Breaking the Stigma: Why Seeking Anxiety Therapy is OK
On his podcast, Stephen Bartlett asked Shopify president Harley Finkelstein the question “Do you think entrepreneurs and founders should go to therapy?” His answer smashes away any stigma surrounding therapy.
“I think entrepreneurs and founders need to be self-aware. That’s the first thing. Once they’re self-aware and they understand, hey there are some things going on in my mind, in my personality, in my being that I need to work on, I think therapy is a hack to get there faster. You can do it on your own – some people do – some people do it through books and they do it through meditation, and they go do ayahuasca in a desert somewhere. But I think, if you have the means to go to therapy, how could you not?
There is someone whose job it is to make you better. Now, a lot of people make a mistake where they go to see one therapist and think this doesn’t work for me. Therapy doesn’t work. No, that therapist didn’t work. If you date someone and that relationship doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean you don’t date again, it means that was the wrong person for you. Whether it’s coaching or mentors or therapist or psychologist in your life or psychiatrist, you need to find the right fit. But if you have the means to do so it’s the greatest hack ever. To just know more, realise more, is it going to be painful? Unequivocally. The joke that I have with my therapist is I know it’s been a good session if I feel worse after than when I did coming in. I come into these sessions, and I’ve got swagger, I’ve had a great day and things are going my way, an hour later I leave and I’m like, oh my god, I’m still such a work in progress.”
Therapy is a great hack to help you get where you want to faster, especially if you’re struggling with anxiety.
What is Anxiety?
My daughter often asks me whether animals are fierce. Sometimes she’ll name the animal. Other times, she’ll ask about animals in a specified location or situation. Recently, I explained to her that every animal in the kingdom, including us, can display moments of fierceness. When they feel threatened. This fierceness is a product of the fight or flight response. Sometimes freeze and fawn get added to the end, fight, flight, freeze or fawn. Often, this fight or flight response is unnecessary in our world, so we call it anxiety.
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to a perceived threat to your life. Your brain, the part of you given the job of life keeper, primed – ready to kick into action whenever your life is at risk. Frustratingly, your brain cannot differentiate between real and imaginary or actual threats to your life Vs a threat to your ego. Sometimes it actions the response unnecessarily.
Additionally, some people experience false anxiety. This is when an aspect of your lifestyle creates physical symptoms of anxiety. For example, a drop in blood sugar over night might cause you to wake up with feelings of anxiety, just as caffeine or dark chocolate gives some people heart palpitations. These physical feelings create an unease that causes real, but unnecessary anxiety.
Therapy comes in many forms. In my opinion, nutritional therapy, mindfulness, and some form of body work, such as massage or yoga, are as important for easing anxiety as talking therapy, such as hypnotherapy or counselling. Ideally, you’ll combine the therapies to create a holistic programme for yourself.
Nutritional therapy plays an important role in managing anxiety. Here are a few ways in which nutritional therapy helps:
- Regulating blood sugar: Fluctuations in blood sugar levels can lead to mood swings and feelings of anxiety. Nutritional therapy helps by recommending foods that stabilise blood sugar levels.
- Boosting neurotransmitters: Neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA are important for regulating mood. Nutritional therapy can recommend foods that help boost these neurotransmitters, such as foods rich in tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin.
- Reducing inflammation: Chronic inflammation in the body is linked to anxiety and depression. Nutritional therapy can recommend an anti-inflammatory diet, which includes foods such as fatty fish, leafy greens, and berries.
- Identifying food sensitivities: Food sensitivities can cause physical symptoms, such as bloating, diarrhoea, and headaches. They can also affect mood and mental health. Nutritional therapy can help identify food sensitivities and recommend an elimination diet to reduce symptoms.
- Addressing nutrient deficiencies: Nutritional therapy can identify any nutrient deficiencies that may contribute to anxiety, and recommend foods or supplements to address these deficiencies.
Mindfulness is a technique that involves paying attention to the present moment, without distraction or judgement. Living mindfully is an effective way to reduce anxiety. Continue for five ways mindfulness helps anxiety:
- Reducing rumination: Anxiety can cause repetitive, negative thoughts that can lead to rumination. Mindfulness can help you acknowledge these thoughts and emotions without getting caught up in them.
- Lowering physiological arousal: Anxiety can cause physiological symptoms, such as increased heart rate, sweating, and shallow breathing. Mindfulness can help lower physiological arousal by reducing the body’s stress response.
- Increasing self-awareness: Mindfulness can help you become more aware of your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations. Helping you identify triggers for anxiety and develop strategies for managing it.
- Enhancing emotional regulation: Mindfulness can help you regulate your emotions by increasing your ability to observe and accept them without judgment. This helps you respond to stressful situations in an adaptive way.
- Improving overall well-being: Practicing mindfulness regularly improves your overall well-being, which has a positive impact on your mental health. It can help you develop a more positive outlook, increase feelings of gratitude, and improve your relationships.
Bodywork is a helpful tool for managing anxiety. Here are a few ways bodywork can help:
- Reducing muscle tension: Anxiety can cause muscle tension and physical discomfort. Bodywork such as massage therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and acupuncture can help release tension and promote relaxation.
- Calming the nervous system: Bodywork activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s relaxation response. This helps counteract the effects of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s stress response.
- Improving breathing: Bodywork helps improve breathing patterns, which helps reduce anxiety. Techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing, practised in yoga and other forms of bodywork, can help increase oxygen intake and reduce shallow breathing.
- Enhancing body awareness: Bodywork can help increase body awareness, which makes it easier to identify areas of tension and stress. This helps you develop strategies for managing anxiety, such as stretching or relaxation techniques.
- Promoting overall well-being: Bodywork promotes overall well-being by improving circulation, reducing pain, and enhancing relaxation. This can have a positive impact on mental health and help reduce anxiety.
Talking therapy, also known as psychotherapy or counselling, is a common form of treatment for anxiety. Here are a few ways in which talking therapy can help:
- Identifying triggers: Talking therapy helps you identify the specific situations or events that trigger your anxiety. Once you’ve identified these triggers, you can work on developing strategies for managing them.
- Learning coping strategies: Talking therapy helps you develop coping strategies for managing anxiety. This may include techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or cognitive restructuring.
- Addressing underlying issues: Underlying issues such as past trauma, relationship problems, or other psychological issues might be the cause of your anxiety. Talking therapy helps you address these issues and work through them.
- Improving communication skills: Difficulties in communication sometimes causes anxiety. Talking therapy can help you improve your communication skills and develop more effective ways of expressing your thoughts and feelings.
- Enhancing problem-solving skills: Talking therapy helps you develop problem-solving skills that you can apply to manage anxiety. This may include identifying and evaluating potential solutions to a problem, or learning how to break down larger problems into smaller, more manageable tasks.