What is Anxiety ?
Are you nervous about taking that leap or are you
struggling with anxiety?
The period we are living in has been called the Age of Anxiety, which may not surprise you with the pace of modern life, financial stresses and family pressures. However, the word anxiety has lost its seriousness as it is used to describe anything from butterflies to a full panic attack. It is important to understand that anxiety is more than being worried. The anxious feelings you feel before a speech or exam is our body preparing you to manage a difficult situation. This good type of anxiety helps you feel alert and motivated to perform well. Anxiety that doesn’t seem to leave however can impact your daily life and stop you from doing things you need to get done.
How do you know your suffering from unhelpful anxiety?
There are many individual differences with how anxiety is felt but the below list gives you some common symptoms.
There are many different types of anxiety disorders.
People feel anxiety differently and there are a few different types of the disorder which are all treatable.
Generalised AnxietySome people have persistent anxiety about school, work, health and family a lot of the time. Feeling tense and nervous most of the time is hard to control and is associated with having trouble sleeping and concentration.
Social AnxietyIntense fear and anxiety about interacting with people because the person is worried about being judged or embarrassed. Avoiding situations where there are other people becomes a real problem.
Separation AnxietySome people experience significant fear or anxiety in relation to people they love. This is because they fear they may lose this person when they are not in sight.
AgrophobiaThere are instances where people have extreme fear or anxiety about being outside their home. Situations include public spaces, public transport, enclosed spaces, standing in lines, being in large crowds. These people can avoid leaving the home altogether which can be extremely debilitating.
Panic DisorderThe fear of having a panic attack after experiencing one can consume someone. A panic attack has physical symptoms such as unable to breath which coincides with intense abrupt fear and intrusive thoughts. Panic disorder is diagnosed when recurrent and unexpected panic attacks occur as well as recurrent thoughts about having a panic attack.
What makes you susceptible to unhelpful anxiety ?
PersonalitySome people are more likely to develop anxiety if they are more cautious or fearful in nature.
Stress or TraumaIf a person has experienced a particularly stressful event they can develop anxiety, which can lead to avoiding particular situations.
Physical HealthDealing with life stressors is harder if you do not feel physically well, these people are more likely to develop anxiety because their confidence is eroded.
Substance AbuseDrugs such as cannabis, ice and even caffeine in high doses, can illicit the physical symptoms associated with anxiety, such as increased heart rate.
Other Mental ConditionsAn anxiety disorder can be diagnosed in addition to another mental health condition, such as depression. It may be diagnosed as a feature of a mental illness, for example a psychotic disorder.
Some techniques for managing anxiety
Anxiety is difficult but it is manageable and seeking help from your GP is an important step to overcoming it. Here are some helpful tips to help you through.
Awareness - gaining insight into your thinking
The first step is becoming aware of what we tell ourselves and what’s causing thoughts. It is common for our worries to result from subconscious concerns or fears. Anxiety can be rooted in difficult or traumatic experiences from the past, when you felt helpless, disempowered or scared. Anxiety may also result from self-defeating behaviours and character traits, such as an excessive need for control, procrastination, or a lack of confidence.
Once you understand the nature of your worries and their source, you can start to gain conscious control of them. Thoughts can cause you to blow issues out of proportion and to envision the worst possible scenario taking place. For example, someone worrying about finances may imagine him or herself destitute. Memories of similar painful or traumatic events from the past can also be projected onto the current situation, and the worry takes on enormous proportions. By challenging our irrational thinking, we can start to see our worries more objectively and calmly. Ask yourself some of these questions: Are there other plausible ways of seeing the situation? Even if it did happen, will all the negative consequences that you anticipate come true? Even if the worst consequences were to come true, what positive ways could you cope with this? If you find after doing this that there are real elements to your worry, you will need to think about suitable solutions. Don’t keep these worries to yourself.
Articulating your worries reduces them. To begin with, it helps you gain insight and develop a more productive perspective. Also, getting something off your chest and venting negative feelings can bring huge emotional relief. Talking to a friend, GP or therapist to get help is an important step. Implementing a plan of action to deal with your area of concern – facing your fears – reduces the fear by moving you from feeling helpless to feeling more in control. This concept is an underlying principle of behavioural therapy, which focuses on changing behaviour to uproot psychological problems. For example, a person who feels great anxiety around heights would gradually increase their tolerate by exposing themselves to heights.
Go beyond just controlling worry to changing the underlying character trait that causes the worry so it doesn’t recur. It has been found that if we repeat appropriate positive acts many times we gradually create new habits and change negative traits. For example, a procrastinator needs to repeat actions that are more proactive. Albert Ellis, one of the originators of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, was extremely shy in his youth. Over time, he trained himself to overcome his fear of rejection by striking up conversations with hundreds of strangers in the Bronx Botanical Gardens. Engage in a treatment for anxiety. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an effective evidence based treatment for anxiety disorders. CBT addresses the thoughts that contribute to anxiety and assists with behavioural change including reducing the tendency to avoid things that provoke anxiety. Avoid negative coping strategies and avoidance techniques. People with anxiety may use substances such as alcohol and other drugs to cope with their symptoms. They may also exhibit other unhelpful coping strategies (such as avoidance techniques) which serve to provide short-term relief, however exacerbate their anxiety in the long-term. It is important to not avoid and learn to ‘sit with your emotions’. If this is too difficult, it is best to seek support and treatment.
Use Techniques to relax
Simply focusing on your breathing can manage physical symptoms of anxiety. Below is a technique
Slowly breath in, count in your head: 1...2...3...4...5...
Hold your breath
Slowly breath out through your mouth, count in your head: 1...2...3...4...5...
Continue doing this until you feel you’re a little less agitated. Calming down will help you think more rationally. .
There are lots of websites and apps that can help you cope with anxiety. These are a couple that are helpful, Reachoutbreathe and Mindshift.
How do you know when your having a panic attack?
A panic attack has physical symptoms such as unable to breath which coincides with intense abrupt fear and intrusive thoughts. Panic attacks can feel overwhelming but are usually short (about 10 minutes). It’s important to know, they do pass. Symptoms include:
Breathing is hard
The feeling will never end
Feeling like you are having a heart attack
Sweating, shaking, dizzy
Not feeling well