“I am anxiety. I am whispering to you, can you hear me? Should you be going out? Do you see those people looking? What must they be thinking? Maybe you should just go home. I am talking to you, can you hear me? Why did you choose to wear that? Everyone else will be dressed differently. Maybe people will laugh at you. What are you doing? You are not going to fit in. Why don’t you just turn around? I am yelling at you, can you hear me? You are a joke. They will all talk about you. What were you thinking? How did you think you could go through with this? Turn around. Go home. I will be quiet then. For a while. But I will not let you sleep. I am anxiety.”
Anxiety can be a crippling disorder, affecting the ability to do everyday tasks, to focus our attention, to sleep, and to feel good about ourselves. On one hand, it is a necessary physiological reaction, our ‘instinct’ if you like, warning us about danger. You wouldn’t want to mess around if a lion escaped from the zoo. The fear makes your heart race, makes breathing shallow, and muscles tense, preparing you to run away from the lion. This is the ‘flight response’. There is sometimes a fight response, depending on your natural tendency. In extreme cases, the ‘freeze’ response might be your only option – playing dead might mean the lion will get bored and run away (sure). We might also experience situational anxiety, say for example when making a public speech or going for a job interview. This anxiety is also quite normal, telling you that this is important and you want to do a good job. However, if anxiety is ongoing, recurring, or in situations where the danger is not real or is over-estimated, you may need to take action and/or seek help.
Anxiety becomes stronger when it is not addressed. For example, those with Social Anxiety have a tendency to avoid social situations for fear of embarrassing themselves. Avoidance makes their anxiety stronger. Similarly, for Specific Phobia; such as anxiety related to planes, lifts, dogs, or anything specific. People with generalised anxiety often have fears which ‘jump’ from other fears, such as making a mistake at work which then jumps to a fear of being able to do anything right. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is characterised by persistent and intrusive thoughts (which seem to be uncontrollable) and which are relieved by the sufferer doing something to relieve the anxiety. For example, the thought that a single germ could lead to a deadly disease which is then relieved by hand-washing rituals. There are many types of anxiety, and in all cases, if it is interfering with your life, it is important to ‘challenge’ the anxiety. As this often causes an increase in symptoms for a short time, you might need strategies to help you. Anxiety symptoms can often be relieved by practicing mindfulness and/or deep breathing techniques. Grounding can be particularly useful:
If you are struggling with anxiety, remember you can seek professional help from a Psychologist.
Sources: Beyond Blue, Australian Psychological Society