. Give your body and your brain oxygen. Breath in. Breath out.

Step 5. If you find anxiety overwhelming, find someone to talk to. This may be a friend, a family member, someone you trust (e.g. religious affiliation) or professional. So often anxiety grows on us as we keep it private. But bottling it up just let the temperature rise. Let it out, let it go. The monster under your bed is not real. It is anxiety trying to scare you.



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Filed under Psychology Reflections, This thing called life


In June 2010 we decided to return to South Africa after nearly 8 years in the UK. To do this, we decided to wrap our return within a positive approach. It was not a decision to be ignorant, but to not be bogged down by negativity. This was a choice, our choice. We had enough to deal with. To pack-up our lives and travel back, start-up new lives and to introduce our girls to the place(s) that we still called home. Our choice included avoiding News24, not to tolerate the doubters, sceptics and poisonous realists who did not understand our decision to head south. These were unwanted, unneeded. They would not understand the values that we embraced and our need to return home. We were not going to take their fears with us or be burdened by their demons.

Obviously we lived in South Africa before for more than 30 years , followed the news and were informed by friends and family over the years about the good, the bad and the ugly. We had a good idea about what awaits. This decision was also informed by my personal and professional belief that life’s real enemies and ghosts are often not the external ones, but the internal. I am conscious as I write this, that there are many who have been hurt or lost loved ones due to crime or has decided to move elsewhere due to fears about physical safety. I never judge these decisions, but cannot take their scars as mine. Just as in my professional capacity, I would “be” with those who bring their fears, tears and broken hearts and souls to me, travel with them to a place of healing but not take their pain or angst as my own.

On Friday past, this attitude was put to the test. We woke just after 3 a.m. to find that someone attempted to break into our garage. It was so unexpected. Over the last 2 months we have been consumed by my diagnosis of a brain tumour, the upcoming operation to remove it and the related fears that pounced upon us. In the light of the next morning we inspected the scene of the attempted crime, almost bemused by the intruder’s audacity. It was my wife who commented, “I thought I would be more scared”. I assume that after dealing with the depths of emotions and staring into the unknown, we were not going to become victims of either crime or fear. We are not going to feed the fears … not unnecessarily anyway …


Filed under My Brain Tumour and I, Psychology Reflections