I recently wrote some posts about anxiety. Because anxiety seems to be so commonplace in people’s lives at the moment, or at least I seem to have come across a lot of people suffering from it, I wanted to write down some more thoughts about the subject. I am well aware that different approaches work for different people and I am not qualified to dispense medical advice, I can only write from personal experience and give some insights I have gained from others. I hope there may be something here that may help a little if you are finding yourself going through anxious times.
Anxiety takes many forms and can shape your thought processes and decisions. It is thought to be related to the biological fight or flight response to feeling threatened. It can become a problem if it is accompanied by panic attacks or anxiety about things which are part of everyday life.
Anxiety isn’t rational. It’s not just an amplified version of what is worrying you. It’s more than that. Sometimes you don’t know what sets it off. Some days you can cope with life and others you just don’t want to know. A lot of people think anxiety is nothing more than a similar feeling you get before giving a presentation at work or an actor having first night nerves; it may be a bit like that at times, but often its more long lasting and doesn’t decrease as it would when events like the above are over. Some of the symptoms are palpitations, wanting to escape form your surroundings, fear you may lose control of thoughts or actions, racing heart, nausea, insomnia and nervousness.
Anxiety can strike anyone and people from all walks of life. It doesn’t really matter what your circumstances are, what background you come from, whether you are in a happy relationship or alone, hold down a high powered job or are unemployed, well-off or hard up. It can creep up on anyone and sometimes it is just unexplained.
There are many ways of coping with anxiety and different ones work for different people. One thing I have noticed is that friends and family often want to find a solution for you and a reason for why this is happening to you. That’s fine but there are times you don’t want to listen to solutions and you don’t particularly want to have the reasons described. You just want to get through the day. And all you really want is for someone to say ‘It’s okay’ or ‘you will get through this’ and ‘I am here for you. I love you’. With empathy and support you can cope so much better. Remember – just because a condition is given a label it doesn’t necessarily mean it solves the problem in your head.
Here are some tips about what not to do when you are battling with anxiety:
Do not watch the news.
Do not under any circumstances look up the condition you are worried you have on the internet. I promise you the information you find will scare you and often the stuff you read is not accurate. Trust me on this. I have been there!
Don’t overdose on caffeine and be careful with alcohol consumption – hangovers are debilitating at the best of times but if you are feeling vulnerable they can make anxiety levels worse.
Do not become a couch potato – you will feel much better if you go outside and walk/ take exercise.
Don’t have very late nights. Lack of sleep makes anxiety worse. Even if you suffer from insomnia- get to bed early and get as much sleep as you can. At the same time, rather than lay tossing and turning, get up for a while and make a milky drink (cows milk or an alternative like almond milk if you don’t like dairy) Then try and get back to sleep again.
Don’t eat junk and sugary foods. Avoid any foods that trigger your anxiety and cause headaches like cheese and yeast extract. Acid producing food and drinks can make you jittery ie. processed meats and sodas, whilst alkaline foods can be more calming, ie. vegetables and most fruits, beans and lentils.
If you are trying to help someone with anxiety , here are a few things to remember:
Often someone in an anxious state comes across as distant or uncaring but this is not how they are inside – they are feeling bad and preoccupied and may not realise how they appear to others. It doesn’t mean they don’t love or care about you.
Don’t say their worries are silly or unfounded. They are very real to them!
They may appreciate your help but not you trying to change them. You cannot know how they are feeling inside.
Never say ‘pull yourself together!’ (I’m sure you wouldn’t !)
For those suffering from anxiety, getting through the day is the important thing.
When you are in a situation that is causing you to feel anxious – for example, worrying you might be late for an appointment, or losing your keys, ask yourself what would be the worst thing that could happen? Most things can be overcome even if they upset us at the time and cause an inconvenience. You will find most people are helpful if you are stuck in a minor predicament. Try and reach out and have a lighthearted approach- it is amazing how this will help an awkward situation and make you feel more optimistic.
Even in more serious situations that would make most people anxious, you will be surprised how you will often find help and sympathy from unexpected people or places.
Remember, anxiety doesn’t define you.
Have a small item that you find comforting and keep it with you. I have a few words on a scrap of paper in my handbag written by my late mother – it reads : ‘To my lovely girl -be happy. You will never know how much I love you. Love Mum.x ‘ To know you are loved or have been loved is more than uplifting. It is at the core of everything.
YOU are loved. Yes you are – even if you doubt it.
Blessings to you.
‘Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength ‘