Anxiety – What is it?
Anxiety is a normal part of every day life but it can leave us spiralling if we experience it as a result of a trauma. What’s traumatizing for one, may not be traumatizing to another. A trauma could be a parents divorce, a recent bereavement or sexual/physical abuse.
A recent study
Signs of anxiety
• Panic, fear, and uneasiness
• Problems sleeping (link to depression)
• Not being able to stay calm and still
• Cold, sweaty, numb or tingling hands or feet
• Shortness of breath
• Heart palpitations
Signs of an anxiety attack
• Chest pains
• Can’t catch your breath
• Feeling of being choked
Anxiety may cause loss of appetite and lack of interest in sex. Other symptoms include muscle tension, headaches, and insomnia. Frequent panic attacks can cause you to fear the anxiety attacks themselves, thereby increasing overall anxiety. The constant state of stress can lead to clinical depression.
Anxiety can feel like we are in ‘fight or flight’ mode. In response to acute stress, the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated due to the sudden release of hormones. Essentially, the response prepares the body to either fight or flee the threat. Anxiety can leave us in that state for long periods, which is not only unhealthy for the mind, but also for the body. It can go beyond rational thought and what is a ‘perceived’ threat, may not be a threat at all, but it doesn’t make it any less real for the anxiety sufferer.
Do I have anxiety? A useful quiz may shed some light.
7 Tips on how to overcome anxiety
1. Breathing techniques
Take a deep breath in on a count of 5. Hold breath for count of 3 and release slowly to a count of 8. It’s surprising how quickly you will feel more relaxed.
2. Recognize what your anxiety is and what triggers it
Your anxiety may be fear of meeting people, traveling, fear of heights, worrying about the future, etc.
3. Keep a Feelings Diary
Record situations, symptoms and thoughts that make you feel uneasy, dizzy, nauseated, unable to sleep, etc.
4. What are your thoughts when you are anxious?
Try to identify specific thought distortions. In therapy, we often recognize anxiety as the result of biases in thinking.
• Fortune-telling – ‘something bad will happen’
• Mind-reading – ‘he thinks I am a loser’
• Catastrophic thinking – ‘it would be terrible if’
• Personalizing – ‘she’s yawning because I am boring’
These are likely to reflect your perception of threat and the belief that you need to control things.
5. Challenge your negative thinking
There is always a different way to view things. Look at the evidence for and against your negative thoughts. Challenge these thoughts. Ask yourself “what kind of advice would I give a friend?” Be your own best friend.
6. Be willing to be anxious in order to overcome anxiety
You can’t get past it if you aren’t willing to go through it.
7. Accept imperfection and uncertainty
You don’t have to be perfect to make progress. You don’t have to know something for sure in order to do it. Doing it is better than worrying about it.