Welcome to this blog on anxiety, it is so crucial to understanding the impacts of anxiety in order to help people with it.
Anxiety is often found in daily life at small levels in everyone! It is a normal part of any human life and dates back to when we were cave people. However, anxiety can escalate and begin to take over a much larger part of a person’s life to the point it may become debilitating. In this blog, I recount my personal experience with anxiety to show ways to help. It is so important to remember that anxiety within a person is not always visible. Always practice empathy!
What even is anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotion of worrying thoughts which can then result in physical changes to the body.
Physical changes involved can be:
- High blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- and many more.
The thoughts that are had due to anxiety are often reoccurring and at times can have a debilitating effect on people’s lives.
How has anxiety impacted me?
Anxiety has been something that has been in and out of my life since I was very young. Through this, I have come up with many techniques to help myself when it comes to these anxious thoughts. It can often be difficult battling your own brain when it comes to anxiety. Partly because my brain tends to have catastrophic thinking. In short, my brain tends to go to the worst-case scenario first. This has impacted me most widely in academic terms and is often triggered by education. The feeling of worrying about an exam or studying triggers catastrophic thinking. This means that I often gravitate to what bad could happen in an exam instead of the good. An element of anxiety can be important in life, it is not inherently a negative emotion! It is when it begins to take over everyday thoughts when there is an issue.
Dealing with anxiety
Finding coping mechanisms for anxiety can be difficult at first because it truly feels like trial and error. However, when you find the right ways to cope it can be really useful to know what works (and what doesn’t!). I hope these tips find a way to help you, remember that you can adjust any of these tips to suit you. These ways to help are going to look completely different depending on the person.
Breathing exercises are crucial in helping when your body is undergoing the effects of anxiety listed above. Being in control of your breathing helps slow down your heart and when practised, can be done anywhere. This takes your body out of ‘fight or flight mode’ and allows for much more rational thinking.
Breathe in for 4 seconds.
Hold for 1 second.
Breathe out for 7 seconds.
You can adjust your breathing pattern to what feels good for you! A good guideline is to breathe out longer than you did breathing in. This creates a calmer level of breathing pattern. It also feels like a weight being lifted off of your chest which in itself can be calming.
Stop that catastrophic thinking!
Catastrophic thinking is a really difficult part of anxiety to deal with simply because these thoughts are so overwhelming. It truly is overwhelming for your brain to gravitate to the worst-case scenario. Only thinking of the worst-case scenario becomes tiring and often overwhelming. It is so crucial to stop this pattern to allow your anxiety to be eased.
Stoping this catastrophic thinking can be done in a few ways:
- Acknowledge the thoughts that are causing this. Allow yourself to understand what you are thinking.
- Tell someone what you are feeling. Simply telling someone your emotions can help filter them out of your brain.
- Counter these with positive affirmations. Try saying out loud positive feelings to counter these thoughts. Such as “I am safe”.
- Think about the positive outcomes of the situation! It can be so easy to only think about what could go wrong but what about what could go right? Try and list out a few positives that could come from what you are considering.
example: I am feeling overwhelmed with a presentation I have coming up. “I am not going to do well, everyone is going to laugh at me”.
Instead of this try and acknowledge you are worried about it and think about what could go right. “I’m going to do really well and it will make me feel more confident”.
Aromatherapy is an amazing source of help for people in general! Even more so to help with your anxiety. Aromatherapy is the use of smell to help your nervous system. This can be a lovely item to add to another coping mechanism such as breathing exercises. I personally use essential oils in my oil diffusers, my favourite being lavender oil. Essential oils are an amazing way to add an element of relaxation into your life.
Ways to incorporate essential oils into your daily life:
- Using an oil diffuser or if you do not have one simply drop essential oils into some boiling water and place them around you! It works as a charm to give you that element of calm.
- Place the oils on fabric such as bedding or clothing.
- Using skin-safe roll-on essential oils.
Movement is a real helping hand to deal with anxiety in life. I wrote this title as movement instead of exercise due to the fact that it is not about getting up and doing a full workout to feel better. Simple movement can help, actively getting up and moving your body will inevitably help your brain.
Examples of movement:
- Do simple stretches to relax your muscles.
- Going on a walk (even if it is for a few minutes).
- Yoga. There are many free youtube tutorials on yoga that are very relaxing.
It is important to note here that movement is not intended for you to push yourself and do things that are not going to help. Any active movement is a good movement! Actively making time for yourself provides a space to breathe and feel that calm.
My personal favourite yoga channel is Yoga with Adriene. Join her relaxing beginner-friendly yoga lessons with her dog in the background (who is the absolute cutest).
Writing everything down
When it comes to a brain full of overwhelming thoughts a lot of anxiety can be fuelled by a head that is overwhelmed. If you feel as though you cannot do any of the coping mechanisms above because you are too overwhelmed this may be a good place to start. Writing everything down does not have to be in a structured way.
Personally, I prefer to simply grab a piece of paper, notepad or my laptop and just write whatever comes to my brain. Writing in this manner allows for your brain to almost feel like it is unloading all this information you were holding in. It can feel quite freeing. Write until you want to stop, this could be a short paragraph or pages and pages. This will look different depending on how you feel and that is okay!
The important thing here is to do what helps you!
Anxiety is a very personal set of emotions to someone and due to this everyone can cope completely different. The way I cope could be completely different to the techniques you may use and that is completely okay! The techniques I have listed above I have found are a perfect place to start your journey in helping. You may mix different techniques together for example. Find your calm and that is the true importance here.
To look further into anxiety and panic attacks here is a recent blog surrounding this!
If you have found any different techniques or have any tips leave them in the comments! I really hope this blog gave you a good insight into anxiety and helped!
Many thanks to Max Van Den Oetelaar, Mitchell Hartley, Jared Rice, Sharon Mccutcheon