Welcome to the first of an 8 part blog on #anxiety. I hope you find the information in this series useful. It is an attempt to share what I have learned, with others who may derive some benefit. I’ve developed lots of ideas and gathered information and techniques from a vast variety of sources over several years, which I can no longer remember, so please forgive me if I haven’t referenced them. The content isn’t meant to be overly academic – it’s purpose is to appeal to the average reader and reflects techniques, ideas, knowledge and skills that I have used to help people overcome their anxiety. Those of us who have struggled with anxiety, know how debilitating it can be, and if this series of blogs can help anyone then it has been worthwhile publishing! Please feel free to share with anyone you know who may need some help, reassurance or understanding.
Over the years I have helped many people to deal effectively with feelings of anxiety. One of the first questions someone looking for help often asks me is: “How can I make it go away?”
First of all, it can be helpful to understand what anxiety is. It is part of being human and therefore something we have all experienced. Perhaps you only notice anxious thoughts and feelings before an important event such as an interview or an exam, or perhaps you are currently feeling anxious most of the time. We know that situations or events causing problems such as work, financial, health or relationship worries create general feelings of being under stress and these feelings can come and go throughout our lives as situations change. Anxiety, however, can persist and often you can’t understand why you feel like this as often there seems to be no real cause that you can identify. It can make you imagine that things in your life are much worse than they actually are, and it can often prevent you from confronting your fears.
People suffering with anxiety often tell me that they feel like they are going mad, or are worried they must have some sort of psychological imbalance. This is usually because they are experiencing all sorts of strange symptoms that are giving them plenty of signals that all is not well.
Common physical symptoms of anxiety can include: increased heart rate, palpitations, muscle tension, “Jelly legs”, tingling in the hands and feet, hyperventilation (over breathing), dizziness, difficulty breathing, wanting to use the toilet more often, feeling sick, tightening across the chest area, headaches, hot flushes, perspiration, dry mouth, shaking, sensing a lump in the throat or choking sensations. Not a nice list!
You may even experience some of the following thoughts and feelings: that you may lose control or go “mad”, have a heart attack/be sick/faint/die/have a brain tumour, feel people are looking at you and observing your anxiety, things seem to be speeding up/slowing down, feel detached from your environment and other people, wanting to escape from the situation or feel on edge and alert to everything around you.
While all this can feel pretty frightening, it is really important to realize that anxiety is in fact natural and normal and these symptoms happen as part of a process of biological functions that have developed to help you. Anxiety is your normal and natural reaction to a challenging event or situation. Put simply, your body is working as it is designed to do – biologically your body is readying itself to either stand and fight a threat or to get out of a threatening situation quickly – (the “fight or flight” response you have probably heard of). Both of these responses require physical action. Your in-built anxiety reaction gives you a necessary boost of adrenaline that increases your heart rate and the amount of oxygen going to your limbs – hence some of those physical symptoms. You have probably experienced that “butterflies in the stomach” feeling that most people associate with anxiety – this is physiological evidence of this mechanism kicking in. This automatic mechanism works well when it is needed to help you avoid immediate danger and keep you safe. However, there are problems when it is inappropriately activated during ordinary, everyday situations. Anxiety is often at the heart of many problems that people seek help for. For example, I regularly receive enquiries from people struggling with social anxiety where they are too afraid to go out and mix with other people; health anxiety where people are constantly worried that they have something wrong with them despite doctor’s tests showing otherwise; teenagers and university students who cannot handle the anxiety associated with exams and are worried about damaging their future prospects; people who have failed their driving test numerous times because their nerves have overruled any calm, clear thinking; people faced with public speaking at work who are embarrassed and scared that their careers will be in jeopardy if they cannot perform their duties in a professional way; people who can’t go on the holidays they would love because they are too anxious about flying; and those people who won’t do many ordinary things because their anxiety creates panic attacks. The list is endless, showing that all sorts of problems with anxiety are very common. If you are struggling with anxiety, you are certainly not alone. People in these situations have usually lost most of their confidence, feel quite low and may often develop symptoms of depression alongside the anxiety.
Over the next few blogs I will be talking more about Anxiety and what you can do to help yourself feel better. If you are suffering with anxiety, please consider getting professional help. Your doctor can help refer you to a therapist or you can seek help directly. I specialise in working to help people overcome anxiety and I’m based in #York. If you need some help I can be reached via my website at: www.mindmakeoveruk.com/contact.html