Anxiety: What is it? What causes it? What can I do about it?
Environmental and external factors
1) Change your circumstances - If your circumstances are such that you are practically unable to manage them (even if you were not stressed), then those circumstances need to be changed. This might be a tough decision since your choices might involve loss or sacrifice in order to gain your peace of mind, but here it is a question of priorities. Personally I always put my peace of mind at the very top of every list of priorities. Money is no good to us if we're too anxious to enjoy spending it. So working a stressful 70 hour week so you can buy that Audi is a poor trade off if you're too ill to enjoy it! In most peoples lives the choices may be more practical, and it is true that many people face extremely difficult practical situations, but the advice here is to put your mental and emotional health FIRST, and then to seek practical solutions to the situation. Pretty much it's always possible to find a solution when we make a commitment to doing so. Remember the principle of constructive selfishness. Sometimes the seemingly selfish thing to do (putting yourself first for once!) is actually the selfless thing to do, because by making sure your needs are met, you are ensuring that you remain healthy and available for others in the future. Often the problem is that we are soldiering on and kidding ourselves that we can cope with the situation as it is, when actually we can't. Courage can help here. It might be uncomfortable to make changes and yes, other people might not like that you're not willing to be a doormat any more, but trust me...they'll adjust and you NEED to do this for yourself! Enlist help if you need to. Delegate tasks. Ask for support from loved ones, friends, or colleagues. Explain you are struggling with circumstances as they are. Someone else might be able to suggest a solution you can't see because you're too enmeshed. Talk it over with someone. Seek solutions. Practical solutions. You might be surprised how much support is available when you ask for it. Don't be too proud to ask for help. Your mental health really is your wealth in life, and it's too important an issue to feel like you shouldn't bother anyone with it. If you are struggling with your circumstances, do something! Even setting the wheels in motion towards a way out often alleviates a great deal of anxiety. We always feel better when we are working towards a solution even if that solution will take time to achieve. The mind can cope with stress when we know the end of the tunnel is in sight, but what it can't cope with is no movement towards solution at all. In other words, things don't have to be perfect for us to be anxiety free, they just need to be moving in the right direction!
2) Change the way you view/feel about yourself and/or your circumstances - If you are sure that your circumstances are practically manageable, but you are just responding to them poorly, then the problem can be addressed internally. This basically means that your emotional mind (animal brain) is overdoing the response. The first thing to do is to consider ways in which you can practically reduce negative emotional arousal in your life generally. So even if you are finding your negative responses are taking place at work, it can still be due to the fact that there is fundamental stress at home. In practice it's probably both, but again it is important to understand that your general levels of emotional arousal will be feeding directly into whatever difficulty you have. In practical terms this means being disciplined with yourself with regards to how much negative thought and introspection you allow to be present in your awareness on a daily basis. If you were for instance to spend all day thinking about how so and so wronged you last week, you are absolutely creating more negative emotional arousal because the animal brain responds to what is imagined in a very similar way as it would to what actually is. So if we repeatedly imagine a confrontation with Mrs S, then the brain tells the body to get ready for a fight. If you do this thirty times a day, then your body has created fight mode thirty times, and all that arousal doesn't just go away...it sits in your nervous system for the rest of the day (and can overflow into the next day too if our sleep mechanism can't cope with it all!). What this means in practical terms is an increase in emotional arousal which means (when the anger has subsided) .....yes...more anxiety! Let's be clear. We can choose whether we will go over and over something or not. So anything you are continually re-running at the mental level which provokes negative feelings has to go! It may take time and practice to become proficient in learning to let things go but it IS the way out of anxiety. If you want out of your anxiety, this step is CRUCIAL!
Sometimes, we feel genuinely blocked with regards to how we are seeing a certain situation. Then it is not only about introspection (the things we are choosing to focus on) but it is instead being generated from the deeper levels of awareness - the unconscious mind. Here we have that principle of past experience impinging on our feelings. The unconscious mind automatically scans current experience against past. If the message it holds from past experience is that the current situation is threatening, then anxiety is produced to create an avoidance mechanism and we have a sense of disempowerment. Changing the way we think and feel about things is really the basis of recovery from anxiety. A very important area to consider when healing anxiety is developing kindness and compassion towards ourselves. If we are at war with ourselves; If we have a fundamental dislike for ourselves, then we have a problem, because disliking oneself causes terrible internal conflict. Being unwilling to forgive oneself for something that has happened or something you have done is a sure fire way of becoming anxious. Having an internal war going on at any given time also creates a feeling of being unsafe, and then to top it all off as a result of all the internal hatred we are experiencing we can have self-punishment thrown in for good measure! Solutions are discussed in the "help" section of this site. This is another area where the help of a good therapist can make all the difference. 3) What we truly cannot change we must accept- This really needs little explanation as a principle. We have to take our cue here from inspirational people, and remember that people are extremely resilient when they choose to be. There is always a positive perspective available if we choose to open ourselves to it...even if that perspective is purely philosophical. It is a difficult fact of life that there sometimes exist tragic circumstances. We have to find a way through such things. It is our will to accept what we cannot change that will dictate the depth of our suffering and our peace. As difficult as the situation may be we must recognise that non-acceptance will only add to our suffering. Again, commitment to healing is what begins the process.
Emotional symptoms of anxiety
§ Feelings of apprehension or dread
§ Trouble concentrating
§ Feeling tense and jumpy
§ Anticipating the worst
§ Watching for signs of danger
§ Feeling like your mind’s gone blank
Physical symptoms of anxiety
§ Pounding heart
§ Stomach upset or dizziness
§ Frequent urination or diarrhea
§ Shortness of breath
§ Tremors and twitches
§ Muscle tension
Symptoms of anxiety attacks include:
§ Surge of overwhelming panic
§ Feeling of losing control or going crazy
§ Heart palpitations or chest pain
§ Feeling like you’re going to pass out
§ Trouble breathing or choking sensation
§ Hot flashes or chills
§ Trembling or shaking
§ Nausea or stomach cramps
§ Feeling detached or unreal