Along with severe depression, and Bipolar Disorder I have General Anxiety Disorder. Good old anxiety generated from the ‘flight or fight’ response, which way back when there were people living in caves it was a response to fear or threat. So in this day and age most anxiety is a result of us fearing something or worried about something like public speaking, public transport, social events, crowds, it doesn’t really matter what the fear is, everyone is different in what we fear and what our body responds too.
This week I have been waking up with anxiety and today has been particularly bad. I have been trying to think about what it is that I am possibly fearing which has brought on this recent bought of anxiety that is leaving me on edge, sweating profusely (and no its not because its over 40 degrees again), shaking, getting tired, having headaches, my head feeling funny (not sure how else to describe it), and feelings that I really just need to be home in my secure environment. I have put it down to a few possible reasons – fears because it is so hot, fear of being stuck on public transport for long period of time in the heat, or as the diagnosis says ‘general anxiety disorder’ I just fear generally everything. I don’t know, I probably will never work out why my mind does most of the things it does to cause me to feel the ways that I do.
I am reading the ‘The Happiness Trap’ at the moment and while it specifically talks about thoughts that are unhelpful and techniques to accept these thoughts, I believe that the techniques go some way in assisting with anxiety, I could be wrong though. So one of the techniques is to reframe the thoughts that you are thinking, so for me at the moment my thought is ‘I am anxious’, instead of saying this over and over in your head, Dr Harris suggests that we change the self-talk to be ‘I have a thought that I am anxious’. The theory of changing the self-talk to this is that by accepting in our self-talk that it is a thought, we accept that thought for what it is, just a thought. It is when we replay ‘I am anxious’ over and over in our heads that these types of thoughts become unhelpful and start to affect us on a daily basis, like me continually wanting to go home from work because I can’t handle feeling so anxious. Dr Harris also writes that changing our thoughts in this way will not make us feel better instantly, we need to practice, and then we will start to do this automatically without us being aware of it.
The jury for me is still out as to whether this has made a difference to me, I am still reading the book, so it will take time and as they say practice makes perfect.
But is simply changing my self-talk to accept my thought that I am feeling anxious really helping to combat my anxiety, I am not sure, and I am pretty sure by writing about it is making me think about it more, and there I go in my vicious cycle. Maybe after writing and posting this I will feel a bit better because I have got what I am thinking about out of my system.
My other technique to assist in combating my anxiety includes distracting my brain to focus on something else. I try to listen to music or meditation, write, knit, watch television, read a book or while at work I try to stay really busy. Some of these aren’t possible all the time and I just have to try and put up with the anxiety and try not to let it beat me, resulting in me leaving work to go home because I can’t do it anymore. Sometimes no matter what I do to try and get rid of anxiety or get anxiety under control it just doesn’t go away.
Some people say ‘just try and relax’, well this is easier said than done, have you tried trying to relax when your body is in flight mode, high on adrenaline and your spinning out, it is not so simple as just relaxing. If I could relax, if I was relaxed I wouldn’t be anxious would I? People that want us to relax probably have never experienced anxiety themselves and that is fair enough, so I don’t get particularly upset when someone tells me to just relax. I just have to keep trying with my own techniques and trying to accept my thoughts for what they are, just a thought, then hopefully I will start to feel better and my one million thoughts will reduce some what.
If you want more information about anxiety you can visit BeyondBlue here, Sane Australia here, or Anxiety Disorders Association of Victoria, Inc., here. Of course these are Australian based organisations who aim to support the community with mental health, including anxiety, but you can still gain some handy information about anxiety from them.