Reflections about anxiety

Hi everyone

Stress is a modern day epidemic so focusing on good self-care and seeking balance are helpful ways to relieve the pressures that can make life challenging.

We all need some stress to keep us on our toes but too much is damaging in all sorts of ways. Sometimes, just becoming aware of our stress is a good start. Hand in hand with stress often walks anxiety, surely an unpleasant experience almost all of us have had from time to time.

Many years ago after suffering a personal loss, I went through a dismal period of my life. The grief was strong and it created anxiety on steroids. It was destabilising to my self-image, especially being a usually positive, cheerful human. When your system is under stress, anxiety is a common response, even if the stress is emotional. In my case, it was brought on by a lack of sleep, inadequate self-care…. and not allowing Mother Nature to lead the way through the grieving process.

With the help of excellent professionals, and a fair bit of medication, I moved through it and out the other side. At the time it was very scary, and the anxiety this fear whipped up was outside of my normal coping mechanisms. The experience, although challenging, taught me valuable lessons about myself, and about managing anxiety. Now, I don’t get this right all the time but there are ways one can lessen the effects of anxiety and dial down the intensity.

1. Try not to hate the anxiety too much!

Make friends with your anxiety. Yes, it sounds weird but resisting makes it worse. It is a part of you, and it’s relaying information about what’s going on in your life. Get curious about the messages it sends and realise it’s trying to be helpful. It’s not something alien, outside of yourself controlling what happens, it’s all you baby! The more accepting you can become about it, the less it bothers you over time.

2. Anxiety is an early warning signal

I see anxiety like an alarm system that alerts me to the fact that there’s too much pressure and unrealistic demands being placed on me. These demands can be both internal and external. The awareness allows me to step back, take stock and introduce more balance into my life. That way, when anxiety shows up, I’m grateful and even say to myself, ‘Ah hello old friend, thanks for letting me know I need to pay attention.’

3. You are not crazy

Almost everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, and often it’s the way we think about and respond to anxiety that makes it a problem. You’re not crazy to feel the way you do.

Anxiety is your body’s response to perceived threats, of any kind. These threats can even be confronting thoughts that might be running through your head. For example, saying to yourself before a work meeting, “I know I’m going to flunk this presentation.” 

If failure is a big fear for you, like many of us, then cue big time anxiety. Many people don’t make the link between their thoughts and the onset of anxiety which makes you realise how important good thinking habits are for mental wellbeing.

When our ancestors were on the plains, anxiety kept them safe and away from dangers. To feel too much anxiety doesn’t mean you’re crazy, it means your alarm system is a wee bit trigger happy. On the other hand, if you were being chased by a Saber-toothed tiger, that intense anxiety would ensure your survival, as you’d have a head start on the more laid back humans! 

4.  Have a plan

Everything is better with a plan. When things are calm in your life, create a simple plan that you will follow when anxiety starts to ramp up. This way you don’t have to think about what to do when it appears, as ruminating makes it worse!

The plan can be really basic, a few easy steps. For example, when the anxiety appears, begin deep breathing exercises, phone a friend, distract yourself with exercise, or a movie, and when necessary take medication that eases the strain. Giving yourself a break is a kind thing not a weak thing. A good, effective plan will make all the difference to feeling more in control. 

Finally, it seems counterintuitive but try and embrace anxiety, make friends with it and listen to what it’s saying. It will be an interesting conversation.

Take care and be kind to each other

Janine x



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