Coping With Anxiety
What is anxiety ?
Anxiety affects both the mind and body. It encompasses emotions and states of mind such as fear, tension, apprehension, worrying, feeling panicky, `on edge' etc.. Its physical symptoms can include muscle tension, feeling sick, racing heart beat, breathlessness, sweating
Anxiety is good, healthy and useful. Without it we would have no sense of danger, no recognition of challenges to us, and no ability to cope with demands at difficult times.
When we are anxious, our body's systems speed up, to allow us to rise to the challenges with which we are presented. This can produce the changes listed above. Anxiety helps us do our best. But it becomes a problem :
when there is no real danger or
if the anxiety continues when the demands are over,
or if constant anxiety is intruding on our lives and making it difficult to function as we would normally
How much anxiety we experience depends on:
the amount and type of demands made on us by ourselves and others
the sort of people we are
how much support we have
We experience anxiety in three stages:
thinking about situations that make us anxious
thinking about being anxious
losing confidence in our ability to manage the situations, and the anxiety
decide not to think about your anxieties
decide to fill your mind with something else
Then concentrate on what is going on around you -joining in - getting involved in something that interests you. Or it might be with a mental activity - reading, doing a crossword, doing puzzles, reciting a poem. It might be physical - taking exercise, walking the dog. It might be treating yourself - spend time with friends - see a film - listen to music
5. Learn to manage your anxious thoughts
Spend a little time thinking about these questions and then write down all your answers
To escape from the anxiety we try to avoid situations that can make us anxious. This can work short-term, but overtime, but:
we then worry about situations that we haven't addressed,
things become harder to face,
we may add more things to avoid,
we lose confidence because things that once were easy then become hard, and we normally gain confidence from feeling that we are succeeding at what we do.
It is more useful to manage the problem of anxiety
So what can do to manage my anxiety ?
There are lots of ways that people use to manage anxiety. Different techniques - work for different people.
1. Talk to someone about your anxieties. Two heads can be better than one, and putting your anxieties into words can clarify them for you
2. Learn to relax physically. Use relaxation exercises, or tapes, and set aside time each day to relax
3. Take some exercise - walk, run, swim, do sport - regularly
4. Take your mind off your anxieties - distraction.
There are two decisions involved in this:
What goes through your mind when you are feeling anxious or worried ?
Do you have thoughts that make you feel worse ?
Realistic / accurate
Based in reality
Now look at what you have written, and try and assess each item as either:
acknowledge each positive thought
challenge each negative thought, and try and find a new, positive way of thinking about it
Get into the habit of doing this on a regular basis. It will help you to understand how you operate.
Some other techniques that may help
Keeping notes - especially useful at night if your thoughts are keeping you awake. Keep a pen and paper by the bed. When and anxiety comes into your mind, get rid of it by adding it to the list by your bed
Dumping - Imagine a bin next to you. When an unwanted thought comes into your head, remove it and dump it in the bin.
Video technique - When worrying thoughts are intrusive, imagine pressing the `Pause' button in your brain. At the same time allocate a time later in the day when you will press `Play' and think about these worries.
Do these anxieties belong to you ? Are the worries really yours, or are they someone else's, that you have `adopted' as your own ? If they are not yours, hand them back
Is it your problem ? Are the things that are worrying you, your responsibility or is it up to someone else to sort out ?
Action! Can you do anything to sort out or change the things that are worrying you? Anxiety can be a brake, and makes you feel helpless. But there will be times when getting on and making some changes for yourself will help.