“Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith” Henry Ward Beecher.
Anxiety can feel like butterflies in the stomach when approaching a doctor’s examination, or feeling sick when speaking in public. Physically your heart can start to pound and your stomach can feel in knots. These are normal reactions to the fear and worry that these types of situations can provoke. Soon the event is over and the mind and the body return to their normal rhythm. It becomes more of a problem when daily events in life lead you to feel high levels of anxiety that leave you feeling overwhelmed and terrified by what might happen or what has happened. You can feel so out of control that you begin to implode right there on the spot. This level of anxiety may feel like a heart attack; where your heart starts pounding, your breath shortens and you feel like you might pass out. The mind/body has gone into overdrive and the fight or flight instinct has kicked in. Both Johnny Depp and Kate Moss have admitted to being afflicted with it and and Amanda Seyfried, has said “it just stops your life”.
Why is it a problem?
When the body and mind are in a constant state of high alert and you are regularly being bombarded both physically and emotionally it can tax the mind and place enormous pressure on vital organs of the body. And if this is happening on a daily basis it can leave you feeling drained, hopeless and out of control. This can lead to self-harm in various forms in the hope of releasing the tension or to a need to block out what is happening through drink or drugs. This constant anxiety bombardment can have serious implications for your physical and mental health that may go further than the original anxiety you were battling.
If you have been suffering from one or more of these symptoms on a regular basis, you might be struggling with anxiety:
- Feelings of panic, fear or uneasiness
- Problems sleeping
- Cold or sweaty hands or feet
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations.
- Not being able to be still and calm.
- Dry mouth
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
Admitting you have anxiety is a huge first step and being able to talk about it can really help relieve some of the pressure. A counsellor can help you to see your situation more clearly and help support you as you work through your difficulties. Indeed the NHS recommends talking therapies like counselling can help you to cope better with your anxiety.
When you are feeling anxious, deliberately breathing more slowly can help your body and mind to calm down. Try this – allow a pause between each in and out breath, counting to 5 when you breathe in, allowing a pause and then counting 5 as you breath out. As you concentrate on the breath with your counting you are re-directing the mind and calming down.
Distracting the mind
When we distract the mind with another activity, we stop thought about the subject which might be causing our anxiety. You are deliberately shifting your focus and can reap the benefits of feeling relaxed and more at ease. Try it for yourself: spend 10 or so minutes listening to some favourite music, doing a Sudoku puzzle or any other activity that you like to spend time doing. It can help your mind and body to relax, to let go of some of the tension and later, may provide some clarity and insight into your situation.
There is lots of research which says that exercise releases beneficial chemicals which help to soothe your body and ease your mind.
Keeping a ‘mood’ and ‘food’ diary
Keep a diary which tracks your daily mood and anxiety levels. Look at your daily life and list situations where you have been anxious. See if there are any patterns to your anxiety. As you begin to understand some of your particular triggers you will have a better understanding of what needs to change or what you need to put in place to support yourself. You are the best expert on what your own unique triggers are. Add your food intake to your daily diary. Look for patterns of anxiety which might be linked to the food you are eating. It is a well known fact that a high calorific diet, with lots of fat and sugar can have a detrimental effect on our bodies and our minds. As a starting point if you would like a blank copy of my mood and food diary then please email me.
For me it is yoga and meditation, for you it might be patting your dog or playing a game on the computer. Whatever makes you feel happy, restful and calm can help put your mind and body into a more peaceful place.
It’s now up to you …
All of this info can help you to manage your anxiety and it is up to you whether you are willing to give them a go. Remember you are not alone, one in five of the population will be dealing with anxiety or will have dealt with it. Help is out there if you are willing to try it or find it.