Have you ever been in a situation that brought on sweats, rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath? Your first thought was possibly “Ah shit, I’m having a heart attack” and it probably would’ve felt pretty damn close. but more than likely what you experienced is an anxiety attack.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is characterised as extreme reactions to fearful situations. When someone follows you into a dark alley, those anxious feelings of a racing heartbeat and sweaty palms gives way to heightened senses and a rush of adrenalin that can save your life. This is the fight or flight syndrome. Getting caught in traffic can cause an anxiety attack over what might happen when you get to work late. Starting a new job can bring on anxiety attacks. You don’t know anyone and fear of that unknown can send you into a panic. In the case of frequent anxiety, the fearful feelings are the dread of a particular situation and not the situation itself.
Everyone experiences panic or anxiety in small ways. In new situations, we get panicky but when the outcome we fear fails to materialise, the anxiety stops. For someone with chronic anxiety, this isn’t the case.
If you suffer from anxiety disorders, learning to manage it is the first step to overcoming it.Every situation that brings anxiety is not life-threatening. More than likely it is an extremely stressful situation that has brought on the anxiety as a way of dealing with it. An unchecked anxiety of this type can lead to depression.
If you suffer from anxiety attacks on occasion, there are steps you can take to keep your anxiety under control. Check out the 7 steps below.
1. See a professional.
This is always a good first step and the most important if they are ongoing or escalated. Self-diagnosis of any type of physical or mental condition is unwise and can be dangerous. Putting it simply DON’T DO IT!!! A professional psychologist can help you understand your anxiety and prescribe medication or other effective techniques.
2. Get a good night’s sleep.
During the sleep cycle, your body repairs itself. You feel more rested after several hours of restorative sleep, reaching the REM stage. Most people need eight hours a night which varies within an hour or two each way. In a very near future post, I’ll add some helpful tips to be able to gain a good night’s snooze…keep checking back for that 🙂
3. Exercise on a consistent basis.
Exercise helps you to use oxygen more efficiently. It helps to get more oxygen to the brain. It also increases focus which may help you see solutions to problems rather than simply worrying about them. Although this may be not physically possible for everyone, this can also help with being able to get a good nights sleep. For readers physically incapable fo exercise, then number 4 may be more beneficial…read on 😉
Meditation is more than chanting mantras and there are so many different ways to meditate. My personal favourite is meditation using candles. I’ll focus on the flame and picture all my concerns being take away it. Mixed with relaxing music (my choice is always something like Enya or Celtic Woman) after a short period I find myself less stressed and anxious. Everyone is different so finding the most effective technique can only be achieved by you. Simple mediation such as taking 5 minutes to clear your mind everyday can work wonders in the fight against anxiety. I wrote an eBook called “My Mini Meditation Manual” that explains many different ways to meditate. If you think this may help or inspire you to begin and you’re not sure how to go about it all, it’s available on Amazon for readers to enjoy.
5. Manage the worry.
When you feel your pulse start to quicken or feel the anxiety bug starting to bite, one effective technique I was taught was through a breathing method. inhale through your nose and hold it for 4 counts (don’t forget to count! I don’t want you to hold your breath and pass out on me), exhale after 4 counts through your mouth, not in one big breath, exhale slowly again with counting to 4. Repeat this a few times and you should find that your pulse rate will slow down. Another good way to manage it is to close your eyes and count backwards from ten. Focus on the numbers as you count – diversion, it’s amazing the effect it can have. Resist the urge to read anything more into the situation, all this will do is heighten your anxiety again and defeat the purpose of the activity.
6. Don’t use alcohol.
This is a big nope, nada, NO!! Although you may think that the glass of wine is helping you to relax, and you may argue this point with me, it isn’t helping you at all! Initially, it may make you say “Ahh, much better” but alcohol is a depressant. That one glass will turn into two…three and then before you know it, you’re dwelling on the initial reason you poured that glass. In anxious situations, you could rely too heavily on it and end up gaining another problem in the process. So with this one, I’ll say again, don’t use alcohol!
7. Find some relaxing activities.
On a regular basis try and do something you enjoy such as gardening, painting, reading or listening to music. Not only do they help you to relax, they double as enjoyment. Focusing on something that brings you joy reduces the thoughts of what makes you anxious. Focus on the picture you’re doing, or the garden you’re tending and the satisfied feeling that comes from completing it outweighs any negative thoughts that may cloud your mind. My new favourite activity is to combine music while I’m drawing. Now I’m certainly no Picasso, but I tried drawing one of my favourite animals, the Lion, and I surprised myself with what I achieved. I put all my focus into it and voila!
Anxiety can come into your life at any time and definitely manageable. When the anxiety becomes frequent, you could be at risk for more serious conditions. If you feel your anxiety is starting to take over your life or increasingly causing you problems, go back and read Step 1, seek professional help immediately! There is no need to suffer this terrible condition in silence.
Til next time,
Stay Safe, Stay Smiling