Six things you need to know about anxiety
A normal part of life
Anxiety is a normal part of life. It can even be useful – worrying about something can help us to work it through in our minds, thinking we might have left the cooker on can encourage us to check and turn it off if necessary.
When it stops being useful
But when it stops being useful there are ways forward. Based on research, anonymised personal experiences and proven self-care tips, here’s 6 things you need to know about anxiety.
1. You will feel better. This will pass. And underneath it all, you are still the same person. You’re not going mad, you’re not losing your mind, and this isn’t your fault. There is nothing you are thinking now that someone else hasn’t thought before you, no matter how strange it seems to you. You’re OK. And you’re going to be OK.
2. Breathe… always remember to breathe. Take time to inhale. It’s the simplest thing, but is [often] forgotten...’ (www.mind.org.uk) If you can, lengthen your outbreath. You might be able to breathe in for a count of 3, and out for a count of 6. Or in for a count of 7 and out for a count of 11. Some people find something rectangular, like a picture frame, a mirror, a window or an advertising hoarding and breathe in for the time it takes to let your eyes follow the short side, and out for the long side.
3. This might seem like the last thing you can do right now – where would you even start? – but talking to someone gets our thoughts out of our heads and into the open where we can start to look at them. You might have a friend or family member who you think would be receptive, or maybe there is someone at work who’s a good listener.
Sometimes though, talking to someone we know doesn’t feel right. This is when an organisation like the Samaritans can help. They’re open 24 hours a day, they’ll listen and they won’t judge. Nothing is too big or too small for them to be able to offer support. All the contact details are on www.samaritans.org and if you don’t feel able to talk right now, you can email them on firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if this really doesn’t seem possible at the moment, try a 'mind empty'. Get a blank piece of paper or use a Notes app and just write down whatever is on your mind. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. Just get it out there. Some people find it useful to record their thoughts in categories such body, mind, thoughts, actions. But there’s no right or wrong way. Whatever works best for you is OK.
4. Some people find that speaking to others who have experienced anxiety is helpful. Peer support brings together people who’ve had similar experiences to support each other. Many people find it helps them to share ideas about how to stay well, connect with others and feel less alone. You could contact a specialist organisation for support, such as Anxiety Care, Anxiety UK, No More Panic, No Panic and Triumph Over Phobia UK websites. (Source: www.mind.org.uk ).
5. Anxiety seems to have a combination of physical, emotional and psychological factors. There might be over activity in some areas of the brain, an imbalance of brain chemicals or a genetic inheritance. Some people have a history of stressful or traumatic experiences, or difficult long term health conditions. You might have something very stressful going on right now. Or you might be feeling anxious with no apparent reason. You might find that you have symptoms in all of these three areas too: a racing heart or breathlessness, constantly feeling restless and unsettled, and endless worrying thoughts. Treatments that support the mind, the body and the emotions are proven to work well. (Source: www.nhs.uk ) Calming your body can help to calm your mind so that you can see more clearly. Try getting your focus down out of your mind and into your body by scanning your body, consciously relaxing each part as much as you can.
6. Try to listen to and love that anxious voice as resisting and fighting against what’s happening can make things worse. Accepting, and loving, and practising self-compassion, can begin soothe the anxious parts of yourself. Imagine you are taking care of a small scared kitten or puppy instead of fighting what may seem like an all-consuming beast.
Put your hand on your heart and try saying, ‘This is a moment of struggle. Struggle and difficulty happen to us all. May I be kind to myself in this moment. May I give myself the compassion I need.’ (Adapted from Kristin Neff, www.self-compassion.org).