Webster defines anxiety as an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.
“Worrying is like walking around with an umbrella
waiting for it to rain.”
Recently I had a meeting at my sons school to discuss his peanut allergy. He is only 7 years old so although we have done this before we still are fairly new to having school aged children. As I pulled into the school I suddenly felt my heart begin to race and my breathing became more shallow. I recognized this all too well as anxiety coming on strong. My sons allergy is very severe and so I knew I would be telling a new teacher about how we almost lost him, twice.
I knew we would go through the plan, what to do and how to do it. Who would be training who, etc. And this always wrecks my nerves. For while I am all too aware of my sons allergy on a daily basis, it’s at those meetings where the reality really hits. We are so fortunate to have a wonderful school and principal who support our son and who understand his needs and just “get it”. But when I felt the anxiety creeping in I knew it was time to start utilizing some coping skills that help to calm my nerves a bit. This is just one of many examples of times I feel anxious but I have also learned to respond to my anxiety, rather than react.
Anxiety itself is very normal and necessary. If it weren’t for my anxiety surrounding my son’s allergy, he would not have been kept safe for as long as he has. It keeps us safe and alert in certain situations where there could be danger.
We also need anxiety to motivate and focus us prior to an event; a test for example. However, an anxiety disorder feels far from normal. It can affect our sleep, our thinking, our productivity at work and our relationships. There is often a feeling of overwhelm and a loss of control.
When normal anxiety begins to interfere with your daily living, your everyday life, it can do a number on your physical health, your relationships and everyday living.
How Common is Anxiety?
Research shows that 18% of people currently have some form of anxiety disorder and 40% will have had a diagnosable anxiety disorder at one time in their life. Clearly, if you have an anxiety disorder, you are not alone!
What does Anxiety feel like?
I love this visual here that demonstrates where in the body we feel anxiety. The wear and tear on the body that anxiety causes can really cause damage to our physical health.
As I mentioned earlier my heart and breathing start to speed up a bit when I’m anxious. As soon as I notice this I start to do some deep breathing and this will usually do the trick to calm me down a bit. Early awareness that you are feeling anxious helps enable you to start utilizing your coping skills to feel better.
What do we do about Anxiety?
- Reach out and connect with others. Talk with supportive friends and family, join a support group, reach out to a professional.
- Self-Care – A few things here; but the biggest thing is to take time out for you. I talk a little about that here on finding balance in your life. http://www.bewellbetter.com/balance-part-1-6-strategies-for-finding-balance
Take a bath, read a good book, take a yoga class, enjoy a hobby, go for a walk in a beautiful area or just sit and be still.
- Exercise – Get your heart pounding, clear your mind and increases serotonin. So many benefits to exercise for your anxiety.
- Nutrition – There is more and more research being done on how our food impacts our mood. It is simply impossible to separate your mind and emotions from your body, and that includes what you are putting into your body. So make sure that you are putting the good things in – fruits, vegetables, proteins, etc. A balanced diet will help immensely.
- Breathing – There are many methods of relaxation breathing. Here is a link to an article that highlights some of the many methods. http://healthland.time.com/2012/10/08/6-breathing-exercises-to-relax-in-10-minutes-or-less/
- Mindfulness – Use your 5 senses, practice being present in the here and now.
- Medication – Can be extremely useful for some who have anxiety disorders. If you have questions regarding medications speak to your doctor.
- Therapy – Having someone to support you through the process can aide in healing. A therapist can offer coping skills and also help to identify unhelpful thinking patterns.
“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.”
Update: Below is a presentation on managing anxiety by Colleen Kradel, 2018.