Anxiety is a very common psychiatric disorder with about one in every five people coping with it on a regular basis. That statistic means close to 20 million people cope with anxiety, so it is a very common experience. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder falls under the umbrella of anxiety disorders. Often those who cope with depression also experience anxiety as well.
Anxiety releases a chemical reaction in the body that produces unpleasant physical symptoms like:
- Racing heart or chest discomfort
- Hot and cold flashes
- Feelings of unreality or disorientation
- Scary uncontrollable thoughts
- depressed feelings
- feelings of helplessness
- Panic episodes
- muscle tension
- migraine headaches
- numbness in different areas of the body
- Strange aches and pains
A little while ago I was experiencing anticipatory anxiety, so the small little rabbit in me started to get frightened. Later on today I receive the results from a series of medical tests, and an ultrasound during a doctor’s appointment. My doctor ordered the tests after he learned that I hadn’t seen a medical practitioner in over four years. I am worried about what these results may be, because they are unknown. Once I know what is going on I will feel relieved either way as I will know what I am dealing with.
One of the things I learned is that with practice I can control my anxiety. My experience with trauma means that my mind and body can more easily generate the chemicals that cause the bodily symptoms of anxiety. The flight, fright or freeze response is necessary to our survival as human animals. Fear is a natural emotion that tells us when something is up. This fear over my health led me to change my eating habits, try to sleep better, and get exercise on a regular basis, so it was a powerful motivator.
A Positive Approach to Handling Anxiety:
- First thing this morning I acknowledged that I was feeling anxious. My increased heartbeat, muscle tension, feelings of helplessness, upset stomach and scary thoughts around those medical tests were a sign that something was bothering me. Most of all I accepted without judging my body’s response as a sign of my anxiety.
- It’s important to recognize what is bothering you. Sometimes it takes you a little time to think about it if you are unsure. Trusting your feelings goes a long way in making this easier over time, which requires you to be a little compassionate towards yourself. Now I knew pretty clearly that for me it was the unknown results of those medical tests.
- Give yourself permission to feel anxious about whatever it is that is bothering you. “Of course I feel anxious because of ___________. Or it is okay to have anxiety.”
- Use positive dialogue to talk yourself through your anxiety. Anxiety passes in a couple of hours, because our bodies cannot maintain the chemicals that cause bodily symptoms for too long. An example of the positive self-talk I used this morning was, “It is perfectly normal to feel anxious about the medical test results. Once you know what they are the doctor will treat whatever it is with the best medication or treatment. You will not lose control, and will find a solution to deal with any health issues that arise.”
- Get busy. This means doing something to distract yourself from the way you are feeling. I find that doing something physical tends to be the best thing, or to get my brain focused on something. This morning my distraction was writing this blog post.
- Try to see a little humour in the way that you feel. I dropped a cup in my sink this morning due to my muscle tension and had a good giggle over my case of the “dropsies.” It’s okay to feel weird for a little while. The less that you judge your anxiety or how your body reacts the easier it is to change the pattern.
I have been using these six steps to deal with my anxiety for about two weeks now, and I do notice a difference. It does require mindfulness to pay attention to how your body is feeling and to trust those feelings. The more that I practice this way of coping with the anxiety, and change my inner dialogue to a more compassionate one; the less time that I spend feeling anxious.
As I close this blog post, I am feeling a great deal calmer after following those steps. It’s my hope that this blog post may assist someone else who is dealing with anxiety. All of you are deserving of freedom from fear and a state of peace.