How to deal with anxiety
I am yet to meet anyone who is not currently experiencing anxiety in some form. My friend feels terrified that her older parents will get ill. A client is worrying that her employer will need to make some redundancies and she will be left without an income. My neighbour is what some call a 'champagne lockdowner', yet she feels concerned about her young child and the lack of social experiences. I read an article written by someone experiencing health anxiety. I support someone that feels terrified with the pressure of expectations to return to normal and those labelled ‘conspiracy theorists’ fret continuously about their truth.
Yesterday, during an anxiety support group, we spoke about what stable mental health feels like. Through our discussion, we concluded that good mental health does not mean a permanent state of joy, rather it allows the person to enjoy with ease experiences that bring happiness.
If this is the true experience of a content person then, without happy experiences, does that person still feel joy? I propose that without using an inventive mindset to create joyful experiences at home, the feelings of happiness are fewer and farther between. Laughter reduces anxiety, with less laughter, anxious thinking expands.
With tough restrictions, each one of us must become more innovative when we look for experiences that bring happiness. Living mindfully, in the moment seems easier when the focus of life is to live. With a primitive or natural way of life, time is spent foraging, cooking, tiding, or creating the living space. Generating warmth, shelter, comfort.
In our society, many of us spend a large portion of time begrudgingly working to generate an income that funds a few hours of fun. This weird way of living seems OK when the few hours of fun are regular and fun! When they are difficult to come by or hard to create, the day-to-day grind seems less of a trade-off.
There are ways to live more mindfully, less anxiously, and without running off to the wild. As a hypnotherapist, my focus is on ideas that directly improve mental health. It is important to keep in mind that physical exercise and nutrition also directly impact mental health and a holistic approach makes a happy mind easier to achieve.
What does anxiety feel like?
Anxiety manifests in many ways, you may experience some or all the symptoms. Overthinking makes you feel as though your head might explode. The same negative thoughts running through your mind, repetitively with little ability to stop or redirect them. A feeling of sadness or like something bad is going to happen so you feel nervous or on edge.
It is difficult to relax, and you feel so restless that it is difficult to sit still. Feeling irritated and easily annoyed is another manifestation of anxiety. Physically, for some people, the heart races, palms sweat, breathing is faster and sometimes accompanied by dizziness.
As you notice the feelings, take some time to recognise your survival instinct. For whatever reason, your brain has perceived something as a threat to your life. This something does not have to be immediately visible. You do not need to know what this something is to understand your brain’s response. All you need to know is what it is doing and why. The why is easy; it is trying to keep you alive.
The what is a little more complex. Put simply, it is releasing a heap of hormones that create the physical reactions you feel, all designed to assist you in running or fighting.
In this moment, take some deep breaths. All the way down to your abdomen. Chest breathing is tricky to combine with anxiety because your chest muscles will be tense as part of the fight or flight response. Put your hand on your belly button to feel your abdomen rise as you breathe in and fall as you breathe out.
Thank your brain for its efficient response, this is an instinct and sometimes necessary. Tell your brain that you appreciate it and feel grateful for the way it keeps you safe and well. Explain to your brain that you are safe, you are healthy, you are comfortable. Repeat to yourself – as if reminding your brain; “I am safe, I am comfortable, I am well.”
Bring your awareness back to the present moment. Look around you and name the things that you can see. Is there anything that you have not noticed previously? Reach out and touch something close, how does it feel in your hand? Bring your awareness to the temperature, the texture, the weight. Notice everything about that thing. At the same time, try to make some noise with the item in your hand. What sounds do you hear, close by and far away?
Continue to observe the present moment using all your senses, tuning in, and feeling.
This is a mindfulness practise that you can use as you go about your daily activities all the time. For example, when you lock or unlock the front door, notice something new each time. Discover the sound it makes, feel the difference every day in the temperature of the key.
Using this technique will regularly bring your mind back to the present moment. The more often you do so the more normal it will become as your mind moves from worrying about the past or future to being present in the moment.
These ideas are just one step in reducing your anxiety. In conjunction with good nutrition, exercise and some creativity, you can lessen the anxiety in your mind. You can replace it with motivation to get creative and imagine some doable activities that will bring you pleasure and counteract the harder moments.