Anxiety Is ‘Normal’
It is very natural to feel anxious at times. It is totally understandable to feel nervous, worried and anxious under certain circumstances and it would be strange not to experience some anxiety e.g. at a job interview, doing exams, taking your driving test, going on a first date, getting married, getting divorced.
It is when the level of anxiety is not matched to the situation or event that anxiety can become a problem.
When Anxiety Becomes A Problem
Anxiety starts with negative thoughts, which may be very clear or may be going on behind the scenes (subconsciously). These thoughts originate from the belief that something bad is going to happen. However, this belief is usually not completely logical or rational. You may have learnt to be an ‘anxious character’ as you have picked this up from the influence of anxious parents, or parents may have taught you that the world is a dangerous place, and as you have grown up, you may have internalised, or taken this on as your own belief (out of awareness), which may mean that you continue to be fearful and anxious of the world in general. Others or, may have had a very frightening experience which has become lodged as part of your future expectation, that is, you believe frightening things are going to happen again. The feelings of fear and the physical symptoms seem like a very real threat. Others can tip into anxiety when life’s pressures become overwhelming and you they do not feel in control.
Symptoms And Impact Of Anxiety
Suffering with anxiety can really get in the way of day to day life. Some of the physical symptoms of anxiety include:
- Racing heart
- Shallow and rapid breathing
- Shaking hands and wobbly legs
- Light headed and dizzy
- Butterflies or a churning stomach
- Feeling sick
- Pins and needles
- Fidgety and restless
- Difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep
- Grinding teeth in your sleep
- Panic attacks
The mental and emotional impact may involve your negative thoughts becoming persistent and overwhelming, making it difficult to concentrate on work or studies, family relationships may become strained and you may feel short tempered and impatient, and not feel like seeing friends, you may not want to be out and about doing your usual leisure activities, and day to day decision making can become very hard to think about. Your behaviour can change e.g. not wanting to go out of the house, increased use of alcohol or other substances, withdrawal and isolation from friends and family, fear of being around lots of people, loss of appetite, disturbed sleep, depression.
Whereas life before was manageable despite difficult times and stresses, certain situations or even much of the time can feel overwhelming as you lose your sense of internal sense of safety and security.
If you become very anxious it is easy to lose perspective, and it may seem that there is no other way to feel or think at that time. This is extremely distressing and difficult to go through but, the GOOD NEWS is that as anxiety has been learnt, it can be unlearned. Physical symptoms can be managed. Unhelpful and unhealthy behaviours can be replaced by healthy and nurturing activities and actions.
Is Your Anxiety A Problem?
The following may help you to identify if your anxiety is problematic:
- The level of your anxiety is out of proportion to the situation
- Your feelings of anxiety are frequent, very strong or last for a long time
- You find that you are avoiding situations that might cause you to feel anxious
- You are not able to reassure yourself and your thoughts and feelings are upsetting and hard to control
- You experience panic attacks
- You become withdrawn from your usual activities and find it hard to do the things you usually enjoy
Getting Help And Support
Seeking help from a counsellor/therapist gives you space and time to talk about what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling with someone who is there to listen to you and help you. Together you can focus on getting better, managing the symptoms, trying out some different behaviours, and exploring the negative thought patterns and beliefs that are causing so much fear. Painful aspects of past experience may need to be processed, in order to acknowledge feelings and thoughts which may have been too frightening and overwhelming to have faced before. With the support and guidance of therapy, feelings can be expressed in a safe place, and finishing unfinished business can take place.
Self Help Actions
Alongside dealing with the underlying issues which may have caused or at least contributed to anxiety, it is helpful to focus on some actions which help reduce the symptoms. Helpful actions include:
- Breathing and relaxation techniques (there are plenty of resources on YouTube)
- Yoga, mediation, mindfulness (again, YouTube is a great resource)
- Regular exercise – something enjoyable be it gentle walking or a vigorous workout
- Adopting a more healthy lifestyle, including exercise, a healthy and nutritious way of eating, reducing intake of caffeine, sugar and alcohol.
- Leisure activities which may be personal to the individual e.g. reading, listening to music, seeing friends, gardening, creative arts.
- Try to manage your worries – write things down or keep a diary which can help gain awareness of triggers and help to externalise and give less power to frightening thoughts and feelings
If anxiety is left untreated, the symptoms and thought patterns can worsen, making life feel more unmanageable, causing other emotional and psychological difficulties such as depression. This can lead to isolation, or further use of alcohol or other substances. Consequently, work is likely to suffer, possibly leading to long term absence, relationships and family life suffers.
If you are aware of the signs of anxiety in yourself or others, you can consider putting help and support in place. For further information or to book an appointment, please get in contact via the contact page.
More info can be find here on the MIND website