A2Z Challenge Post No. 1: A for Anxiety
I am going to start my series on the A2Z of Physical and Emotional Wellness today by talking about Anxiety.
In this day and age, I doubt that there is anyone in this world who has not felt this emotion at some time or the other. Anxiety is that general feeling of unease, worry, even panic, that arises in a person at certain points of time in response to a stressful stimulus. Sometimes the stressful situation could be an actual event such as an illness or a layoff; at other times, a person could have anxiety by just imagining and expecting the worst to happen in personal or professional spheres.
Anxiety has become a pervasive part of human life nowadays thanks to the rising stress levels of modern life. A Times of India report released on the occasion of World Mental Health Day a few years ago had mentioned that one in four Indians experiences symptoms of anxiety, and the incidence is rising. Stress levels are being negatively impacted by factors like increased competitiveness in careers, consumerism, overcrowding in cities, social isolation, etc. High levels of stress, where the body stays in the “flight or flight” mode for extended periods, increases anxiety levels as well. It affects not just adults but even school and college going students.
Common symptoms of anxiety:
- Increased heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling dizzy and sick
- Tension headaches
- Shaky legs or trembling hands
- Feeling like you are “going under”
- The feeling of being “on edge”
If you have experienced this, or are experiencing this currently, try and understand the reason behind your anxiety. Is it a recent stressful incident? Is it something you are worrying about that hasn’t happened yet? Even if you cannot immediately identify the reason, don’t worry. Sometimes anxiety symptoms develop over time without our noticing the final thing that triggered them. The most important thing is to acknowledge the anxiety – denial or avoidance will only make things worse.
Dealing with anxiety
The first step in dealing with anxiety is to acknowledge that what you are experiencing is indeed anxiety. A lot of people avoid accepting this, but this only exacerbates the problem later. If you can accept the anxiety and explain to yourself that it’s your body’s ancient “fight or flight” physiological response working overtime, you can also work on ways to deal with it.
Simple ways to reduce anxiety
- Deep breathing
- Listening to music
- Going for a walk
- Taking up a sport
- Spending time with family
- Playing with a pet
- Meeting or talking with a friend
- Writing down what you feel in a journal
The key is to recognise that anxiety is normal, it is the body’s physiological response to stressors, and with effort it can be contained or at least minimised. When you understand it better, you will be able to deal with it much better. You might even be able to pick up the early signs next time, and start working on them before things get worse again.
If none of the suggested ways of dealing with anxiety seems to be working, it might be a good idea to try talking things over with a counsellor. A trained professional would be able to help you if you have been unable to find any solutions yourself.
What I have said so far goes for anxiety in the normal sense of the term. However, there does exist a more severe form of it that is called anxiety disorder or what is known as GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder). This is diagnosed when a person experiences anxiety symptoms and has unknown fears/worries for extended periods of time – six months or more. In such cases, medical opinion is indicated.
My personal experience with anxiety
Given the kind of hectic lives we lead these days, it would too idealistic to expect life to be completely devoid of stress or anxiety. We can’t always control our external stressors, but with practice we can learn how to control our response to those stressors. I’ve always struggled with anxiety, but over the last few months, a combination of deep breathing, Yoga, walking and writing has helped me deal better with it. If you try any of these tips and they help you, do let me know!
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