During the tough times in our lives, we might wonder how to deal with anxiety. I have been feeling incredibly anxious lately, consumed by almost crippling pain that started in my head but soon manifested to quite real, physical symptoms, such as stomach cramps, insomnia, feeling hot and flustered and generally feeling sick and nauseous all the time.
What causes someone to feel anxious? I think for me, the problem is a build up of feelings and emotions that aren’t dealt with but are “shelved” to be dealt with later. Then “later” never comes and we build up more and more emotional refuse and before we know it – we have a panic attack or can’t get out of bed in the morning. Anxiety attacks are very common. There are reports that around 2% of the population experiences them. Some doctors say more.
What are the causes of anxiety?
According to Beyond Blue, ongoing stressful events can be a real cause of anxiety. These “events” can be anything, really but usually occur when one of the major foundations underpinning our life is disrupted, such as an ongoing health issue, job loss, house change, relationship troubles.
“Anxiety conditions may develop because of one or more stressful life events,” explains Beyond. “Common triggers include major emotional shock following a stressful or traumatic event (OR) verbal, sexual, physical or emotional abuse or trauma.” Another thing that can be a major factor in anxiety is alcohol and other drugs which may impair our normal ability to draw on emotional reserves of strength.
What do people get anxious about?
In my previous post How to deal with Anxiety and Guilt I wrote that mostly, “I get anxious about things I cannot change. I get nervous when I am too busy, when I have lots on my plate to deal with, when I am running behind schedule. I also get nervous about my relationship and concerned about my friends. I worry that I do not have enough time to see everyone and do everything. I constantly feel like I am failing and falling behind and this makes me nervous.”
Highly strung people can tend to be more anxious than others, in my opinion (I am not a healthcare professional). I also wrote a piece for Women’s Agenda called Why being a workaholic can ruin your career, drawing on the experience of many women who simply want to have it all, and can’t.
Something’s gotta give: What are anxiety symptoms and anxiety triggers?
So, what do you do to deal with anxiety if you find yourself suffering? Beyond Blue gives great advice and says, “Everyone’s different…It’s important to remember that you can’t always identify the cause of anxiety or change difficult circumstances. The most important thing is to recognise the signs and symptoms and seek advice and support.”
There are nearly a million ways listed on the web on how to deal with anxiety. Some of them are depressing-sounding, like “making time to worry” and some are fun-sounding, like “thinking of your life like a movie”. Whatever you try, you need to find a combination that works for you. Try out lots of different things.
Sometimes people find themselves having panic attacks or anxiety attacks. These can feel incredibly distressing; some people report that they think they might be dying, or having a heart attack. When panic attacks or anxiety attacks occur, people really need to have a strategy in place in their heads. They might end up in hospital, but knowing your triggers might help. Anxiety triggers are different for all people.
“No matter what I do, I can’t get my mind off my problems”. Try this online anxiety quiz to check your level of anxiety. It asks a range of questions, including physical symptoms, to guide you as to what your level of anxiety is. When I personally did this test, the results were not great. It said, “It’s hard for you to enjoy life on any consistent level. You’re hardly ever experiencing a peace of mind. You’re often fearful, worrisome, and unhappy. You don’t like being this way but you don’t know what to do to change.”
Making the commitment to lessen your anxiety: Your 5 Essential “Personal Steps”
Unfortunately, (although it might) your anxiety is unlikely to disappear overnight. Usually, anxiety has taken several weeks or months (or even years) to build up, so the treatment of anxiety will also take some time. Here’s what I plan to do to help myself, based off some of the expert advice I have read online.
1: I will spend some time learning more about what causes me to be anxious
What are my triggers? When do I feel most anxious? Does my anxiety occur at a certain part of the day, or after a certain event? Do certain types of people trigger my anxiety and when do I notice it’s at its peak?
2: I will commit to doing one of three “anxiety-busting” activities when I feel stressed
These will be different for everyone, so I suggest that you come up with your own activities, whether they’re mediation, having a hot bath, doing some exercise or reading a book.
3: I will reach out to others when appropriate to
No man is an island, therefore it’s essential to have a network of people you can reply on when times get tough. Not everyone has a devoted family, so seek out community groups and services when you can.
4: I will go easy on myself and stop “beating myself up”
Self-admonition really doesn’t do us any good and we only do it because sometimes giving in to feelings of anger, hopelessness, rage and sadness can seem comforting. As my mother says, “Get off your own back!”
5: I will keep going, no matter what, and not give up on myself
You will feel like giving up. You may feel hopeless or helpless or like you’re not getting anywhere or even “going backwards”. Acknowledge that this is simply part of a long term process, and commit to it.
A final word on dealing with anxiety
It’s normal, it really is, to feel pain and stress as a human. There are some theories that we are now more stressed than ever before in history, which is hard to quantify but feels good to say. Stress and anxiety might be a part of your life at the moment but try to have faith. Remember that these feelings are a temporary condition, and try to think of the bigger picture. I wish you all the best.
Tell me in the comments below how you are feeling today – if something is making you anxious, let me know and we can try to work it out together.