Okay so i’m assuming since you are reading this that you have either been in the position where anxiety has crept up or you know someone that has suffered from it. First thing to do is break it down.
So what is anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.
Now notice the word fear. Fear is a natural human reaction that we have when we feel threatened or are in danger. Our bodies start to go into fight or flight response. This will feel like shortness of breath, sweaty palms, clouded thinking, rapid heart rate, dilated pupils and/or trembling. The sympathetic nervous system is activated by the sudden release of hormones including adrenaline, which i’m sure we have all heard of. The chain of reactions results in the above symptoms. It can take anything between 20 to 60 minutes before you are fully in the state you were in before the ‘threat’ occurred.
If you had someone jump out at you, in the dark and was carrying a weapon then YES this response is very much needed. People can also use this feeling of stress to do better in their line of work or in school. It’s not however needed when we are sitting in traffic late for work or have a deadline and something happens to our device or something isn’t going they way we planned. Yet we have the same response regardless. Our brains can’t tell what is real or fake. It just reacts.
Anxious people tend to be frightened of something that isn’t necessarily ‘real’. What I mean by ‘real’ is things like heights, being left alone, being afraid of a situation that we have seen only in our minds but hasn’t actually happened yet. These feelings of fear and worry can be mild resulting in a little bit of short breathing or it can be crippling to the point where you have no idea if your thoughts are rational or not.
SIDE NOTE - Most of the time when we are in this paralysing state the thoughts don’t tend to be rational.
In order to help yourself in this situation you need to firstly deal with the anxiety as it comes up and then, go deeper. What is the cause of your anxiety? What triggered it? What are you afraid of? What are you worried about? Ask yourself these questions. If you don’t get to the root of the problem then the problem is never resolved.
Now some of you may know me and think what is she talking about she has probably never felt anxiety before. Why? Because I like to smile when i’m around people, I like to complement people. I like to lift people up whenever I can. I try to be the best version of me as much as I can because it means I can be stronger mentally and physically for others.
TIP - Make sure you’re prioritising yourself first (this isn’t selfish, your mental health is what’s at stake here).
You can’t help others if you aren’t willing to help yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
But, you’re right I had never really been an anxious person until 2020 hit. Even during the year I still didn’t think I was worried or stressed. We have been in 3 lockdowns now (still in the 3rd) and in all 3 I had a breakdown. I got on the phone to my mum and cried. I was hysterical. I couldn’t breath at times. I also had kidney issues among other things in the summer of 2020 that restricted my breathing and as you can imagine it became a worry for me.
As a yoga teacher I talk a lot about breath and how its important to have an awareness of your breathing pattern. Well this only made it worse. I was so in my head. I was overthinking. I was scared of something that I was technically inflicting on myself. My lungs were healthy I could still breathe - granted not as deeply - but really there was no issue. After I spoke with my mum, dad and my partner and also my friends I realised how amazing the network of people I have in my life are. By opening up and talking to those I trust I was able to free the worrying thoughts and look at them from a different perspective. A fresh outlook. Yes it can come back sometimes but that’s only when I'm busy and not prioritising my yoga, meditation, walks, exercise, reading, writing. These are all things I like to do at least 3 times a week, some all in one day. I make sure that i’m doing things that will help me stay focused, clear thinking and rational.
Don't get me wrong I do these things and can still get stressed but that’s just natural. Whats important is you don’t let that crippling feeling consume you.
There are 3 simple steps that you can follow when anxiety strikes.
1. Get out of your mind and back into your body.
See if you can notice your anxious thoughts early on, before the spiral of anxiety fully takes hold.
To get out of the mind, sit or lie down in a quiet place. Close your eyes, and feel your body. Mentally scan head to toe and feel ALL parts of the body. The sensations you feel may not be pleasant, because when we feel fear we feel cold, stiff, empty. There may also be a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach which is very common. Even though these sensations aren't pleasant, rest assured, they want to get out. "Your body always tries to discharge discomfort, but it can't do that while you are living in your head and blocking the release that needs to happen".
2. Clear the fear response
Now that you FEEL your body it’s time to bring its unpleasant sensations to an end. Fear is temporary, but if it insists on sticking around, give it a clear message: Let go.
Remember the body's language is entirely physical. So you need to send your instructions physically. This is unusual for anxious people, who have been sending mental signals of distress and worry for years. But, your body can be retrained.
If you try to confront it all at once, it can get too overwhelming. So break the body's sensations down and deal with them one at a time. This is a very effective way to regain a sense of control.
What do you feel: Cold. Your body shivers and trembles.
What you can do: Lie in bed under a blanket and make sure the room is warm. Make the lighting soothing, not too bright nor completely dark. Darkness accentuates anxiety.
What do you feel: Stiff. Fear paralyses the body. It goes tense and motionless, frozen with anticipation of something dreadful that is about to happen.
What you can do: Lie on your back, slowly stretch and twist. Reach up as far as you can, rotate your shoulders, wiggle your fingers and toes, stretch your legs. Just move.
What do you feel: Breathless. Tense and vigilant, you stop breathing when you are afraid.
What you can do: Use conscious deep breaths, going as low into your abdomen as you can. Draw in air slowly and deeply until you feel your diaphragm start to push down. When it can't comfortably go out any farther, exhale with a sound. Don't push the air out, but let it escape out of your lungs like a balloon deflating. The breath regulates the movement of emotions.
What you feel: Unable to make a sound. Fear tightens the throat, and even when you feel like screaming, you can't.
What you can do: Make sounds that activate the fear to leave. Sometimes you may want to scream into a pillow; other times a low, growling sound may be needed. Laughter is always a great way to change your mood. Remember the brain doesn’t know what’s real or fake. So just laugh.
3. Calm the Body
When you feel the sensations of fear melting away, lie on your back with your eyes closed and relax. Sink deeper into your body. Soothing music and oils are helpful, choosing scents that are traditionally known to help clear negative energies, like orange bergamot, sage, peppermint, clove.
Don't rush into activity. Your body will be in recovery mode for an hour or so. Drink some herbal tea, avoid stimulants like tobacco and caffeine. Let the calming process continue. Light reading and television are fine. Don't enter into situations that will bring up your anxiety again.
It is natural, however, for relaxation to bring up more physical sensations like the ones you've just cleared. Anxiety attacks in the middle of the night because your body is relaxed and therefore tries to release stuck energies. Don't rush or expect instant miracles.
Recovery is a process. Have patience with your body. The whole trick in gaining control over anxiety is to remember that your body is your best ally. Once you train it to let go of negative energies, it will willingly cooperate.
There is so much help out there so please don’t be afraid to open up. A few things I like to do when feeling anxious is firstly limit the caffeine. I try to not watch as much tv so either read, walk, do some work or I like to play with wee Kobe (my puppy). Listen to podcasts, drink lots of water, eat as well as I can. There isn’t really a cure for this, its all about self work. So get into the personal development courses, read some books, watch interviews with the people who have dedicated their lives to this sort of thing. Just do what you can. Do your best. Thats all you can do, and in time you will start to rise out of that darkness where you have been sitting. I got your back anyone who needs to talk, I’m here.
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Peace and Love
Ps. The 3 steps to help with anxiety was found online on OPRAH.COM and the article was written by Deepak Chopra. Very interesting read. I used these steps because I fully agree with was written and couldn’t of put it better myself.