While sitting down to write this blog on anxiety, I was reminded of a funny quote: “People with anxiety don’t have a train of thought. We have seven trains on four tracks that narrowly avoid each other when paths cross, and all the conductors are screaming.” I have no idea who penned that line, but it’s the most vivid explanation of anxiety I’ve seen to date.
It starts with a laugh and ends with the truth of how real anxiety is for many folks. It’s also the least clinical explanation, which I appreciate as a marriage counselor since I try my best to know when to be serious and when to lighten things up.
Perhaps now more than ever, the message needs to be one of encouragement.
Life feels Chaotic!
Anxiety is an intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations — and it’s rampant these days. And not just because of the coronavirus. It has become a way of life for many people who normally pride themselves on letting problems roll off their backs. They can’t enjoy life or respond positively and confidently in times of chaos. They struggle to smile. Their minds are so LOUD — even in a quiet room. Their anxiety affects them negatively and then projects itself on their spouses, family members, and even coworkers.
One day, you’re hopeful about the future. And the next, you’re stressed to the max. During times like these, it’s easy for us to feel like life is too chaotic. We can’t recapture the structure we once had, so we instantly feel defeated.
Anxiety manifests itself in many ways that are all too relatable:
- The mind feels like a motor that doesn’t stop
- Hopelessness and helplessness
- That “out of control” feeling
- Fast heart rate and rapid breathing
- Uncontrollable sweating
- Fear and dread
- Physical and emotional exhaustion
- Sleeping problems
- Feelings of uncertainty or confusion
The first set of good news about anxiety? You’re not alone!
To help you put your anxiety issues into perspective, take solace in the fact that you’re not alone. Everyone deals with anxiety at some point, whether it’s in situations where they are taking care of an elderly parent, helping a sick child, dealing with financial issues or problems in their marriage, or even difficulties at work. Anxiety can be a general thing we experience from everyday life; it can also be genetic or a disorder that you’re either born with or develop over time.
The Mayo Clinic lists everything from genetics to personality to being female under their risk factors for anxiety.
We’ll also cover this in more detail in an upcoming blog, but some positive traits are common among anxiety sufferers that I often see. Do any of these ring a bell with you:
Common Traits of People with High Anxiety
- High verbal intelligence and IQ
- Active and accomplish a great deal
- Productive and successful in their vocation
How do I treat or manage my anxiety?
Well, there is a litany of exercises and treatments you can do to lower or manage your anxiety. But before you do too much research, start by going through a relaxing, self-regulating series of exercises likes the ones below. Studies consistently show that when you practice and exercise relaxing your muscles, you feel relaxed in the body, and your cognitive functioning and ability to think more clearly improves.
- Observe and describe 2-3 objects — Find an object, it could be a fluffy pillow or a nice picture on the wall, and spend a few minutes observing and describing what you see and feel. Try to use all of your senses while you do this. What is the size and shape of the object? If you can hold it, what does it feel like? How much does it weigh? This helps keep your mind off of negative things and onto positive ones.
- Diaphragmatic breathing — Breathing is the body’s default and most natural way to regulate itself. Diaphragmatic breathing means you are taking a deeper breath instead of shallow breathing. Try breathing in through your nose for an easy five count, and then exhale through pursed lips for six or more. Make sure you’re counting throughout the breathing process. While you’re breathing in and out, focus on your breath and feel the air going into your nostrils and out through your lips. Feel it in your lungs and expand your diaphragm and chest. Breathe in for five counts and exhale six counts about 10 times. For most people, this feels relaxing and keeps the mind from anxious or worrisome churning.
- Listen for a few minutes — Close your eyes and just listen. Focus on the sounds that you hear.
- Mindfulness exercises — Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present and aware of where we are and what we’re doing. We suspend judgment for a period of time. There’s research that shows that when you train your brain to be mindful, you’re actually changing some of the pathways in your brain. There are many guided mindfulness or meditation apps that can help.
All we’re trying to say here is anxiety can come in many forms for us, and you’re not alone. Furthermore, it can be managed well with regular, consistent effort and some skills. Do a little bit every day, and you’ll be surprised how much better you feel. Look for more to come regarding anxiety and ways to deal with it better.
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Did we leave anything out? What steps are you taking to remove anxiety from your life? Please send us a quick email and help us keep this conversation going at Mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com.