What is important in anxiety management
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems in the UK today. Yet there are things we can do to take control of it. While we all get anxious sometimes, it is worth taking a moment to understand what a severe anxiety attack can feel like.
Imagine you are sitting down with your family and friends to a meal. Suddenly a large bit of food becomes lodged in your throat. You cough to no effect, you try a drink to no effect and it’s getting difficult to catch your breath. Everyone is standing up, shouting and moving about. You start to choke and you can’t breathe. People thump you on the back to no effect. You start to panic. Suddenly with a last cough the food comes free. Choking and spluttering you breathe again. Even now, although the threat is over you still take time to recover. You take extra care as you lift the next forkful to your mouth.
Anxiety takes different forms. It is usual for sufferers to fall into one of several categories: social phobia, panic disorder or generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) although there are others. The symptoms and severity will vary widely. There are irrational, uncontrollable thoughts which cause us to avoid taking preventative actions. The sufferer is aware that their anxiety and fear is irrational. The frightening consequences mean they have to follow through.
Most of us will describe our anxiety before a test or a similar situation. We may describe ourselves as anxious. We find the feeling uncomfortable even unpleasant, yet we have coping mechanisms to cope within our life. For some anxiety completely disrupts their life. They are no longer able to do what they want; only what they can cope with. You need to be aware of how much your anxiety is impacting on daily life, for it is the degree to which the anxiety affects our lives is perhaps the barometer we can use to know if we need help in dealing with our anxiety.
Fortunately, we know a lot about anxiety and how to manage it. Depending on your anxiety there are ways to help you fight it. First and arguable the most important is self-care. In practice that means accepting how you feel and taking care of yourself, perhaps by a walk round the block or having a bath or talking to a friend. The ‘what’ isn’t important, it is about choosing something that helps you to switch off for a period of time?
Often when we are anxious we have very black and white thinking. Usually we imagine that events will have the worst possible outcomes - it takes courage but challenge that thinking. There may be a problem, but I have solved problems in the past. Don’t think you have to be perfect, your best, however imperfect, will do nicely.
It’s good to talk because it helps you to normalise your anxiety, through sharing your fears. You may have a friend or family who you are lucky enough to feel you can share with. Equally you may prefer to talk to a counsellor or therapist. Again it’s about focusing on you and what will make the biggest difference to let you manage your anxiety.