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Anxiety...you can change your mind.




The key to overcome a crisis is patience, courage, self-discipline, adaptation and alertness"-Amit Ray

"Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a condition characterised by generalised and persistent symptoms of anxiety, resulting from worry. This worry revolves around a number of different issues, eg family, work, finances or health and is often characteristically out of proportion, pervasive and difficult to control." Dr M McVicar, Dr S Wilson

Mentalhealth.org quote that 74% of people in the UK feel overwhelmed or unable to cope.

Anxiety doesn't care who you are. It is indiscriminate. No-one is a stranger to stress and anxiety, we have all experience it and yet it can make us feel so alone. Anxiety is normal, until it interferes with the quality of our life or isn't in proportion to the cause of it.

You may start your day feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders, maybe for no specific reason. You're already on alert and gearing up for fight or flight anticipating the worst. And that's before your day has even began.

Or conversely, anxiety might rears up during your day suddenly and unexpectedly, knocking you off balance.

It serves no purpose in changing the circumstances or situation we are in, but long term, it does play havoc with our internal environment and health.

I'm writing this at the time of the Covid epidemic and there is plenty more for us to be anxious about. It seems we are struggling to fully understand this virus. Because of this, it leaves us wide open to speculating and making our own sense of it all, with a whole lots of 'what if's.'

If this leads us to believe we are even more vulnerable and helpless, it's going to add another layer of fear and anxiety.

One thing is for sure, it blocks us off from having a joyful life, can rob us of seeing the positives, dis-connecting us from gratitude for what we do have and experiencing a life that is progressive and expansive.

Very often, fear and panic are not rational responses. The body is designed to go into a 'fight, flight freeze' response in an attempt to deal with or avoid a threat. It's a very effective program, creating physiological changes such as increased heart rate and breathing whilst decreasing others functions that are not necessary for an emergency situation.

The more this sympathetic nervous system of fight and flight is activated the more effective and efficient it becomes.

Sounds great, but the problems lies in the fact that its also activated by our imagination and our perception, not just the real threats. The system doesn't know the difference.

So often, the perceived threats or beliefs don't just disappear on their own, unless we are prepared to change our thinking.

The body continues to habitually experience the physical changes caused by cognitive triggers and memories. The discomfort from this is noticed by the mind, which then worries about these anxious feelings.

This feedback loop needs to be interrupted to avoid spiraling into poor health

The best medicine is not to fight these anxious thoughts. This only creates more stress and resistance right? So fighting fear only serves to feed it.

A better alternative, as odd as it sounds, is to make friends with these feelings in an open and honest way-there is no way around it, only through the other side.

Many of us push down and suppress uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, but when they are not listened to, they get bigger and louder and just keep on knocking on the door, affecting our well-being until we take notice.

It's tempting to use avoidance tactics to plaster over the discomfort, such as smoking, alcohol, food, caffeine and binge watching TV but all this is likely to do, is keep the nervous system on alert or distracted.

Until you make the choice to listen and investigate those anxious feeling, they will just keep re- visiting.

We can do this by leaning into and experiencing those physical feelings and allow them to pass, having faith that they won't last forever and we can look at the thoughts that are driving those fears, worries and anxieties. Mental rehearsal and positive thinking changes the neural networks in the brain and thereby changes how we feel and behave resulting in more positive outcomes.

Mindfulness Meditation and Breathing techniques are a great way to start the process.

Specific breathing exercises alone can re balance the nervous system. Mindfulness and meditation, trains us to be mentally still, aware of the present moment and peaceful. We then have the head space to explore, without being bombarded with a flow of confusing inner chatter. We can't control the stream or river of thoughts, but we can learn to swim.

Once in a more relaxed state, a positive way at looking at thoughts and beliefs is to be analytical, to be the observing self and look rationally and objectively for the evidence to support them. For Example,' Is that thought, belief or attitude true? How true is it? Can you be absolutely sure? Would someone else think the same thing? How would you feel without this thought? Who would you be if you thought differently?'


Anxious thoughts also usually fall into the following categories of

Over-generalising

Discounting any positives

Minimising or maximising a situation or Filtering information to suit a story

Labelling

Jumping to conclusions

Fortune telling or Mind reading

Should or must statements

Black and white thinking

There are many other thought errors and traps that we can fall into. When the mind constructs a story we can get very attached to it.

Our thinking influences are physical feelings around anxiety and so logically if we change our thoughts to more balanced, positive ones then we should begin to feel some relief. The problem is that when we are in a fight flight, its as if we've had a frontal lobotomy. Stress makes us stupid.

Also speaking to someone, a close family member, a close friend, a therapist, someone who can guide you and act as a sounding board, bouncing back ideas from a different perspective can be very beneficial.

"Inner peace starts the moment you choose not to allow another person or event to control your emotions," Pema Chodron.

On a final note and personally my favourite anxiety buster, is to express 'Gratitude' everyday. It reduces cortisol and floods our body with feel good hormones. If you struggle with this, start with being grateful for the little things in life and before long you'll find yourself focusing on the positive more and more often.

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