September 11, 2015
If that sounds familiar, then you too know what anxiety can feel like.
You might also get trembling hands, your heart hammering loudly in your chest, feeling like you might pass out or a feeling as though you want to be sick.
Perhaps you have grown quite used to living with anxiety? You wake at night in the early hours even though you have gone to sleep late. You know that you haven't had nearly enough sleep but your body has woken you anyway. Maybe you are used to darting from one thing or one place to another and find it VERY hard to just sit down and contemplate, reflect or god forbid...meditate!! You question and doubt yourself all the time because you don't feel like you can cope properly with anything.
What I want you to know is that we ALL get anxious from time to time....short term anxiety or feeling 'worried' or stressed' is just something we have to learn to live with and work through (unless you are a Buddhist monk or perhaps a meditation teacher living in nirvana, then lucky you!). It is virtually impossible to not suffer from varying degrees of worry/stress/anxiety on a regular basis in this day and age. Our lives are geared for speed, multi-tasking and constant bombardment of information, all of which overloads our senses and takes us away from ourselves. This is why we can feel the way we do.
But I want to share a quick breakdown of what anxiety is and how you can use it to help you! Yes, HELP you.
What is Anxiety?
According to the fabulous organisation Beyond Blue "Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. While stress and anxious feelings are a common response to a situation where a person feels under pressure, it usually passes once the stressful situation has passed, or ‘stressor’ is removed.
Anxiety is when these anxious feelings don't subside. Anxiety is when they are ongoing and exist without any particular reason or cause. It’s a serious condition that makes it hard for a person to cope with daily life. We all feel anxious from time to time, but for a person experiencing anxiety, these feelings cannot be easily controlled."
There is a lot that can be done if you suffer with anxiety and I urge you to speak to someone about it as chronic anxiety can quickly become even more insidious as depression, suicidal thoughts and chronic physical illness as you are using up more nutrients in your body that usual by being in this state which depletes all of your cellular and body functions.
So what can we do with those anxious feelings and perhaps stop ourselves reaching full blown anxiety?
We can use the anxious feelings as a tool.
A tool that is a marker if you like, that you are heading down the WRONG path. Basically I'm saying that you actually have all the answers and the processes to show you how to be ok again, you are just currently not tapped into this knowledge. But your body will always help you and direct you towards the answer if you ask and listen.
How great is it that our body provides us with an inbuilt road map and gives you a warning sign when we you about to take a wrong turn? I think it's brilliant! And feeling anxious can be a whole different kettle of fish if you start to view anxiety in this way.
For example: you are feeling some or all those physical symptoms I mentioned earlier - racing heart, a change in breathing rate or difficulty breathing, tightness in your chest and a slight paralysis or keen desire to run (fight or flight mode), you can't think straight and you might even perspire or be lying in bed completely unable to go back to sleep. Your body is now under stress and those anxious feelings are creeping up on you.
Before you do anything else. Stop. What are you doing or about to do that has you feeling this way? Is this the right choice if your body is reacting so strongly against it? Is there a better way for YOU. Just because you have gone about things a certain way for as long as you remember doesn't mean that this way is right for you NOW. Similarly, just because everyone else does it that way or seems to be able to do it, doesn't mean that it's right for you.
You need to check in with yourself in that moment and ask yourself:
1) Are you doing too much at once?
2) Are you in someone else's business when you should really just come home to your business?
3) Are you too much in your head right now?
4) Are your thoughts spiralling out of control and all you need to do is get into your body again?
5) Are you in danger emotionally or physically?
Often times those initial warning signs your body is giving you means that you will be answering YES to one or more of those questions and here's what you can do.
1) If you are doing too much at once, this overloads the senses and creates anxiety. This might be in a specific moment or more generally in your life. Stop. Prioritise. Simplify. Keep your activities to a 'one thing at a time' as much as you can. Do not be checking your e-mails while cooking the dinner. Do not be scrolling facebook while watching tv or the kids. I know many of us get by with multi-tasking or we wouldn't fit everything in but ask yourself this - How much do you want to fit in if it means that you will also have to make room for anxiety? By living a certain way, you are creating those types of pathways in your brain. Too much at once and you will constantly overload yourself. Think of multi-tasking as too many adapters in the one power-point. Pretty soon you might cause a black out.
2) Often times we can find ourselves getting anxious thinking about 'others' too much of the time. Who is doing this and when, how our family member or friend is coping with a particular event or scenario, what are people thinking about our behaviour or action? The thing is, we have enough to worry about just thinking about ourselves. We need to rein in those thoughts and keep bringing it back to ourselves. I understand how hard it is as a parent to not worry or feel anxious for our children but you are of less use to them if this keeps creating anxiety. I use a sentence in my head, something I tell myself when I feel myself thinking too much about someone that isn't me - "It's time to come back home Alisha. Come back to the business of being you." I know that by reining in my thoughts about others, I have more head space for myself and am a better parent, wife, daughter, sister and friend when people actually do need my help. And then I bring it back home again.
3) Sometimes we forget that our body is much smarter than our mind. We stay too long in our heads which does create anxiety and what is the body trying to do? It creates a feeling in you to come back to it! Come back into your body. Breathe. Notice your breath. Notice the rise and fall of you chest and stomach. Feel your feet on the ground or your back against that chair. Feel the air on your face. Are you hot? Cold? Thirsty? Hungry? Reminding ourselves of the bigger picture, our WHOLE body tends to shush that mind up a bit. Don't keep letting that brain of yours run the show.
4) Sometimes you have gone past that point and your thoughts will not calm or settle. They keep whirring around and often on repeat so it's difficult to slow things down at first. But it can be done. Get physical. Dance, shake your body, go for a walk, jog, run, swim, cycle. Even better, use these activities as a prevention instead of a fix which simply means, incorporate physical activity into your day to treat anxiety. Your thoughts will fall more into line if you have a regular physical outlet that keeps reminding the brain to slow down and focus on the physical body. For people with injury and physical impairment, breath-work is an absolute MUST to prevent anxiety. Meditations and breathing techniques are a fabulous way to focus on the physical body and quiet the mind.
5) Are you in danger? Sometimes danger is not at all obvious. It might be a person that is not good for you to be around. How will you know? Your body will give you the signs we have talked about. Are you about to do something that will harm yourself or another person? How do you feel when you go to do this? It might be a case of first time nerves, but just check in. Keep coming back to hitting pause on something until you feel differently or more sure in yourself. It might be a work situation that you are not understanding and you need to ask for more help. It might be doing something for the first time as a parent and if anxious feelings keep persisting because you haven't asked for help, something quite simple might blow completely out of proportion on you. Ask for help. Communicating with someone can prevent this feeling from coming up again the next time you go to do this.
In summary - Your body will let you know when you are in danger whether it is physical or emotional, so use these feelings to your advantage! Thank your body for giving you the physical signs of anxiety so you can stop and assess whether you want to keep going forward or perhaps go down a different road. You may just find that you would like to put the brakes on all together and have yourself a little time out.
Anxiety is a massive topic and one that I wanted to cover in this particular way for national RUOK? Day
So are you ok? Let me know in the comments below (sometimes it's easier to tell someone how you really are if you don't know them in real life...)
Yours in Health,
Ps. If you liked this blog, you might also want to read STOP and if you would like some energetic help with shifting anxiety, please take a look at my flower essence blends, particularly Help and Slow Down.
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