Being a counselor is just such a joy for me... most of the time.
Early in my career, I wondered if becoming a therapist would mean listening to people vent their complaints all day. I worried if I could ever help them change. I wondered if they would think I was enough of an expert to guide them in their journey toward a better life.
The good news is that opening my private counseling office in Florence, Alabama has been one of the most satisfying and fulfilling moves of my life. When I work with a woman who has anxiety attacks, or a child who can't go to school because of worry, or with a mom who wonders if everyone is as overwhelmed as she is (The answer is yes.), I can't help but feel truly blessed.
There are hard parts about my job, though.
One of the most difficult parts of being a counselor is knowing wholeheartedly that someone would benefit tremendously from my services, yet they just don't realize it.
"This is just how I am."
Is it? Or is this how you are when your emotions are out of balance? If you worked with me for a few sessions, would your mind still race with worries that your child will get sick or be in an accident?
"It runs in my family. My mom was always worried sick, and my grandfather was... and I've been this way since I was a kid."
Wow. What a shame that three generations of your family has lived with symptoms of sleeplessness, excessive fear, and jaw pain that all could have been avoided.
"Isn't this just life? I mean, I feel like what I'm worried about - finances, jobs, kids - is all pretty normal."
Allow me to let you in on a little secret:
Just because worrying about everyday life - kids, jobs, finances - is common doesn't mean it's normal.
Research tells us that up to 1 in 5 people worldwide suffer from anxiety. That makes it extremely common... but it doesn't make the way your body feels with anxiety normal. Far from it.
Your body is trying to tell you that something is abnormal when you experience the symptoms of anxiety:
- Feeling restless, tense, on edge, or keyed up
- Muscle tension in your shoulders, feet, back, or jaw
- Bad dreams, fitful sleep, waking up repeatedly, or having trouble turning your mind off at bedtime
- Heartburn, stomachaches, vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea when stressed
- Having a sensation of choking or chest tightness in times of intense panic
- Feeling a sense of impending doom if you're not with your "safe person" or "safe place"
- Ruminating on the "what ifs" past the point of what's actually helpful
Although these symptoms may be the most common manifestations of emotional distress in the world, they are NOT normal.
To that end, I created my free "Is it Anxiety or Stress?" quiz to help you figure out the difference. While it's not a diagnostic tool intended to determine whether you're clinically diagnosable with anxiety (only your health care professional can do that), it's designed to identify key symptoms of excessive anxious thoughts that can show up in your mind and body.