What is it and how do I manage?
To some extent, anxiety is healthy, and a sign that we are functioning, emotional, and alive. Normal anxiety occurs for short periods of time, and is usually related to a stressful situation.
When anxiety is ongoing or persistent and begins to affect a person’s functioning, and quality of life, this may be a sign of an anxiety disorder. Regardless of the severity, it is healthy to talk about the anxiety you are experiencing.
Often, people do not know what is causing their anxiety. This can be frustrating and confusing.
Many people describe anxiety as feeling okay one minute, and anxious the next. Other people experience it as a lingering feeling that is there all of the time. Anxiety can affect different people in different ways.
Psychological and emotional signs
Excessive worry, feeling fearful, having obsessive thoughts, and feeling on edge or restless.
Panic attacks, racing heart, heaviness in the chest, shaking or trembling, breathlessness, sweaty hands or feet.
Withdrawal or avoidance of friends, family, or particular situations, becoming snappy, or short tempered, tearfulness, or extreme behaviours.
Anxiety is the most common psychological condition in Australia, with 1 in 4 people experiencing anxiety in their lifetime. (ABS, 2008)
What causes Anxiety?
A lot of the time, anxiety can be triggered by an event that reminds someone of a person, or situation that has hurt them in the past. For example, a person who has been in a traumatic motor vehicle accident may feel anxious driving. Other people feel anxious about the future or the uncertainty of what their life holds.
The biggest factors contributing to anxiety are:
1. Genetic predisposition
2. Personality factors
3. Existing mental health condition
4. Serious physical health condition
Myths about Anxiety
1. Anxiety cannot be cured or fixed
Much of the time, with the right support, people can fully recover from anxiety.
2. People with Anxiety need medication
Most of the time, anxiety can be managed with therapy and some lifestyle changes. Medication is usually only prescribed if a person has ongoing or severe anxiety.
3. People with Anxiety are very unwell
Quite often people can experience anxiety and get on with day to day activities. People can experience anxiety without it being too overwhelming.
Where can I find support?
Notice 5 things that you can see around you right now. For example: A plant, a picture, a spot on the wall. It doesn’t matter what it is or how big it is. Just simply notice 5 things.
Notice and touch 4 things around you. For example your hair, a blanket, your dog, a plant.
Notice 3 things you can hear in your environment. Focus on each thing for a few seconds, just hear it. It may be the wind in the trees, a bird outside, or the sound of the air conditioner in the back ground.
Notice 2 things you can smell. It may be hard depending on your environment. If you cant readily smell something, wander until you find a scent. Perhaps it is a flower, or coffee, or the fresh air.
Notice 1 thing you can taste. What does your mouth taste like? you may want to sip on a tea, or coffee, or grab a mint or lolly for the activity.
What you can do for yourself
As society’s awareness of the prevalence of anxiety grows, so do the support and resources available. There are many avenues people can take to start feeling better.
Chat with a trusted friend, partner, or family member about the way you are feeling. Research indicates that social support is one of the most important protective factors for a person experiencing anxiety.
Get in touch with your strengths, tools, and resources. In the past what has helped you feel good within yourself? For some people it is exercise, for others it may be painting, cooking, or reading.
Book an appointment to see a health professional who is equipped to help people with mental illness. For example your doctor, or a psychologist.
Find a couple of quick and easy techniques that work for you. They are free, and readily available most places you go. Perhaps it might be the 5 senses activity.
A Quick Technique for Anxiety
Grounding is a term given to a technique that can help bring people back to the present moment, and move away from worrying or ruminating about the past, the future, or something that is out of their control. This activity is a 5 minute activity that can help bring you back to the present moment. It is called the 5 senses activity.
If you notice your mind wanders throughout the activity, just gently bring it back to the activity. Keep doing this until you are focused. This activity is designed to help bring you back to the present moment, to focus on what is happening right now, and move you away from repetitive thoughts about the past, or the future.
It is important to remember that every person is different. We are all individuals, with different stories, different genetics, and different personalities. What helps one person manage their anxiety, may not necessarily help the next person. It is important to find what works for you!
In my professional experience, many people have described this grounding activity to be effective. For others it has been a matter of trial error to find a strategy that works for them.