Article by Dr Lynda Shaw
Feeling anxious is normal, we all feel anxiety at many points in our lives, but when it takes over and stops us from enjoying our life then there is a real problem.
Anxiety is a feeling that comes from fear and is a natural response to stress. It can lead to dread and worry over things that may not even happen. Two of the brain areas involved are the amygdala responsible for processing emotion especially fear; and the hippocampus, which is strongly linked to memory. Both are in the limbic system, which is known as the reptilian brain, and very often rules our logical and analytical brain, the frontal lobe. This means that it is extremely important to gain control over feelings of anxiety, so that we can function properly.
The first step to take is identifying those things that cause our anxiety so that we know what we need to deal with. Think about the last week, do you remember feeling anxious about anything in particular or did you feel in a constant state of anxiety? Write down when you felt anxious.
If you are anxious about something coming up such as a business meeting, or someone difficult coming to visit you the best way to show and feel confidence is to be prepared. Think of a number of questions or scenarios that may occur and prepare answers for them. In these sorts of instances preparation can go a long way in reducing anxiety.
Keep well informed to help reduce anxiety
Anxiety around doctor’s appointments and operations is completely normal. Try to make sure you are as well informed as possible and talk through your worries with a doctor. This should help a little. Then keep busy doing things you need to do, as well as those you enjoy. These distractions will give some respite from lingering anxiety.
However, sometimes we can feel worried or concerned and not know completely why! This is also normal; in this case the key is to stay POSITIVE! Think back through conversations you have had with friends, colleagues, family members in the past- can you remember positive things they have said about you? Hold on to compliments from other people and repeat them to yourself when you are feeling anxious- and don’t forget to return them! You never know, that person might have been feeling anxious today as well!
Don’t compare yourself to others. So often we are bombarded with other people’s success stories and tales of the great things that they are doing, and it can lead us to feeling inadequate about our own lives and abilities. For someone suffering with anxiety, these emotions can only exacerbate the problem, so focus on yourself and instead of comparing yourself, simply focus instead on the things you know YOU are good at.
Sometimes anxiety can be reduced by using up pent-up and unused energy- so go for a swim, walk to work, or clear out the garage! Unused muscles can become tense and cause symptoms of anxiety so make sure you take a little time to exercise. Not only will it reduce your anxiety and prevent panic attacks but you can stay fit at the same time.
Finally, don’t be afraid to seek help. Those close to you will appreciate that you have opened up to them and will usually love to be able to help.
Top tips to reduce anxiety
1. When a person is anxious or stressed they will breathe a little faster than normal. This gives the illusion of needing more oxygen, but in actual fact they are getting too much, thus leading to dizziness, weakness and more. Try to control your breathing. Take a long deep breath in through your nose and slowly breathe back out again through your mouth.
2. Many anxious people suffer from a lack of sleep. Having a warm bath before bed will not only physically and emotionally relax your body it can help you sleep. But make sure your body has time to get back to normal temperature before getting into bed.