Anxiety. Worry. It hits most of us at one or various points in our lives. But how do you know when your worries and concerns are more serious than just everyday uncertainties? Does your anxiety make you feel that everyone hates you?
If your anxieties begin to prevent you from carrying out activities that you would normally have had no issues doing, it may be time to seek help. GPs have simple, straightforward ways of testing that can identify if you may be suffering from some form of anxiety that may need professional intervention.
If you are diagnosed with any form of anxiety, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that there is no immediate fix as such. There is no magical potion or lotion that will put everything back to rights straight away. The underlying reason is that such anxieties are learned behaviours. You may not realise it at first but you really have learned to be like you are. Certain repeated actions and ways of being have made you who you are today (the bits you like and the bits you don’t like!). So, with work, you can unlearn these behaviours or learn new behaviours to overwrite the old – that bit’s the good news!
I can identify with certain types of anxiety as I suffer myself. As an example, I used to worry when giving presentations. If most people clapped but one or two didn’t, I would start to over-analyse the situation. What did I do wrong? Was my presentation content terrible? Was my delivery awful? Why don’t they like me? My thoughts would spiral out of control and before I knew it I would dread every presentation. Every single one. It’s because my brain got confused by my thought patterns. I totally catastrophised every situation I was in. I would over-exaggerate any negative aspects whilst, at the same time, not giving any acknowledgement to any positive aspects. This kind of behaviour creates vicious cycles and can result in truly damaging effects. For me, I started to have panic attacks, I couldn’t drive and I generally avoided people.
I think back now and reflect on how sad a situation it was. At the time, things can seem desperate. Even physical symptoms can be experienced as a result of anxiety. However with help and a ‘one step at a time’ approach, things can really improve.
For panic attacks, it’s important to know how to deal with them. They can last from a couple of minutes to about half an hour and can be really scary for the sufferer. The prime way to help is to focus on breathing. Slow, deep breaths in through the nose and then out through the mouth. Sometimes it is helpful to count in your head whilst you inhale and exhale. In time, everything should return to normal however you may feel a little tired afterwards.
Sometimes I make myself deal with uncomfortable situations. It’s daunting at the time but the results afterwards are remarkable. I feel a true sense of achievement. Instead of catastrophising now, I look objectively at what real scenarios could be.
Back to my example of the presentation and those that didn’t clap …
Maybe they were so in awe of what I had just presented, they forgot to clap?! There’s a thought?! Maybe it was a bit too long and they had semi-switched off and missed their opportunity to applaud? That’s also OK! Maybe they were still contemplating my messaging and were so deep in thought, that applause didn’t occur to them? Maybe actually they didn’t like me?! Shock, horror!! But actually, even that scenario would be OK! Not everyone can get on with everyone and if they didn’t like me then so be it!! Lots of people do like me and that’s good enough for me!
It is hard to change your mind-set but it is possible. You can do it yourself. You can buy self-help books. You can speak with your GP or a mental health professional.
It is important to understand that issues like these are very common and affect so many people.
Anxiety is nothing to embarrassed or ashamed about. Anxiety is purely your brain’s way of not quite processing situations as well as it could – and it’s really not surprising in a world that seems to get busier and more stressful every day.
A final point to note is that anxious people are generally some of the nicest people in existence so how’s that for a lovely fact?! Anxiety may be part of who you are but it makes you, you. And what a nice ‘you’ you are!