ANXIETY AND STRESS MANAGEMENT
Living with Anxiety…
It‘s normal and healthy to feel sad or worried about life, its problems and pressures. But when worry casts a cloud over everyday life, you may be suffering from anxiety. In some general situations we all feel anxious as there is a sense of dread of the upcoming. This could be situations like a new job, interview, first time events with your children, some particular relationship issues, transition into a new environment or city, job problems, health, dealing with social situation or people in authority, etc. For some people, anxiety is a temporary state which passes when the source of stress subsides, while for others it becomes a long-term condition which affects their lives, job, relationships, family, health and also those of their loves ones.
Anxiety is a feel of uneasiness, dread or worry followed by physical symptoms such as headache, palpitations, sweating of palms, tightness in chest, muscle tension, giddiness, tiredness, sleeplessness, churning of stomach, diarrhoea, lump in throat, etc. The condition usually couples with obsessive, irrational and all pervasive thoughts. It could also lead to a state of panic or social withdrawal. Common in all these complaints is the overwhelming effect of the body, mind and emotions. It brings on stress and extreme fatigue.
The experience of anxiety can range from mild uneasiness and worry to severe panic. At a reasonable level, short bursts of anxiety can motivate us and enhance our performance, but if the symptoms of anxiety become too severe or chronic, however, it can become debilitating..
Causes of anxiety:
People differ from each other on how vulnerable they feel in particular situations. This could be either genetic, could depend on past experiences or on each one’s attitudes or beliefs. Traumas, illness, pregnancy, drugs, transitions, family and job concerns, financial issues, etc can all trigger anxiety. It could also be a result of low self esteem or high expectations.
Being anxious is completely normal; it is certainly not a sign of weakness. All of us feel anxious; it motivates us and challenges us. It helps us overcome our fears and excel in situations. It’s when the worries are unrelenting and all pervasive that anxiety is debilitating. Then you need help.
How to overcome anxiety?
• Reflect on the sources of your anxiety: Think about all the different things that are causing symptoms of anxiety and make a note of it. Review all the practical solutions to your concerns. If need be focus on saying no wherever you can, organise your activities on priority basis with a loose action plan on how you are going to go ahead with your tasks or projects, if you have work problems gather courage and discuss with your seniors, if you have relationship problems talk to someone and seek support, ask for information and feedback, give up unnecessary time consuming activities and responsibilities.
• Take care of your lifestyle to manage your stress: Make sure you are into basic exercise, get enough and timely sleep, eat proper food on time, create time for hobbies and recreation, socialise spend time with friends and family. Make time for things you always wanted to do. All of the above calms down your nervous system and facilitates a chemical balance. Look at ways of satisfying your needs. Check the effect of your self esteem and expectations on your anxiety levels. Have a little fun!
• Turn off your mind sometimes to reduce your stress level: Decide to worry about each concern only once. Next time the same concern pops up, tell yourself you have already worried about it and distract yourself. Distracting yourself could be done in a variety of ways. Sometimes you can do it by repeating calming statements to yourself like ‘ I have thought about this enough, it will be fine’, ‘ I am feeling calm and relaxed’, etc; You can also distract yourself by physically doing other activities like watching television, pursuing hobbies, sports or talking to people. Further to you can also distract your mind by counting backwards or being aware of your senses like what can you see, hear or smell. Relaxation and breathing exercises can be learnt overtime starting with times when you’re not stressed and connecting the same to the time your anxious gradually. It can also be done along with imagery.
• Not being able to express your emotions leads to anxiety: Reflect on which emotion is not being expressed: anger, sadness, disappointment, shame, guilt, etc. Further express and manage your emotions. Help yourself satisfy your needs. If you do not have people to talk to, talking to a family counsellor on regular basis can help you release these buried feelings.
“You can choose not to live with anxiety when it hampers your work, health, emotional well being and social life.”
• Confront the situation, don’t avoid it: You tend to be anxious about a few situations as you are avoiding them. Anxiety usually becomes a habit which is learnt over time. Start facing your problems in a hierarchical manner where you start with something that gives you the minimum anxiety. This really works as when you stay in a difficult situation for a long time, symptoms of anxiety gradually diminish.
• Find a rational approach to ruminating on your thoughts: Sometimes we make thinking errors like blowing things out of proportion, which is called catastrophising, or we view things in absolute sense (either everything or nothing); we also generalise, personalise, expect perfectionism, compare ourselves to others, we think negatively, predict future without evidence, jump to conclusions, or judge ourselves and others emotionally. We do not validate our thoughts, or seek evidence. One should look for these patterns and challenge these thoughts while working at finding other practical and rational ways of thinking. For e.g.: ‘Since the situation is so bad today, its intolerable and will remain this way forever, i will never find happiness’. The rational way of challenging your thoughts could be ‘The situation is bad today, but there is no reason to believe that things will not change’.
If you have tried the above and still suffering from incapacitating fears, feeling of panic or all pervasive anxiety, do seek help. You can choose not to live with anxiety when it hampers your work, health, emotional well being and social life. Improve your quality of life by controlling your worries, overcoming your anxious thoughts and conquering your fears. Help yourself not living a life in fatigue. This can weaken your immune system and manifest in your health gradually.