We need to talk…
It’s the phrase that anyone with anxiety loves to hear.. NOT! It’s one of the most dreaded statements for someone who suffers an inkling of anxiety. Someone sends you a text message and says, “we need to talk.” What’s your response?
Well, for a long time it would send me into a spiral of worry and nervousness. I couldn’t stop my brain from coming up with twenty different scenarios that probably could be the farthest from the truth. But the thing was my brain could not process that in the moment. Does this sound familiar? I am sure that it does.
It’s no surprise that many people today are experiencing anxiety. What is a surprise is that many people still do not understand exactly WHAT anxiety means! When I am in a session with someone and I say, “it sounds like you’re experiencing anxiety,” they look at me like I have ten heads. I usually get the response, “How can I have anxiety? I’m not sitting here chewing my nails and acting as if the world is about to end.” And then I explain how as a society we have been influenced to view anxiety as a one size fits all type of experience, when that’s the furthest from the truth.
Anxiety takes on many faces and behaviors. You could be looking at the High School Quarterback who always seems happy and alive, but inside he is constantly experiencing uncontrollable experiences like self-doubt and over-thinking. Perhaps, there is that one co-worker who is always early, never misses a deadline, never takes a day off work, and seems to always be reserved. One might think they are just a star employee but fail to realize that they are constantly fighting a battle of fear and nervousness that one wrong move with get them fired, so they maintain better than exceptional performance.
I, myself have suffered from anxiety from as long as I could remember. I didn’t have a name for it until I was in college and learning about my symptoms. Little did I know that when I was ten years old, feeling those “butterflies” every night before school and pretending to be sick just to stay home was not because I just wanted to stay home, but more of a genuine fear of the environment. I was constantly worried about all these different things but never could express that to my parents because I had no idea what was going on. Does any of this sound familiar to you? Have you ever experienced these types of feelings?
In general, anxiety can make you:
- Over-think and over analyze something repeatedly
- Feel uncontrollably fearful
- Make you feel like you’re about to jump out of your skin
- Continuously find faults and doubt within yourself
- Feel uncomfortable around others, even family or friends
- Have angry outburst
- Feel drained of energy and constantly tired
- Stay up all night with racing thoughts
- Judge yourself constantly
- Feel alone even when you’re surrounded by amazing people
- Ruminate over mistakes
- Jump to conclusions
- Constantly worry about situations that will most likely never happen
- Constant stomach aches, breathing issues, heart racing
- Make you act or react impulsively
And that’s not even an entire list of symptoms. Did you know that anxiety can also feel like a heart attack? Panic attacks are a form of anxiety that can make you feel as if you’re dying. It’s incredibly frightening! Believe me, I know firsthand.
But the good news is there are SO many ways of overcoming anxiety. You can live a healthy and fulfilling life free of fear and worry with the proper support and mindset. Simple coping skills alone are sometimes enough to significantly reduce the intensity and frequency of anxiety.
Deep belly breathing. There are many YouTube videos that are great at showing you exactly how this is done. I invite you to check them out!
Journaling. Sometimes getting our thoughts out of our head and putting them onto paper can make a huge difference.
Maintain a positive attitude. Fake it until you make it! The more positive you start to force yourself to think, your brain is going to respond in kind. Even if you don’t believe it, maintain a positive attitude will trick your brain into being able to handle situations more effortlessly.
Try to rationalize your negative thinking. Instead of accepting the thoughts for what they are, put them on trial! Be the judge and the jury in this situation. Ask yourself, do I have evidence to support what negative thoughts I’m thinking? If not, it’s time to let it go!
There are many coping skills and strategies for handling anxiety. Of course, if you’re experiencing anxiety to a point where you feel it is interfering with your day-to-day activities, seek extra support. Sometimes it’s necessary talk with someone about what is going on to help you identify your triggers and the source of your anxiety. But most of all, be gentle on yourself and understand that you’re doing the best you can and that is okay. Times are tough right now, so do not be afraid to reach out when you need to.