I don’t know whether anxiety has existed within humans since the dawn of time or whether this is an emotion we have created in recent years. Did people in the Elizabethan era ever sit at home afraid to leave their homes from worry? Did the Egyptians ever fear about something they couldn’t control? Do other animals feel anxious when they’re ready to fight another animal? Maybe. Probably? Anxiety is a natural instinct. It could be something we’ve held within ourselves through evolution, as the cause of it is fear, adrenaline and the need to protect ourselves from danger. Our reactions to our anxiety inducing thoughts are what the body does to prepare to protect yourself, i.e. colours are more vibrant, we think and move at a faster pace and our muscles tense tight. With that comes our symptoms as a result, such as;
- Increased heart rate
- Increased muscle tension
- “Jelly legs”
- Tingling in the hands and feet
- Hyperventilation (over breathing)
- Difficulty in breathing
- Wanting to use the toilet more often
- Feeling sick
- Tight band across the chest area
- Tension headaches
- Hot flushes
- Increased perspiration
- Dry mouth
- Choking sensations
For me it includes feeling numb, emotional and has on occasion lead to a panic attack from the pressure and thoughts I’ve let consume me. When you start to understand what is happening to you, you’ll start to understand how to fix the problem too. Here are my tips!
Stop for a second and breathe.
Allowing yourself to slow down your breathing and for a moment to regain control of your thoughts. Personally I find this to be the most powerful tool I have when I feel overwhelmed with my anxiety. It allows me to stop my negative thoughts in their place and think a little more clearly. By breathing slower, my heart rate slows down which then slows down my adrenaline, my worries and gives me time. Time to replace these negative thoughts with how to resolve it or to simply think about the situation a little clearer.
Talk to someone.
This for me is the hardest, but always has the most impact. To hear a second voice reason with me, comfort me and discuss the situation out loud away from in my own head resolves the situation quicker. They say a problem halved is a problem shared and for someone who doesn’t like to discuss problems, I have to admit it’s true. Whether I have to repeat myself time and time again, only to hear the same comforting words several times, it works. I need to be told “it’s going to be OK’ or for someone to help me to come up with a plan and see my worries from a different perspective.
Do something else.
If possible, do something else that makes you feel good. For me, it’s taking a nice long shower while I sit down and have the water fall on me, whilst I breathe in the scented shampoo or body wash. Maybe reading a book? Going for a walk? Watching a movie? Baking a sweet treat? Do something you like that will keep you busy long enough for you to be in a different place mentally to regroup and think about it all again positively when the thoughts return.
Be in the present.
Anxiety is a future orientated state of mind. Rather than thinking about the future, and might happen or what they might say. Redirect your mind in to what actually is happening and where you really are. Speak allowed to yourself and be your own friend by naming where you are, what’s around you and what you’re wearing. Looking at the reality of was actually is happening in and around you, allows you to simply stop thinking of the maybe’s and instead think about what is.
Stop it reoccurring.
If the cause of your anxiety is something that reoccurs, such as an issue within a particular relationship, a problem you have to face at work, leaving the home, an illness you can’t medicate or the fear you have for raising your child for example. Consider ways to change it from happening by seeking advice from someone you trust, or stop it entirely by staying away from the situation if it makes you feel unsafe and anxious if it’s within your control. If like me, you can’t quit the situation and walk away, find what specifically peaks your anxiety and work on stopping your thoughts from reoccurring.
Above all this, regardless of whether you follow any of these tips, please don’t bee too hard on yourself. The way you feel is human instinct and completely natural and unfortunately anxiety in your own mind. Although you’re the only person who can make it stop, it’s important you know you’re not alone, just because others aren’t comfortable openly talking about it either. Give it time, you’ll be ok – you always are.
For further information, see here.