I have received many letters over the course of the last few months asking me about anxiety and what to do if you feel panicked or overwhelmed. It goes to show that anxiety is a common experience for many of us.
Anxiety is the way in which your body communicates to you that something is making you feel unsafe or distressed. Your body responds to anxiety in many different ways, unique to our individual experiencing. There are numerous symptoms that can occur and that can rise in intensity as your level of anxiety increases.
It is likely that we will each experience anxiety at some stage of our lives be it mild, moderate or severe. It is important that there is an awareness about the differences and also knowledge as to the techniques at hand that you can try in order to feel a sense of empowerment and control when anxiety attacks.
What is it?
Mild anxiety is a common occurrence and often experienced in the day to day stresses of life. It is often a response to a stress that is situational, such as a job interview, a first date, or being late for an appointment. Symptoms can include fidgeting, heightened senses, irritability, over thinking, difficulty focusing or loss of appetite.
What can you do?
Normally, mild anxiety experiences will dissipate once the task is completed or the situation is resolved. Light exercise such as running or walking can be of help to clear your mind. Remind yourself that this type of anxiety is to be expected from time to time and a natural physiological response to stress.
When struck with anxiety we often experience tension in our body and we forget to breathe properly. There are numerous breathing techniques that can help. The easiest of all is as follows. Sit up straight with your shoulders back, breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. Do this slowly, to allow the oxygen to travel about your body.
What is it?
Moderate anxiety often occurs when dealing with a high stress situation. In terms of symptoms, you may experience a heightened pace of breathing and a more rapid heartbeat. You may also encounter nausea or stomach pain or find that your thoughts are racing. Moderate anxiety has the power to impact your sleep and eating patterns, as well as cause various aches and pains within your body, particularly your neck, shoulders and back.
What can you do?
This is dependent upon the cause. If your experience of anxiety is due to an event then your symptoms will begin to lessen once that event is resolved. If it is due to an accumulation of various factors and high stress, then it may take longer to subside. Being self-aware is the key here. Take time to care for yourself, making sure that you are eating and sleeping as best as you possibly can. Be patient with yourself. It may help to try some meditation or to find the time to partake in a
relaxing activity, whatever that means for you. Confiding in somebody you trust about what you are going through is recommended. If your anxiety begins to significantly impact your every-day life, a visit to your doctor or to a counsellor may prove extremely valuable.
If you are finding it difficult to keep your anxiety under control, an exercise that can be beneficial to you in the moment is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique, which can be done anywhere and at any time. Take a look around the room. Note five things that you can see. Four things that you can touch. Three things that you can hear. Two things that you can smell. One emotion that you feel. Do this slowly, all the while breathing deeply, so as to take your focus away from your current distress.
What is it?
Severe anxiety can be triggered by grief, an experience of trauma or as a consequence of big life changes such as loss of employment or a break up. This level of anxiety can feel incredibly unsettling. Self-doubt can kick in as you question your capacity to think and to function normally. Symptoms may arise such as a pounding heartbeat, chest pain, headache, vomiting or diarrhoea, trembling, scattered thoughts, erratic behaviour or a sense of dread. Symptoms can also include an inability to move or speak or difficulty in remaining still. Your ability to think rationally will likely be impaired and your perceptions may be distorted.
Often, you may be unable to sleep, or you may find that you are sleeping too much. In respect to your diet, you may lose your appetite altogether or comfort eat as a form of distraction. As such, your ability to focus and solve problems may be impaired, which can lead to a further onset of anxiety symptoms. You may also experience panic attacks, whereby you find it difficult to breathe and maintain control of your body’s ability to function.
What can you do?
Enduring this level of anxiety can be terrifying, an experience that can trigger low confidence and have negative impacts upon your sense of self-worth. Breathing techniques every morning can be beneficial as can writing your feelings and thoughts in a journal. However, when the severity of your anxiety feels overwhelming or unmanageable, it is advisable that you do not hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional. Counselling sessions can help you to determine the root cause of the problem as well as arm you with coping mechanisms tailor made to suit your unique needs. If you are experiencing any negative thoughts or suicidal ideation, then contacting your doctor is also an important step to ensure that you gain swift access to the right support.
Whatever your anxiety stems from or whatever level of intensity you are dealing with, keep in mind that you can overcome it. You can regain your control and you can lead a normal life as you did before. Have courage and don’t suffer alone.
Wising you harmony and happiness,
News on Sunday – My Weekly Advice Column
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