Anxiety is something we all experience from time to time. Most of us experience feelings of tension, uncertainty, worry or fear. But if you experience anxiety symptoms at higher levels than usual, or they stay at high levels for long periods, this can be very uncomfortable and interfere with everyday life.
Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health problems. Still, they can be misunderstood and this can cause stigma and discrimination, which can make it much harder for you to speak openly about what you are experiencing and seek the help you may need.
Anxiety can be present continuously or triggered by specific situations. Overwhelming feelings might also result in panic attacks.
What is Anxiety?
For some people, anxiety becomes so overwhelming that it takes over their lives. Anxiety symptoms include persistent irritability or worry, a sense of dread and difficulties concentrating and sleeping. There might also be physical symptoms, like heart palpitations, sweating, tensions and pain, heavy and rapid breathing, dizziness, fainting, indigestion, stomach aches, sickness and diarrhoea. Some people withdraw from contact with others or develop phobias, obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviours.
Panic attacks are an exaggeration of the body’s normal response to fear, stress or excitement. It is the rapid build-up of overwhelming sensations, which might include a pounding heart, feeling faint, sweating, shaky limbs, nausea, chest pains, breathing discomfort and feelings of losing control.
But you don’t have to let this have control over the way you feel.
How can you help?
Understanding your anxiety:
According to its medical definition, anxiety is a state consisting of psychological and physical symptoms that are brought about by a sense of apprehension at a perceived threat. These symptoms vary greatly according to the nature and magnitude of the perceived threat, and from one person to another.
Managing your anxiety:
The first step in managing anxiety is to learn as much as you can about it, as a thorough understanding of your anxiety can in itself reduce its frequency and intensity. It can be tempting to avoid any objects or situations that provoke or aggravate your anxiety, but in the long term such avoidance behaviour is counterproductive. When anxiety comes, accept it. Do not try to escape from it, but simply wait for it to pass. Easier said than done, of course, but it is important that you should try.
Making a problem list
One effective method of coping with anxiety that is related to a specific object or situation is to make a list of problems to overcome. Then break each problem down into a series of tasks, and rank the tasks in order of difficulty. To take a simple example, a person with a phobia of spiders may first think about spiders, then look at pictures of spiders, then look at real spiders from a safe distance, and so on. Attempt the easiest task first and keep on returning to it day after day until you feel fairly comfortable with it. Give yourself as long as you need, then move on to the next task and do the same thing, and so on. Try to adopt a positive outlook: although the symptoms of anxiety can be terrifying, they cannot harm you.
Using Relaxation Techniques
If a given task or situation is particularly anxiety-provoking, you can use relaxation techniques to manage your anxiety. These relaxation techniques are very similar to those used to manage stress and can also be used for generalised anxiety, that is, anxiety that is not related to any particular object or situation but that is free-floating and non-specific.
- Deep breathing
- Relaxation Exercises (Lying on your back, tighten the muscles and then relax completely)
Many people with anxiety disorders benefit from joining a self-help or support group and sharing their problems and achievements with others. This may help you better cope and understand. Also, talking with a trusted friend, member of the clergy or a therapist can also provide support.
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