Anxiety Is Hard To Talk About
One of the biggest problems I have come across since I was diagnosed with an anxiety problem is that it is something people don’t understand. And when we don’t understand things, we will either 1) seek more information or 2) go with whatever assumptions come to mind and think they are facts. Everyone experiences anxiety in their lives, but a lot of people are able to cope easily and move on. Unless you have the kind of anxiety that terrorizes your existence, though, it is hard to understand, and even harder to explain.
Anxiety is like a fear response internally. Your body is perceiving some sort of threat, whether or not that threat actually exists. Here lies the toughest part: how do you explain the anxiety when there is no clear reason for it? On the weekend I was in a book store with my boyfriend, and I started to feel really anxious. My stomach was in knots, I felt sick, and I was worried I might faint. I was then thinking about how embarrassing that would be if I had a full-blown panic attack, in a book store of all places. I have never had this happen while shopping, and I don’t know why it happened this time. There was no threat to me. And yet, I was bombarded with physical symptoms I couldn’t get rid of.
This brought up another issue for me. My boyfriend knows I have an anxiety problem, but even then, I was worried if I told him I was feeling really anxious while we were in a completely safe location, he would think I’m crazy. And really, this fear of sounding crazy makes my fears worse. I have anxiety at work, but no one there knows about it because I’m afraid of being judged unfairly. Part of me is also worried I could get fired if I’m deemed “unfit for service”.
Well, I’ve started going to group therapy for my anxiety. That is such a difficult step for me because I feel like admitting I have an anxiety problem makes me “weak”. I’m not a weak person, I am just struggling to control a legitimate mental illness, and I have to remind myself that it’s okay to ask for help when I need it. I want to share some of the things I’ve learned so far, and hope that it might help others.
1. Meditate. If you’ve never done it before, look on youtube for guided meditation videos. I quite enjoyed this one, which uses the chakra method of visualization, which can be used when you’re feeling anxious at any time to help keep you calm.
2. Talk about it. Hiding you anxiety will only make it worse. Understand that this isn’t something you can just ignore, and it isn’t going to just go away on it’s own. Talk to someone you trust, or talk to a counselor. It can help you clear up what’s going on in your body, and a counselor can teach you ways to handle your anxiety in a healthy way.
3. Pay attention to your breathing and thought patterns. When I’m having anxiety, two things happen at the same time. I stop breathing regularly, and my brain starts going crazy over negative thoughts and it turns into a mental death spiral. Notice this, realize it is happening, and combat your views. And remember to breeeeathe! I can’t stress that enough. When I was panicking in the book store, I tried to calm myself down by taking several deep breaths.
4. Don’t try to push the feelings away. Feel them, acknowledge they are there, and then tell them that they aren’t a threat to you. Acceptance is the first step to recovery, followed by controlling your thought patterns, and then taking helpful action.
5. All those things google tells you do to have less anxiety. These include things like do cardio exercise, eat healthy, avoid alcohol, processed sugar, caffeine, etc. etc. The list goes on. Do your research, and find what aspects of it work for you.
6. Appreciate the day! One of the things that makes my anxiety better is looking around outside and noticing things like how beautiful a day it is outside. That’s a beautiful tree. I like how the falling snow glitters in the sun. It sounds really silly, but it can markedly improve your attitude and keep you optimistic.
One of the things I learned from group therapy, though, is that you need to believe you will get better. These are hard times, but it will get easier if you commit to a life of less stress and have a plan for recovery. It won’t be instant, so don’t expect to wake up tomorrow completely healed. But you can get better. You are in control of your anxiety. It is all a matter of how you look at things, especially the ones you can’t change.
My big “aha!” moment today was when the counselor asked the group if our thoughts are harmful to us. All of us were saying yes, here’s all the things they’ve caused, it’s controlling and ruining my life. But then she said, are the thoughts hurting you, or is it the reaction you have to the thoughts that is hurting you? I realized that although my panic attacks are controlling my life, it is the fear I carry with me all the time about when the next attack will happen that is really hurting me. She then said that I need to start with baby steps. Now I just need to figure out what those baby steps should be for me.
Hope some of this helps!