Anxiety is a feeling that we all experience in our lifetime and is a normal emotional response. Some anxiety can be good if you are in a dangerous situation you need to avoid or can act as a performance motivator. However, when anxiety affects your everyday life or persists; it can impact your overall mood, feelings and behaviours.
It is important to note that what one person may feel anxious/stressed about, may not create the same response in someone else. Everyone can experience anxiety in many ways physically*** and emotionally. Some characteristics of anxiety include (but not limited to)
– Heart beating faster
– Worrying or constantly feeling that something bad is going to happen
– Muscle tension or headaches
– Sleep difficulties
– Feeling of uneasiness or sickness in the stomach
– Changes in mood, irritability
– Difficulty concentrating
With the physical sensations of anxiety, it can sometimes feel overwhelming and uncomfortable. However, these are not dangerous, and you can learn to manage and cope with these physical sensations.
*** If you are experiencing these physical sensations, it is also important to visit your GP to carry out a physical examination or blood tests to rule out other conditions that may be causing your symptoms.***
Some things that may help:
Some anxiety in your life is beneficial and a natural response, therefore, the aim is not to eliminate anxiety completely. However, if it affects your day to day life, it is important to seek help to manage and understand anxiety.
Talk about it: Although it can be really difficult to share, speak to a trusted friend or family member about what you are experiencing. It’s more beneficial to speak to someone that you are going to feel validated and heard by as opposed to speaking to someone who may judge your experiences e.g. “Things could be worse” and solely offer solutions.
Additionally, reaching out to someone outside of your close circle can offer non-biased support and an outsider’s perspective. Counsellors/therapists can help explore the root of your anxiety and what factors trigger and maintain your anxiety. They can help you to understand what’s going on around you, what changes you can make in your life and help develop stress reduction techniques that can reduce unhealthy anxiety levels.
Relaxation: There are lots of ways to relax but it’s important to know what works for you. This can vary each moment. Sometimes, a walk might be useful where other times, listening to music is going to serve you better at that particular moment. Other activities may include meditation, playing with a pet, watching a movie, journaling (i.e. writing down your thoughts, feelings, experiences).
Acceptance: Sometimes, the more you try to avoid your feelings or search for the root of your anxiety; the more worried or stressed you can feel. With acceptance, it doesn’t mean that you have to like your feelings of anxiety but rather, to acknowledge that “I’m having the feeling of anxiety”. When you limit your struggle with anxiety, you can put your energy and time into something more useful. It takes time to practice this. Our minds are so automatic with thoughts, that you couldn’t possibly catch them all so self-compassion and patience are equally important here.
Back to basics: Sleeping well, eating well and physical activity are also important factors that contribute to our overall mood. Sleep may be more difficult with anxiety, but it is important to find ways that may support getting adequate sleep e.g. stick to a sleep routine, limit phone use at night, or activities such as reading, colouring or practicing mindfulness to help unwind. What you put into your body also has an impact on anxiety so limiting caffeine, alcohol and smoking can benefit while having a balanced diet. Exercise can help put excess adrenaline into something useful and release serotonin, which can improve your mood. It does not have be an hour an exercise, even a few minutes of movement may bring some relief. Like everything else, finding a type of exercise that works for you, is going to be most beneficial for you. For some people, it will be outdoor activities like running, walking, team sports. For other people, it might be something indoor like going to the gym, yoga, swimming, or dancing.