What does feeling 'OK' look like?
Often, people ask me how I am in polite conversation; my stock response is "I'm OK thanks". But, when I stop to think about how I am, often I have a lot of things going on. Things ranging from day to day mundane stuff to things that may be causing some worry, anxiety, panic, or even pain. These are the emotions and feelings that, although I might argue with myself that I have them all under control, internally I don’t.
I’m fairly certain that I am not unique in this quandary.
I have been told that I can be very stubborn; this is true - I didn’t like asking for help - it still can be a work in progress, although I am much better at asking for help these days. Looking back now, I can see that I was not only harming myself I was harming my family. "You don’t ask for help" could have easily become a family construct which is the exact opposite of what I tell my family. There is no shame in asking for help - showing vulnerability shows our humanity at its most powerful.
I think many of us go about our daily lives juggling all sorts of scenarios and situations, telling anyone who asks "I'm OK thanks", and yet internally there is a riot of emotions quietly bubbling away into a boiling volcano that, unless tackled, will blow and spew out every which way.
Now, if you can resonate with this, then I’m sure you are thinking hindsight is a wonderful thing, but by building your self-awareness, you will foresee some of the warning signs before it's too late.
Maybe you start to feel your heart beating a little faster. You might feel your hands start to tingle or feel a bit light-headed and dizzy. These are the warning signs that we are starting to feel anxious. These anxious feelings send a warning to the brain signalling that we need to prepare our fight or flight stance. If left unnoticed, a full panic attack could be the next sensation our mind and body feel, which can be very uncomfortable and stressful in itself.
If you start to feel any of these sensations, then stop whatever you are doing and breath. This might sound a bit ridiculous, but when we start to feel anxious or stressed, our breathing becomes more shallow, oxygen doesn’t pump around the body as it should, we start to feel dizzy, and our extremities tingle.
By concentrating on our breathing by, breathing in for four and out for eight, we can calm ourselves down significantly. Distraction is also a great way to stop the initial thing that was causing the anxiety or stress. Think about what you can see around you. Notice the colours, textures, and smells, and allow yourself five minutes to take in your surroundings, all the while concentrating on your breathing.
Don't bottle things up. Talking about a worry or situation can often take away the stress quite swiftly. How many times have you thought something someone has said or maybe someone passed by without saying hello which has left you feeling fed up or anxious? By not instantly responding, you might carry this worry away with you. It might last a day, an evening, or even longer.
By responding to someone from the stance of 'I', you are in control of your feelings. No one can take your feelings away from you; they are how you feel. For example, "I feel uncomfortable when you speak to me in that way". Making small, simple changes to how you react to situations and confrontations can make a huge difference to your overall mood.
Talking about your worries, anxieties, and fears with a counsellor can help you to understand where they originate from, how to work through them, and ultimately how to manage and often dispel the debilitating and controlling feelings.
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