Have you ever felt so anxious, you felt like you may throw up?
Have you ever felt so anxious, your chest ached?
Have you ever felt so anxious, you thought your heart palpitations would cause an explosion?
Have you ever felt so anxious, your whole body was shaking?
Have you ever felt so anxious, you simply were immobile?
Anxiety and stress are part of life, part of the human condition.
Stress is the body’s reaction to a perceived threat or danger.
Symptoms can include sweating, dizziness, dry mouth, trembling, increased heart rate, headaches, nausea, choking, hyperventilation, difficulty concentrating and feeling on edge, to name a few.
Changes in life, major lifecycle events, losing a job, starting a new job, studying for exams, financial stressors, losing a loved one, experiencing a miscarriage, struggling to get pregnant, being pregnant, dating … all could be triggers for anxiety.
You do not have to be diagnosed with a mental health illness to suffer from anxiety symptoms.
In fact, at various times throughout your life, this mental health condition will be triggered and having the tools to manage can be invaluable.
“1 in every 4 Australians will experience an anxiety condition in their lifetime” (Beyond Blue).
According to the World Health Organsiation (WHO), “one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.”
Yes, the message is clear.
Anxiety is ruthless.
Anxiety is not discriminatory.
It can claim the wellbeing and sanity of anyone and everyone.
Introverts, extroverts, people with low self-esteem, people with confidence…
So now that we’ve established that we all feel anxious at times, or being more honest, perhaps we feel highly anxious at times and this is VERY normal, how do we cope when we feel helpless?
How do we cope when we feel vulnerable?
How do we cope when our rationale self is taken over by a force that feels larger than us?
How can you take control and be empowered, rather than let the anxiety control you?
Here are some useful tools:
1. Breathing and mindfulness exercises
Practice getting that breathing under control to manage your anxiety.
Our breathing goes out of control when we feel anxious and then all rational thoughts fly out the window.
You’ll read about lots of breathing strategies on self-help platforms, which often involve counting; such as breathe in till 4, hold for 2 and exhale till 6.
Mindful breathing is really powerful as it allows you to focus your attention on your breath, distracting your brain from the pain trigger.
This reminds me of a 'tens machine', which is used as a natural form of pain management.
How does it work?
Does it numb the pain?
No. It is not a pain relief drug.
It simply provides a stimulus of a vibrating sensation which tricks you, by causing a distraction for your mind to focus on the stimulus rather than the pain.
A simple mindfulness exercise which I find very powerful is to focus on and acknowledge the location of the physical pressure point in my body.
For example, if my chest is feeling tight, I’d focus on that area.
1. Concentrate on it. Feel it. Acknowledge it.
2. Breathe in deeply and imagine the breath circling around that part of your body.
3. Breathe out.
4. Breathe in again and imagine your breath cutting through the pressure point.
5. Breathe out.
6. Repeat this process
Acknowledge that the pressure is still there and is a part of you.
It may not go away right now but it is accepted.
Notice a sense of calm and acceptance.
Repeat this process as necessary.
2. Challenge your negative thoughts
Argue with yourself. Rebut your negative thoughts with positive ones.
How you think affects how you feel.
How you feel affects how you behave.
How you behave affects how you feel.
You got it, it’s a vicious cycle.
Break the cycle of negative thoughts- feelings- behaviours, to become a positive one.
Try to think of other ways to interpret the situation that is making you feel anxious.
How could you overcome these challenges?
What support and coping mechanisms do you have available?
Will this thing that is worrying you be relevant in 5 years?
Will it matter in 1 year?
Will it matter by the end of the week?
What’s the worst thing that could happen?
Is it likely?
If it did how would you cope?
What support would you have available?
Imagine you were a lawyer presented with this case in court. How would you dispute the evidence?
Where are the holes?
Is it realistic?
Is the evidence based on any kind of substance or is it my overactive imagination or perhaps even 'doctor' google?
Reframing your negative thoughts to positive ones can shift your entire outlook and hence combat those anxious feelings.
Let’s empower ourselves and fight the rising ‘anxiety’ epidemic!