Anxiety - ways to be in control
It was my third anxiety attack that week. I made it from the supermarket to the safety of my car. I try to breathe, trying to control the wave of cruel negative thoughts. I’m bathed in sweat and I’m resisting the urge to run. I feel the knot in the pit of my stomach. I know that if I can just control my breathing this will pass.
Audrey’s description of her anxiety attack may be familiar to some, frightening to others and very unfamiliar to those who have only experienced anxious thoughts as a fear before an exam or an interview. Yet being able to deal with our anxiety is a key life skill. Without that skill or self-belief and self-worth can come crashing down in the face of it. Yet even in the most severe cases there is hope there are steps that you can take to make a difference and put yourself in control.
Breathing: breathing seems like a simple skill, you will have been practicing since the day you were born. Unfortunately when anxiety strikes we tend to breathe more quickly and take shallow breaths. In the face of anxiety you will do this subconsciously so you really need to focus when you are anxious on slowing your breathing down and taking deep breaths, and keep this going for 5 to 10 minutes at least.
Anxiety tends to build so one negative thought will lead to another. In no time, it will have taken you all the way down the road to the worst possible scenario. The answer lies in challenging your thought process. If you have an anxiety what could you do about it? What action could you take? If there is not action that you can take you would be better to focus your attention elsewhere on things you can change. Perhaps in monitoring to see if things change. If the worry is less specific, asking yourself what realistically are the chances of the outcome your fear. For example you might worry about being attacked if you go out, yet when you check the crime figures you find that the chances a very small, this helps you to re-set your anxiety so it has a more realistic view of risk.
Many of us will know the types of situation which will trigger our anxiety. For some it may be going out at night, or speaking in public, for others it may be social events. However, for each of these it is possible to prepare and to think about what you might say or do to help yourself manage your anxiety. It is a mix of challenging yourself to go through with the event, but being secure in the knowledge that you have a safety net if things are not going well.
Making this level of change is something which you may find challenging. It is particularly hard to try on your own, so it is worth seeking out someone that you trust who can help you though the difficult changes and who can challenge you. Many people turn to their GP or a friend or a counsellor. The key is in getting someone that you can trust to help you to make the differences. A big part of that control of anxiety can be talking about it so you can see your enemy for what it is, yours to control.
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About Graeme Orr
I am an Accredited Member of BACP offering counselling for both individuals and couples on the Southside of Glasgow.
You may be struggling to cope with difficult thoughts or feelings. It can feel a very lonely place, with nowhere to turn. Problems happen to us all and at any time in our lives. If you feel overwhelmed; perhaps fighting anxiety, or your relationship is causing you problems, o… Read more
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