Just wish anxiety would take a hike? Anxiety in Vancouver.

Along with depression, anxiety is a major reason people come to see me in my Vancouver counselling practice. Sometimes clients are experiencing both anxiety and depression at the same time.

The go-go-go pace of modern life can begin to dictate the pace of our lives, especially in a big city like Vancouver. Anxiety can bubble up just thinking about all the things we could/should/want to be doing day-to-day here. But that’s just one piece of the picture (the backdrop, if you will). There are also significant pressures to make adequate money, cope with family problems, deal with workplace stressors, strive for a perfect body, love ourselves, etc. etc. etc. Plus, North American culture perpetuates the message that if we can’t make all of this look effortless, there’s something wrong with us. Which, of course, only adds to our stress levels.

Given these pressures, having anxious feelings makes sense. Who wouldn’t feel anxious? It’s when anxiety becomes uncontrollable, highly distressing, and/or it’s impacting how we function at work, home, school, or socially, it’s time to attend to it more deeply. The sleepless nights, the unrelenting worry, the pounding heart might feel like they are running our lives. Then, we start to fear the anxiety itself. It feels terrible. We hate it. Understandably, we try all sorts of things just to get some relief (ignoring it, distracting ourselves, binge eating or restricting, drinking, smoking weed, shopping, etc.). But we usually find these to be short-term fixes, and anxiety comes back. So…what to do?

Each person experiencing anxiety is unique, so the form and pace of learning to manage it better needs to be individualized. So, in counselling, different things are focused on at different times. I use a couple of counselling methods to help: (1) evidence-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for anxiety management skills building; and (2) relational- and emotion-focused interventions for addressing some of the deeper issues influencing your anxiety. You’ll notice I say “manage your anxiety better,” not “get rid of your anxiety” — that’s because none of us can get rid of anxiety completely, and anyone (professional or otherwise) who tells you that you can is being misleading. But, for sure you can come to a place where anxiety no longer runs your life.

The single biggest ingredient for success is mustering your courage to face anxiety. Scary. But that’s what counselling is for: you don’t have to do it alone. I’m here to help you through it.

And, in the mean time, remember to breathe. Diaphragmatic breathing is one of the most powerful things we can do to help us regulate anxiety, and bring more calm and grounded energy into our bodies. Dr. Andrew Weil has some good variations, so check them out: