Let's talk about anxiety
Edit: I originally wrote this post back in 2015, September as it was important to deal with the issue of anxiety as I felt at that time.I have come a long way since that time, but I still have anxiety and PTSD....that may never go, but these days, I have learned to become a better warrior, even if it means allowing myself to cry and then move forward! I have also updated some of the links and/or information to reflect a more current view.
Before I talk about dealing with anxiety I want to share a story with you that will help you understand how anxiety can weigh you down
A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?” Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz. She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.” It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night. Remember to put the glass down!
The reason I decided to write a blog post talking about anxiety and dealing with anxiety is simple. Since my accident ( coming up to a year ago now), I have been told I have anxiety disorder well as PTSD. Lately, everything has become worse in part because I am coming up to an anniversary of the accident as well as dealing with the cause and effect of different parts of my life.
I was at a workshop ( which is where I saw this story) about anxiety and I just wanted to share with you a few things about how anxiety can affect you, how it has affected me and maybe get you to understand that telling a person to get over it or other such platitudes not only does not help but can actually make things a lot worse.
First off what is anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal and often healthy emotion. However, when a person regularly feels disproportionate levels of anxiety, it might become a medical disorder. Anxiety disorders form a category of mental health diagnoses that lead to excessive nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worry. Medical News Today
We all deal with anxiety at different times of our lives, from feeling anxious about doing that exam the next day, standing up at a meeting to give a speech, keeping up the hectic pace of deadlines and for a lot of us who spend so much time online working, running a webinar and hoping like hell you won’t screw up.
Anxiety in and of itself is really quite normal and can be beneficial such as helping you to prepare to meet challenges in your life.
Sometimes those feelings of anxiety is like your gut instinct is being activated as a warning when you went through a similar situation in the past and the outcome was not what you wanted..then anxiety is a way of your mind saying, it didn’t work before, maybe you should try something different ( trust me when I heard that at the workshop, not only was it a different way of looking at anxiety, but a light bulb went on in my head about some things I have been doing lately).
There are more people being diagnosed with anxiety disorders than ever before in part because we have so much going on in our lives, we process so many things via online and social interaction is not what it was a generation or two before us.
Unfortunately for those of us who are dealing with anxiety issues or who have been diagnosed with anxiety disorder, everything goes crazy and a lot of problems occur.
Just a few of the symptoms that you might experience and what I have been dealing with are:
– you worry a lot and I mean you worry about everything that might happen or might not happen. You are tensed to the point of having the fight and flight response all the time, which can drain energy, stop you from getting a good night sleep and basically wears your body down. In my case, I spend a lot of my days getting ready for something bad to happen, so that I can then deal with the “future problem”
– your behavior can take on some pretty interesting ( not) characteristics
Many people with anxiety will do all they can to avoid problems. In fact, they can be so good at avoiding that potential worry or fear their world will get smaller and smaller...
For myself, I am an expert at avoidance. If I can avoid going out I will, I have recently started playing games so that I don’t have to deal with people or situations. I freeze when situations occur and I am literally like that deer staring into the headlights, there is nothing I can do.
Some people deal with their anxiety by eating and overeating. When you eat it feels good and it’s a temporary way of not feeling anxious. People such as myself will do the opposite and starve because when my anxiety levels go up, to eat makes me feel so sick and that’s because my stomach is in knots thinking and dealing with all the potential dangers that could happen or because of what has happened.
Other people will turn to drugs or drinking as a way to cope with their anxiety.
A few other symptoms can be
shortness of breath
feeling hot or cold
getting the “shakes”
having choking sensations, feeling like you are going to have a heart attack
become hostile as a reaction to a potential threat verbally/physically
Anxiety really sucks!!!
The reality of dealing with anxiety is that in most cases our anxiety comes from something that happened a long time ago and that fear, that worry, that nervousness is part of who we are, it is part of our “story”, its a part of who we are today.
For myself, I have had to deal with many things in my life that have been pretty darn negative and I was in an accident that could have killed not only myself but my children. ( obviously, we are all alive thankfully)
It has taken a number of events leading to this blog post, one of the events shook me to my core and it was suggested that I go to a workshop to attempt to deal with my anxiety by a very special person in my life.
One of the things I am learning when dealing with anxiety is learning to understand that whatever is causing your problems, it happened in your past. it is affecting your today and will follow you into the tomorrow.
Because of what I have been through my days and nights have been severely impacted as I avoid life. I have no today…I live yesterday..so how can I possibly have a tomorrow?
Sad isn’t it? The reality is we are living in the now, whatever happens, tomorrow will be your now and what happened to you yesterday or before cannot be changed..it has already happened and there is nothing you can do about that except maybe accept it.
The life story and anxiety
Just as in the story at the beginning you can learn to put that glass of anxiety down! Yes it will always be with you, it is part of your story, your life, and your adventure, but it need not make your world smaller, you can learn from it, you can deal with it and add it to your life story in a positive way. ( I can almost hear a friend of mine who was also in a car accident yell out- we can become warriors not just survivors)
I am not going to even attempt to go through everything that was said in that workshop, I am putting into words what I learn, what I have taken from that workshop and some of the steps I am going to be taking to deal with my own anxiety.
Before I go any further my everlasting appreciation to Nate Searle, MSc BCBA who ran this workshop….
“Hear my voice” wants you to learn enough about anxiety
that you leave holding your anxiety differently: to challenge
you to begin to learn to thrive through suffering.
Mr. Searle asked a question that I have heard before but for some reason today I paid attention
If we only had this day to live what would we do with that day?
It’s a good question when you really think about it.
Do I want to spend my last day worrying about something that I can do nothing about because in my case I am reliving and preparing for something that happened in my past? Hell NO!
Living today means living in the now, doing the now, and getting out and living life. For me, this means learning how to accept what has happened, to not avoid life and to really want to live my life as I see fit..not as the anxiety sees fit!
There are a few things I have been learning that I can do when I become aware that my anxiety level is getting higher…
Number one is learning to become aware of what is happening as I become more anxious and then taking steps to help ground myself again.
When I look at what I have been through, what is the worst thing that can happen to me – I know that for me, it’s an extreme case and maybe it’s not fair of me to compare or is it?
In your case when your anxiety is climbing up and up, ask yourself “am I being realistic?” “what is the worse possible outcome” then reframe yourself to understanding that what you are feeling is just a feeling and it’s not real and it will not last forever..that’s a fact!
When you are wanting to avoid people, do the opposite and go out and connect with other people…. what I am really saying is that for every negative awful thought you can have, make a point ( as long as you are safe) of doing the opposite. If you have fears..find ways and means to deal with them and free yourself.
When I go out I make a point of having my headset on and I listen to music as I still have issues with cars going by the bus, noises that sound like screaming and other such PTST symptoms, which also make my anxiety that much worse. This is one way I am learning to ground myself and how I am learning to deal with my personal anxiety.
When you think about it, anxiety can’t really hurt you, it’s when you try to control it, to solve it and get rid of what the thoughts are about..that is when you are having the problems.
There are real things you can do to help yourself, breathing exercises such as Dr. Weil’s breathing exercises, it is so simple, you don’t need to go out and buy anything and you can do it anywhere.
Here is how you do it
I know you have heard it many times, but it’s also true…go for a walk, getting exercise truly does help with stress and anxiety. If you are not comfortable doing this alone, then ask a friend or family member to help you or better yet, volunteer at an SPCA and become a dog walker. ( I am unsure if they have this program in other countries, if they don’t…hey all of you..while you are rescuing these precious animals, make a point of getting a dog walking program in place at the different shelters and help the dogs at least get something good in their lives!)
I am never going to pretend that getting over having anxiety issues is a piece of cake, if need be get a counselor, talk to your doctor..there are some many things you can do..trust me living with anxiety is a killer!
I don’t know about you but I want to live!
I will leave you with a few really good quotes about dealing with anxiety, I hope that one or all of them will be of use to you and if you have a friend or family member who is going through anxiety, please share this post with them.
“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
~ Corrie ten Boom
“Your perspective on life comes from the cage you were held captive in.”
~ Shannon L. Alder
“Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it.”
~ Dorothy M. Neddermeyer
The components of anxiety, stress, fear, and anger do not exist independently of you in the world. They simply do not exist in the physical world, even though we talk about them as if they do.
~ Wayne Dyer
Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.
and this is my favorite one
“I can do this… I can start over. I can save my own life and I’m never going to be alone as long as I have stars to wish on and people to still love.”
~ Jennifer Elisabeth, Born Ready: Unleash Your Inner Dream Girl ( <- men are included)