I am writing this blog post to reach out to people who are affected by anxiety. If you suffer yourself perhaps you will read things here that you can relate to and feel a little less alone. Or maybe someone close to you suffers from anxiety and it will give you an insight into what is going on for them and help you to support them better. Or maybe you’re just interested in my thought and experiences on the topic. Why ever you are reading this thank you very much for doing so and I would love to hear about your thoughts and experiences too.
A bit about anxiety
Here’s a brief description of that I understand anxiety to be, I’m sure you will know most of this already.
It is a misconception that anxiety is only a problem in the mind, it is also something that affects the whole body. It is a natural response to danger, we’ve all heard of ‘fight or flight’ right? It is a necessary part of life and in some cases it actually helps us. You’re nervous about going to a job interview so you take extra time to make sure you are prepared, this is helpful. When being anxious becomes a problem is when it is so overwhelming you cannot get on with your day to day life without it getting in the way. In this case we are usually worrying about something simple like missing the bus but our bodies go into ‘fight or flight’ mode even though we aren’t in any actual danger. Quite often the worries we have that cause us anxiety are not ‘real’ but are hypothetical. This means we are worrying about things that ‘might’ happen not things that already have. If we take a step back and think about these ‘mights’ and ‘what ifs’ we will often find they didn’t happen and were actually never likely to. However if you are in a cycle of worry and anxiety these things are huge and you look at them with negative eyes and almost convince yourself bad things will happen.
How anxiety affects me
The ways in which anxiety affects people vary greatly. For me my main issues are stomach problems usually pain, bloating, diarrhoea, spasms and nausea. I also have dizziness, everything looks really bright (dilated pupils) and an awful feeling which and I can only describe as feeling hopeless and unable to control my thoughts and a desperate wanting to escape. Generally, stomach issues are the main problem the other symptoms are in more extreme cases.
What makes me anxious?
I have health anxiety – I think there’s something wrong with me which leads me to worry about dying and not being there for my children.
I worry about anxiety – I worry it will never go away and it will plague me forever. (Crazy I know!)
I have social anxiety – I find talking to people quite hard at times and worry I won’t have anything to say. I am not too bad if it’s just one person but find it very hard to join in a group conversation.
Fear of fainting – I have fainted in the past several times for various reasons. This has happened more than once on a bus. Now every time I go on public transport I worry I will faint.
I worry about my children – Every parent worries about their children that is normal. However last week I felt ill putting my children on a fair ground ride because I was worried they wouldn’t like it!
Other things – Crowds, noisy places, embarrassing myself in public, getting lost… I’m sure the list goes on but I’m getting anxious thinking about it!
Irrational thoughts – some days it just gets out of hand!
“What if I get to the front of the queue and somehow I’ve lost the power of speech?”
“What if I get run over and get amnesia and forget who I am?”
“What if the ceiling falls in on my son who’s sat there playing Playstation?”
“What if a lion jumps out of the bushes and eats me and my dog while we’re walking in the park?”
Ridiculous! But how do you stop an overactive mind?
So what do I do about it? To be honest until recently I just put up with it. I’d have phases where it wouldn’t be so bad and phases where it would be bloody awful. Only now after about 18 years of suffering am I beginning to see it might not always have to be this way.
Remember different strategies will work for different people.
In the short term trying to keep busy doing something to distract my mind from worrying definitely helps, however if we don’t deal with the worries themselves they will always come back. I would always recommend going to your GP for their advice, they are the professionals. In my case my GP referred me to a program called SilverCloud which is an online course based on CBT. It is very informative and has lots of great tips and also includes real life stories of people who have succeeded using the techniques it teaches. Perhaps the most helpful thing I’ve found so far is something called the worry tree. In short this makes us look at each worry we have. What is the worry? Then consider if it’s ‘real’ or ‘hypothetical’. If it’s hypothetical we can let it go. (I think this might take some practice!) If the worry is real then we need to come up with as many solutions as we can (no matter how ridiculous). We can select the most appropriate solution and begin to, or plan to, act upon it. For me just starting to try and solve a problem or having a plan to solve it will make me feel better about it.
I have also signed up to the app HeadSpace which was recommended to me by my GP. You can get access to some of the features for free and there is a paid subscription which obviously includes a lot more. Now Headspace is a meditation app. I thought the same when I first heard about it, meditation is stuff for monks and hippy’s and there’s nothing scientific or medical about it. But surprisingly it actually works! It really helps me calm my mind and the best thing it’s taught me is about ‘staying in the present’. Rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future and focusing on right now.
Another, and perhaps the best, coping strategy is talking to those around you about how you feel Please don’t be ashamed to admit you’re not OK. The people around you who care about you will want to support you. This brings me to another reason for writing this post. I am guilty of not talking to those around me enough either and hiding away the fact I have a problem with anxiety. So I hope this post starts a conversation if you are suffering. Either by commenting on this post and talking to others who are in the same place as you or by encouraging you to go and talk to your GP, family member or friend. Please talk.