Taking on Anxiety

Quick-hints:

  1. Everyone gets anxious sometimes. It’s when it’s stopping you from doing things and you’re making-up excuses that you need to do something about it
  2. Suffering from anxiety is as real and problematic as having a phobia. Or a broken leg
  3. If you learn to recognise anxiety coming you can head it off using whatever technique works for you
  4. Breathe, relax, work to control what you can and let everything else go
  5. If you do suffer from anxiety then congratulate yourself for every win: you might feel silly for ‘panicking over nothing’, but if you still manage to do things then you’re working harder than other people to achieve the same result

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Anxiety is linked to adrenaline and the good old ‘fight or flight’ response, a response that is instinctive, and usually keeps creatures alive. Therefore, everyone gets anxious at one time or another because we all have this safety feature. The differences come in the level and duration of anxiety, the cause, and how well people cope.

There are plenty of techniques said to help with anxiety: meditation, yoga, dance, hot baths, aromatherapy, massage, certain sports such as running. . . If you look at any of these closely enough you’ll see they all have 3 things in common:

  1. They take your focus from things you can’t control to things you can
  2. They involve steady breathing, relaxation of muscles, control of movement
  3. Often there is an element of visualisation and/or escapism

These things are key to curbing anxiety, and they all take time, effort and practice to get the hang of. But it’s worth it because even if you don’t get rid of the feelings completely (and if you get it badly I’m sorry to say you probably won’t) you can lessen it, try to manage it so you can still function and do things you want to.

As Mia from the Princess Diaries said (as well as several other people apparently): “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important.” If you can find the thing that’s more important to you, you can do all sorts of things you never would have believed.

Now, I haven’t been diagnosed as having anxiety, but I don’t remember a time when I haven’t got worried, even panicked, about all sorts of things – my mum helped to teach me (so long ago I can’t remember what she said) how to deal with these feelings so that although the physical and psychological symptoms are still there squirreling round inside me, I don’t so often let them stop me from doing what needs to be done.

For those out there who have never suffered bad anxiety, it’s horrible, and although you can know the symptoms and see them in others, I think you still won’t really know what it’s like to go through because it’s one of those things you have to experience to truly understand. But I’m going to describe it anyway. First, there’s how it affects your sleep and appetite. Then there’s the racing piranhas-123287_640.jpgstuttery pulse, the rabid squirrels (or piranhas!) running round gnawing on your insides, the wind-tunnel feeling in your head, haywire temperature control, jitters and shakes so bad you couldn’t write if your life depended on it-  If it’s really bad or goes on a while then afterwards, when the anxiety is finally gone, you just crash out completely. And it’s not a full-blown panic attack as far as I’m concerned if there’s no hyperventilating, hysterical crying, locking oneself in the bathroom, or whatever. (Panic attacks are embarrassing as all get-out, especially if you know you’re doing it but can’t stop – thankfully that’s only happened to me once or twice in recent years) No, what I first described was how I felt going back to school after a break, when I hear the phone ring, (yes, I have something of a phone phobia) going to appointments of any kind, and so on. But I’ve got so good at managing and hiding my anxiety that most people describe me as a confident person – go figure!

So I know it is possible to deal with anxiety without medication, and although it may never vanish altogether, it does get easier to deal with on the whole. The final piece of advice I’ll leave you with is: if what you’re worried about is something you can do something about then get on with it, otherwise try not to think about it. Easier said than done, I know, but applying logic to your fears can sometimes help – it’s all part of managing responses.

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