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19 Jul, 2021

When I first spoke about writing for Allthingscharlie, after a long conversation Charlene suggested I write about anxiety.

I thought “awesome!”, there is so much to write about so this is great. Boy!! Was I wrong…

While there is so much to write about, that was exactly what I struggled with. What do I say to this community, what aspect of anxiety should I start with? You know what happened….I became so anxious about writing this blog that I would write one sentence a day. 

WOW!! I know. Until it hit me. I am feeling so overwhelmed about writing the perfect piece that I am completely missing the point. I am so caught up in the fear of a future event that I am failing miserably at just doing the task at hand and living in the present. 

This, right here is what anxiety is and just some of the things that can happen to us when we are feeling anxious. What happens when you have to go for a job interview or write a test, or even just a meeting with your manager? We feel slight discomfort; a sense of urgency, some might even say worry. This is called anxiety, this worrying feeling. 

By now, most of us might know what anxiety is, since the start of this pandemic we have all experienced it and continue to experience it. Today I want to talk a little about what anxiety is, how to try and spot it.

Anxiety is a negative mood state characterised by bodily symptoms of physical tension and by apprehension about the future (Barlow, Durand 2015). 

While anxiety often has an element of fear it is rather different from fear. Fear is an emotional response to real and imminent threat whereas anxiety is a perceived threat of the future (DSM 5). Thus with anxiety you are afraid of things that might go wrong in the future. Is it starting to make sense now?? What if I don’t ace this test? What if my boss fires me? What have I done wrong, that is a fireable (lol, not sure if this is even a word) offense? What if the doctor says it’s Cancer? These are the negative thoughts which are often called intrusive thoughts that run our minds daily. Now. What if I get COVID-19? What if there is no oxygen? I don’t want to go to the doctor because it is going to be COVID. We struggle with these negative intrusive thoughts daily and in this pandemic for some it is hourly. 

While some people are able to have this thought, argue it logically and let it go, for some people and those suffering from anxiety it simply is not that easy and in some cases even impossible. For some people it becomes so unbearable that it greatly impacts their daily life. They miss out on some of the smallest wonders of life. Let’s consider someone who is afraid to go out in public, such a person will not be able to take their child to school or go to a school concert. 

All this doom and gloom does not mean there is light, there is always light. There are a plethora of tips and techniques on the internet about how to deal with anxiety and what to do when you are feeling anxious. These work, they all work. While one technique might not work the next one might just, it really is about “to each his own” and important that we go through these various techniques and see which one works and almost build your own little war chest, you know your armour to fight off these intrusive thoughts. 

 

WHAT DOES ANXIETY LOOK LIKE OR FEEL LIKE?

Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge

Being easily fatigued, 

Having difficulty concentrating; mind going blank

Being irritable

Having muscle tension

Difficulty controlling feelings of worry

Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep

Feelings of impending doom

Feelings of being out of control

Some physical manifestations of anxiety

Heart palpitations, a pounding heartbeat, or an accelerated heart rate

Sweating

Trembling or shaking

Sensations of shortness of breath, smothering, or choking

Dry mouth

Tense muscles

Nausea, this is very common. An early indicator of anxiety is an uneasy feeling in your tummy. 

 

WHAT DOES ANXIETY MAKE US DO?

Anxiety can be an emotional state but can also physically manifest in our bodies. Anxiety can make you imagine the worst in every single scenario. 

We overthink everything, even the smallest of things in our lives, gets dissected as if it is the final decision we will have to make.

We have trouble sleeping…and how many of us suffer from this? Needless to say I have gone to be between 1-3am every evening this past week…any guesses why?

We reject invitations to go somewhere, anywhere really and what is even worse is we actually really want to go.

We compare ourselves to others, we are always worried that we will say something wrong.

We get nervous when we think about the future.

We feel physically and mentally unwell most of the time. It is always this underlying feeling. 

We find it difficult to forgive ourselves for the mistakes we make. 

These are just a few rather simplistic examples of the things we do, there are so many other ways in which we self-sabotage due to our struggle with anxiety. There are so many things we can do to minimize and manage our anxiety. Here are a few simple examples. Please note, it is imperative that we do not self-diagnose, and if you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, worried, stressed please visit your nearest Psychologist for therapy. We do not need to do this on our own, and it is better to get help sooner rather than later. 

Exercise such as running, biking release natural hormones that help you feel better and more relaxed. Even just taking a brisk walk shows an improved mood. 

Eat healthy meals

Do some meditation or Yoga, mindfulness exercise can greatly help you to calm and quiet your mind. Relieving you of stressful and intrusive thoughts. 

Learn about your mental state. The more you know, the better you can manage symptoms 

If you do go to a therapist and you have a treatment plan it is imperative that you stick to it.  Suddenly stopping your meds can cause unpleasant side effects and can even trigger anxiety symptoms. 

Cut down on foods and drinks that have caffeine, such as coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks, and chocolate. Caffeine is a mood-altering drug, and it may make symptoms of anxiety disorders worse.

Don’t use alcohol and recreational street drugs. Substance abuse increases your risk of anxiety disorders.

Get better sleep. Sleep problems and anxiety disorder often go hand in hand. Make getting good rest a priority. Follow a relaxing bedtime routine. Talk to your doctor if you still have trouble sleeping.

Keep a journal. Writing down your thoughts before the day is done,  may help you relax so you’re not tossing and turning with anxious thoughts all night. 

Manage your negative thoughts. Thinking positive thoughts instead of worrisome ones can help reduce anxiety. This can be challenging if you have certain types of anxiety, however. Cognitive behavioural therapy can teach you how to redirect your thoughts. 

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter meds or herbal remedies. Many have chemicals that can make anxiety symptoms worse.

Lastly, my go to rule for when we feel overwhelmed…breathe, follow the 4-7-8 rule. Inhale for 4 counts, keep breathing for 7 counts and breath out for 8 counts. This slows the heartbeat and allows you to take a step back from your thoughts.

I hope this piece helps you in some way to manage your anxiety.

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