Anxiety - know your symptoms
Anxiety is the most common psychological problem. We all feel anxious at some point, it is a part of everyday life. Worrying about a work assignment, college/school work, or worrying about family/relationship affairs. Anxiety comes into play when we need to make an important decision. It is a feeling of worry, restlessness and feeling uneasy, it is a fear of uncertainty and worrying about what is to come.
It is normal to feel anxious before an exam, moving a house, going for an interview, getting married, having a baby or when we go through any big changes in life. Once we adjust into things, the anxiety and the fear of the unknown diminishes as we get used to the changes.
We all feel anxious for different reasons and present symptoms of anxiety differently. Anxiety is our body’s natural response to stress, worry and fear. But, it becomes a problem when it starts to interfere with your everyday life and has an impact on your thoughts and mood or affects your relationships and interactions.
You may have GAD (generalised anxiety disorder) if you feel you are no longer in control of your anxiety and are unable to switch off and cannot stop thinking excessively.
Having worked with anxiety, I am aware that feeling anxious leaves people exhausted, low on energy, feeling down and drained - this is because anxiety for some people is there at the forefront and they are always worried about something or the other. Their anxious minds will find something to worry about.
“One of the main causes of anxiety is the fear of danger, anticipation that something ‘bad’ will happen.”
You unconsciously try to control the worst-case scenarios by trying to think into the future so you can feel some sense of control and think you can prevent it because you are thinking ahead. This fear of danger can be so powerful that it can take over a person's ability to think logically and rationally. The feeling of impending danger is so strong that within minutes the anxiety can become a panic attack, racing heartbeat, sweaty palms, losing vision, shortness of breath, some may even experience severe chest pain, almost as if they are having a heart attack.
It can help to look into what makes you afraid, if certain things which you anticipate will happen, what would be your biggest fear or concern and why?
Is there anything you can do to prevent it from happening? And how can you achieve that?
CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) tends to work well with anxiety disorders. This approach and its techniques help you develop different and alternative responses to the way you are thinking and enables you to think from a different and fresh perspective.
Most people who suffer from anxiety don't know their symptoms and triggers properly. This is due to the complexity of the disorder.
When you have an anxiety attack, your senses are hijacked and you cannot think properly.
Speaking to a professional, a counsellor/psychotherapist can help you familiarise yourself with your triggers and symptoms.
Anxiety attacks comes with a fear of doom and terror, we naturally respond to the situation by trying to regain control and stability which has adverse effects. The more we try to feel normal the more anxious we will get.
There are techniques to help individuals feel better and recover from anxiety attacks.
Anxiety is living in the future and trying to control it by excessively thinking about the worst-case scenarios, and ‘planning’ should things go really bad.
Try to stay in the very present moment. This can be done by trying grounding techniques and reminding yourself where you are physically. i.e.
- Touch the surface in front or next to you, tap it 10 times.
- Look around the room or whatever environment you are in and count 10 things of different colours.
- Move from one seat to another, if this doesn't help, go to a different room.
- If you are standing up, sit down, if you are sitting down then lie down and count to 10.
- Remember that adrenaline is rushing through your body and that it won't last long.
During an anxiety attack, it is difficult to stay calm and focus on where we are in the moment as we unconsciously focus on the future and try to regain a sense of lost control. These grounding techniques will help you focus on the here and now/present moment which will bring unconsciousness into consciousness and enable calmness gradually.
These techniques need some practice and consistency to work.