“Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strengths” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)
Experiencing stress and anxiety is something that we all have from time to time, but it’s when feelings of anxiety stop you from doing things in your life and begin to feel overwhelming that it’s worth exploring ways of managing the feelings differently.
There are a number of physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms that people can experience when they feel anxious, and Anxiety UK details some of these:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased muscle tension
- “Jelly legs”
- Tingling in the hands and feet
- Hyperventilation (over breathing)
- Difficulty in breathing
- Wanting to use the toilet more often
- Feeling sick
- Tight band across the chest area
- Tension headaches
- Hot flushes
- Increased perspiration
- Dry mouth
- Choking sensations
Some of the most common thoughts that people can have when they are experiencing anxiety are:
- Thinking that you may lose control and/or go “mad”
- Thinking that you might die
- Thinking that you may have a heart attack/be sick/faint
- Feeling that people are looking at you and observing your anxiety
- Feeling as though things are speeding up/slowing down
- Feeling detached from your environment and the people in it
- Feeling like wanting to run away/escape from the situation
- Feeling on edge and alert to everything around you
Sometimes it may be possible to identify a particular event or incident that has caused your anxiety, e.g. relationship problems; bereavement; job interview; moving house. Other times, it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly what may have triggered the anxious or stressful feelings. There might also be a build up over time of different stresses.
Anxiety can put us into “fight or flight” mode, with our brain thinking that it needs to protect us from a threatening situation, even though there may not be any real current threat. This is often a result of an outdated response linked to an event or experience in the past which may still be having an impact, and getting triggered in the present. E.g. a childhood experience of feeling embarrassed or humiliated at school when speaking out in class being linked to a fear of speaking out in a team meeting at work or delivering a presentation.
Counselling and hypnotherapy can be helpful in dealing with both the underlying causes of anxiety and in developing strategies for managing situations and feelings, so that they do not begin to overwhelm you.
Here are some of my top tips for reducing anxiety at difficult times:
- Focus on your breathing; slowly and deeply. Breathe in for the count of 4 and out for the count of 8
- Distract and occupy yourself with something else, e.g. make a cup of tea; take a bath;
- Take some gentle exercise, e.g. walk, yoga
- Talk to someone
- Visualise a calm peaceful place, perhaps somewhere you have been or would like to go, e.g. a beach, a lake, and imagine a bridge that you can cross in your mind that takes you there
- Use grounding techniques to distract yourself, such as using all your senses, e.g. noticing what is around you and saying to yourself, “The walls are white; there are four grey chairs; there is a wooden bookshelf against the wall…”
- Describe objects, sounds, textures, colours, smells, shapes, numbers, and the temperature. This is something you can do anywhere.
- Dig your heels into the floor-literally “grounding” them. Notice the tension centred in your heels as you do this. Remind yourself you are connected to the ground.
- Remember the words to an inspiring song, quote or poem.
- Play a categories game with yourself, e.g. think of types of animals, names of countries that begin with the letter ‘A’ etc. This form of mental grounding can help distract you from any overwhelming feeling.
If the feelings of anxiety or stress continue, or you have been experiencing these feelings for some time and are finding it difficult to manage them, a combination of self-help using the above top tips, and seeing a professional counsellor and/or hypnotherapist can help. By having a space to talk about and explore your feelings, you will be able to gain an understanding for yourself about what the underlying causes and issues may be, and develop lasting strategies for overcoming these.
If you would like further help in resolving and managing anxiety, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for an initial discussion or telephone Sharon on 07936 556314
(Anxiety Graphic by Adele Palmquist)