By Lydia Jackson
Yes, I have given you a small ‘a’, because believe it or not, I am BIGGER than you…
I am anxious. Anxiety can be a trigger word for many; it makes you want to hide, run away, leave the room, find a safe place, cry. All of these things can make us feel inferior, not ourselves, and, unfortunately for many, weak or alone. Anxiety can be a taboo. Albeit widely discussed and recognised, it is not something that many of us want to admit to or talk about. Anxiety is personal and frightening – it is isolating.
Personally, I find that one of the hardest things for people suffering from anxiety (I being one of them) is that you don’t want to admit to it, or don’t know how to raise it in conversation, despite it being one of the things that you feel is eating into your personality or leading to dehabilitation. Despite your exterior persona, or awareness of the person that you truly feel reflects you accurately, it can feel like the devil of anxiety is out to get you, and is forcing you to doubt who or what you are.
This ‘split’ from your personality can dehumanise you and make you feel insane through its widely ranging manifestation of physical symptoms: sweating, detachment, numbness, tingling, lack of breath, embarrassment, shaking, insecurity, and visual ineffectualness, the list is neverending…
The symptoms are different for each and every one of us, and let’s be honest, they can be terrifying. It is difficult to know how to even begin tackling this array of panic and confusion, and it is commonly overwhelming.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Although anxiety is a part of you that you may want to lock away and hide from visibility there are more of us that suffer from it than is realised, and it is important to recognise and confront this, even though it may never seem like the right time to do so.
Many times I have felt anxious and unwell, unable to leave the house, and have called in sick to work, or called off prior engagements. The guilt has set in, and I have felt helpless and alone.
With such a seemingly bottomless problem it is difficult to know where to start, however through experience I have found the following approach a solid foundation in my attempts to find a solution:
Accept the problem, admit to it, and discuss it – upon revealing my fears I have realised that people are far more understanding than anticipated, and in fact that many of my friends have had similar experiences. We must learn to support and lean on each other.
Fear: it is human to be afraid – more often than not we can interpret fear as weakness. IT IS NOT. Fear is a natural instinct, and part of being who you are. Everyone has fears, and we must do our best to learn from them.
You ARE NORMAL: despite suffering from anxiety feeling like one of the most isolating situations possible, it is estimated that up to one in five of us are suffering from it.
How to cope with anxiety:
Ensure to always carry a bottle of water with you, this is extremely effective when struggling with breathing or speech
Practice some breathing exercises which you can employ in any scenario: breathing slowly in and out through the nose can be largely underestimated, but can be extremely efficient when trying to prevent hyperventilation. Closing your eyes and focusing on the sensation of the air moving through your nasal cavity can enhance the calming effect of this
Exercise: some people will be more willing than others in undertaking this approach, but the release of endorphins as well as the distraction of exercise is proven to be beneficial
Stress balls and fidget cubes are a great way to give your mind something else to focus on when feeling uneasy, and are extremely cost effective
Call someone: whether it is calling someone to calm you down or to take your mind off things calling a friend or family member is a great way to distract yourself, whether you want to inform them of the situation in hand or not
Be resilient. You are not alone, and you will be okay. Try to reassure yourself and fight away negative thoughts through recognition of your strength.
Lifestyle changes such as healthy eating, cutting out nicotine and caffeine, as well as reducing consumption levels of alcohol, and avoiding drugs are also a great way to improving the symptoms of anxiety.
It is all too easy to be overwhelmed by anxiety, and want to hide from rather than confront your fears. Although it is easier for some than others to deal with their anxiety, it is crucial that you recognise that you are not alone, and that although you may not be able to rid yourself of your fears, there are certainly things you can do to reduce them. Mindfulness and training yourself to have a positive outlook on life, although it may be difficult to do so, are methods which can be employed as a coping mechanism.
Most importantly, we should all recognise and support one another, and seek further help if it is felt necessary. Anxiety is not something to be ignored, and through transparency and empathy we can help to relieve the symptoms of others.