Health: Getting A Handle On Anxiety

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I’m sure you have heard people saying, “I am having an anxiety attack.” Even though we use the word anxiety casually, for some people it can be a difficult problem. The term ‘anxiety disorder’ refers to a group of related conditions that may require help from a doctor.

Anxiety is a natural “alarm system” which alerts you to danger. Imagine coming face to face with a dangerous animal while hiking. Anxiety provides a burst of energy to get you out of danger. However, immediate dangers are not the only cause of anxiety.

We all have experienced feelings of anxiety. The heart pounds before an exam. We get butterflies in our stomach before a job interview. We are unable to sleep. We worry about where to find money for next month’s rent. These worries are normal. Often, just talking about them will help to you deal with them. However, some people feel constant unexplained fear, dread or apprehension – a feeling that the worst is yet to come. Try asking what is it that worries them and they can’t really put their finger on it.

If worries and fears are preventing you from living your life normally, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder – they affect how people think, feel and behave. They can also produce physical symptoms which can be frightening. In some people, it might feel like a heart attack. Symptoms can differ, but can include uneasiness, apprehension, fear, trouble concentrating, irritability, restlessness, feeling tense and jumpy, difficulty sleeping and lack of appetite. The good news is that there are many treatments for anxiety disorder. If these symptoms play a role in your life, then you should visit your doctor who might prescribe medication or suggest that you visit a therapist or a counsellor.

For most of us, especially new immigrants, the feelings of uncertainty and concern about the future can be real, but might also be related to the past. For example, a recently arrived bride may be happy in her new home, but might not be able to let go of her worries regarding the immigration process and citizen requirements. Many individuals have lived in refugee camps or have come from war torn countries, and have experienced any number of horrible things. These experiences can continue to make people feel unsafe here.

In some cases, when parents are living in a constant state of anxiety, the children pick it up and they also become restless and irritable. A trained counsellor or therapist can help individuals deal with these issues in the home.

You may believe that going to a counsellor or therapist is a sign of failure. You may think that it labels you ‘mentally imbalanced’ or ‘ ill’. You may also worry that someone from the community will find out about your visits to a therapist and everyone will gossip.

In the old country, many of us had community elders, aunts, and uncles, trusted cousins, sisters, brothers and parents – people with whom we could discuss whatever was bothering us. Problems generally belonged to the extended family, and many times even the neighbours had suggestions. Everyone worked together to find a solution.

In our new homeland, counsellors and therapists provide similar support in managing our new environment. All the information about you is kept confidential. They work with you to set goals that will work within your family and community. They will teach you skills that will work for you. This knowledge makes your decision to go for counselling more understandable. Not only can you explain your decision, you can recommend this approach to others who may be having trouble coping with anxiety.

Aruna Papp – MA, ADR, MEd.

She is a Counsellor/Therapist in Private Practice. As an immigrant, Aruna took advantage of all the opportunities Canada offers. She attended ESL classes, earned two Masters Degree and founded 3 immigrant-helping agencies dealing with domestic violence. Now in private practice; she consults for governmental and non-profit agencies, conducts workshop and is a frequent keynote speaker.

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