What is Anxiety?According to MIND, Anxiety is what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid – particularly about things that are about to happen or which we think could happen in the future. Anxiety is a natural human response when we perceive that we are under threat. It can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. It’s normal to feel anxious, worried or fearful in certain situations. These feelings are our bodies natural ‘fight or flight response’ to a perceived dangerous or risky situation. However, if persistent feelings of Anxiety impact your ability to carry out life, as usual, you could have an anxiety disorder. In the UK, a little over 1 in 10 people will be living with an anxiety disorder at any one time - that’s over 8 million people. Still, everyone’s experience of anxiety disorders is different.
The power of Anxiety
Anxiety comes when we project into the future, and thoughts from the emotional brain (which tend to be irrational, emotional and illogical), overpower the thinking brain (that is more rational and logical, but 5x weaker than the emotional brain. Anxiety is not bad and can create a heightened awareness, so we are protected against potential danger. However, excessive Anxiety can put us in a constant state of Anxiety where our bodies never turn off the fight and flight response even when there is no real danger.
External factors often cause stress, whereas Anxiety is usually an internal response and internal creation caused by imaging or imagining a situation or future event. So, for example, just by thinking negatively about trouble or an event that could occur and asking yourself what if... or when this happens... you can evoke feelings of Anxiety. However, it is essential to recognise that these thoughts are often projections based on previous experiences, how you reacted before if something was unsuccessful or based on illogical patterns of thought that have now been programmed into your psyche due to continuous repetition.
What are the symptoms of Anxiety?
Everyone’s experience of Anxiety will be different. Not everyone who has Anxiety will experience all of the symptoms of Anxiety or the same mental or physical symptoms.
Mental symptoms can include:
- Experiencing racing thoughts.
- Having a sense of dread or fearing the worst will happen.
- Uncontrollable over-thinking and rumination.
- Difficulties concentrating and finding that you can’t stop worrying.
- Feelings of dread, panic or ‘impending doom’.
- Heightened alertness and need reassurance from others.
- Unable to sleep due to having something on your mind.
- Worrying about Anxiety itself and the fear of having an anxiety attack.
- Stuck thoughts or negative thinking loops.
Physical symptoms can include:
- Breathing difficulties (heavy and fast breathing).
- Hot flushes or blushing.
- Restless legs/shaking.
- Having a dry mouth.
- Tense muscles/twitching.
- Being jumpy or easy frightened.
- Chronic fatigue (extreme tiredness or lack of energy).
- Chest pressure or a feeling of a tight band around your head.
- Stomach aches and sickness.
- A lump in your throat.
What causes Anxiety?
The Royal College of psychiatrists. Anxiety, Panic & Phobias have been vocal in stating that ‘We don’t fully understand what causes anxiety disorders. But it is thought that the following factors can cause anxiety’. However, they do highlight some of the factors that contribute to why someone may experience an anxiety disorder. These include:
- Genetics: Some people seem to be born more anxious than others. You may get Anxiety through your genes.
- Life Experience: These could be bad experiences such as being bullied or losing a loved one. It could also include significant changes in life such as moving home, losing your job or pregnancy.
- Drugs: Caffeine in coffee and alcohol can make you feel anxious. Illegal drugs, also known as street drugs, can also affect your level of Anxiety as they disrupt the balance of your hormones.
- Circumstances: Sometimes, you know what is causing your Anxiety. When the problem goes, so does your Anxiety.
Ways to reduce Anxiety?
There are lots of things that you can do to help reduce your level of Anxiety naturally, which include:
- Getting enough sleep.
- Take time out for yourself each day.
- Fact-check your thoughts.
- Practising Self-Care.
- Write your thoughts down and get them out of your head.
- Step out of the environment that is causing the Anxiety.
- Count to 10 slowly.
- Connect with others that make you feel good about yourself.
- Staying active and exercising.
- Eating a healthy diet.
- Hug or cuddle someone, or a pet as this can help release oxytocin.
- Use essential oils or burn scented candles such a Lavender or Frankincense.
- Mindfulness: Use your five senses to ground yourself.
- Deep breathing.
- Get a second opinion from a supportive friend or colleague.
- Watch or listen to something that will make you laugh.
- Listen to soothing music.
Anxiety is something that can cause a lot of distress and anguish for people. But, unfortunately, there is no quick fit to addressing it. It is, in reality, a life-long journey of discovery and self-mastery. Anxiety unchecked does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows but only empties today of its strength. Therefore, be mindful and intentional with what you allow into life and what you permit to occupy your headspace. In closing, I would like to leave you with a quote from Epictetus… “There is only one way to happiness, and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”