Anxiety is a tricky and infuriating customer. It can strike seemingly out of the blue and throw you right off your game. Symptoms might be mild and fairly sporadic, but it’s enough to impart an uneasy sense that something’s not quite right. Or, it can hit you hard and often, making it almost impossible to function normally or find life enjoyable.
The cost of convenience
While a little nervous energy can be a positive driving force, propelling us through stressful situations (a job interview or tough deadline, for example), anxiety is almost never helpful. Characterised by excessive, usually unfounded, fear and worry, anxiety is often accompanied by depression, sleep problems and physical symptoms, such as nausea, headaches, unexplained aches and pains and gastrointestinal trouble.
The fact that many symptoms of a severe anxiety attack mimic those of a heart attack is particularly unnerving, especially for someone whose anxiety is yet to be diagnosed. At the very least, understanding that anxiety may be a problem for you allows you to get help. And from here, you can develop positive coping
strategies to deal with the curve balls thrown your way; knowing the beast, as they say, is half the battle.
Who gets anxiety?
Anyone can suffer from anxiety. A complex combination of brain chemistry, genetics, individual personality and life events, such as financial stress, relationship problems, loss and grief, can trigger episodes.
What does anxiety feel like?
Physically, it might feel like you’ve had one shot of espresso too many. People often describe feeling out of control, or as though they might be ‘losing their minds’. Sometimes, feelings of barely contained panic threaten to overwhelm.
Where to from here?
If symptoms become disabling and prevent you from feeling like your normal, happy self, it’s time to seek help. Life is too short to spend it wound up in a tight ball of needless worry and fear. The right balance of professional help and ‘self ’ therapies can get you back on track. Sometimes, medication may be recommended – certain antidepressants are good at helping to bring anxiety under control. Some are taken long term, while others are taken as and when they’re needed. Your doctor will work with you to find the best treatment.
Use hobbies and positive activities to put your mind in a happy place.
How to deal with anxiety
• See your GP and be honest about how you feel. There’s no shame in admitting you’re experiencing anxiety issues, or having trouble coping. Your GP will then likely refer you to a therapist who specialises in mental-health issues.
• Explore cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), a type of talk therapy often used for anxiety. It helps you to identify the negative thoughts and actions that may trigger
episodes, and gives you strategies to use when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
• Try moderate physical activity (walking, swimming, dancing, whatever you feel like) to help ease symptoms.
• Help calm panicky feelings with deep, slow, rhythmic breathing. An anxious person typically takes small, shallow breaths, using their shoulders rather than their diaphragm, which can exacerbate anxiety. n Relax with yoga and meditation. It will teach you correct breathing techniques and help you feel more centred. n Get enough sleep – it’s the foundation of wellbeing. Without it, you’re behind the eight ball from the get-go.
• Remove as many stresses as possible. Whether that’s introducing a better work-life balance or avoiding arguments, find new ways of managing problem situations.
• Take time-out for yourself. Whether your happy place is tuning out the world with your favourite music, knitting, painting or cooking, make time to do it. This is not optional!
• Book an appointment for acupuncture and/or massage therapy – both can be highly beneficial for anxious souls.
• Keep consumption of stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, sugar and nicotine to a bare minimum, or remove them altogether.
It will make a difference!