Anxiety – What to know and what to do
What do Abraham Lincoln, Vincent Van Gogh and Adele have in common? They have all suffered, like around 4.5% of the UK population, from anxiety problems. Anxiety strikes rich and poor, old and young. The main way that we can master it and help others to be in control, is to understand more about anxiety and the simple steps that can make a difference.
Anxiety is not rational. Think of being anxious about spiders, spiders in the UK are harmless and are of no threat to humans. It would be easy to kill the spider, yet many recoil or won’t go into the same room as a spider. Rationally there is no reason, but emotionally we find it difficult to cope. The same principles apply with other anxieties, perhaps the health of a loved one or the security of our employment.
Anxiety usually provokes the worst case scenario. A simple problem grows arms and legs and becomes catastrophic. A headache might build with anxiety to be a life threatening brain tumour. The thought process is not rational (see above) and is usually negative.
Anxiety is not consistent. Some days you may not be anxious and other days it may be impossible to get anything done because of your anxiety. Not all things make you anxious. You may not worry about your health and worry about being in social situations. Some have phobias but cope well with risk.
Yet there are ways to help yourself, ways in which handling anxiety can be made easier. Try to remind yourself: This is my feelings, my thought process; I am uncomfortable, yet because I am anxious this is not necessarily risky. This challenges the anxious though and tries to keep the feelings normal. It is important to realise that the anxiety will only last for a period of time and it will be over. The outcome will be known and you can move on. By denying your anxiety the oxygen of uncontrolled thoughts you can stop them galloping off in a catastrophic direction.
Many people will know the trick on using a paper bag for panic attacks. Yet it hints at a solution for anxiety, by keeping our breathing under control we can ease the symptoms of anxiety. Deep regular breathing promotes and restores calm. It can even be used after you notice anxiety rising. You breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of three and breathe out for a count of five. Slow, regular deep breaths.
Making time for yourself, relaxing can have a positive effect. If you feel guilt about this, think of how it would affect others if you were too ill to continue. It may be a simple thing like going for a walk helps or perhaps a yoga class, but try to do something that means something positive to you.
It can be difficult to conquer anxiety and you may want to ask for help from you GP or a counsellor. There are many effective treatments that can make a big difference to your life. Even if they do not eliminate anxiety, perhaps it will be easier to cope.
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About Graeme Orr
Graeme is a counsellor and author living and working on the south side of Glasgow. In his practice he sees a number of clients with emotional, anxiety and self-esteem that have relevance to us all. His articles are based on that experience and are offered as an opportunity to identify with, or to challenge you to make changes in your life.