One of the greatest things we've seen in recent years is the advent of a more open environment for discussing Mental Health. I think everyone can agree that it is now more socially acceptable to discuss your own mental health than it has ever been. And that's amazing! So many more people are getting the help they need because of it.
And there's some incredibly important things everyone should know about anxiety:
1. Diagnosis ≠ Solution
A consequence of a more open dialogue about mental health, as always occurs with many medical (physical or psychological) is the misconception that identifying with the symptoms or being diagnosed with anxiety is a solution. I cannot emphasise enough that it is not.
A diagnosis is the start!
Diagnosis is required in many areas to:
Access the right mental health services
Access the right welfare/employment support
Help those with anxiety to understand why they feel the way they do
Being diagnosed as someone with anxiety will not make it go away. But it will give you access to the things that will help you.
2. Anxiety is...
A feeling of unease that can have a range of psychological and physical symptoms. It can be an isolated incident - Like when you're meeting someone for the first time, or starting a new school/job - or it could be something long-term which begins to impact other parts of your life.
Here are some simple facts about anxiety:
Everyone experiences anxiety at some point in their life
It's an essential part of human life
It's your unconscious mind's way of protecting you
It can cause physical symptoms (but not always)
It can have a wide variety of causes
In the vast majority of cases, it will get better
3. There are physical and psychological symptoms when experiencing anxiety
Note: You could experience one, just a few or all of these symptoms as part of an isolated bout of anxiety or as part of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) - All of these symptoms may also be related health conditions that are not associated with anxiety.
Feeling irritable, restless or 'on edge' (and you might not know why)
A sense that there's no escape
Heart Palpitations, Headaches or Nausea
Dizziness, Tiredness or even Insomnia
Shortness of breath
Aching muscles or Pins and needles
4. You can overcome your symptoms in lots of different ways...
First, you should seek to understand if what you are feeling is anxiety. Your first stop should always be your GP for all health and well-being concerns.
You may consider anxiety in one of three scenarios:
It's a one-off
It's not a one-off but symptoms always appear in the same situation
It's having a detrimental impact on my life
Know that in vast majority of situations, anxiety is experienced as a one-off or related to a specific situation, or set of situations. When anxiety begins having a detrimental impact on your life this is often as a result of a negative major life event (like losing your job, or home or a bereavement) or it builds over time as a result of various factors (like financial trouble, other health issues or regular and ongoing experiences of anxiety that have not been addressed).
In all of these situations you can alleviate the symptoms. For some people it's something you can overcome on your own, for others it may require assistance in the form of mental health support or medication. What's important is that you know it will get better.
Here are some simple things that can alleviate the onset of anxiety symptoms, or stop them in their tracks:
Remind yourself that everyone experiences anxiety – it’s normal – and it’s something you have control of.
Break down the thing(s) causing your anxiety into manageable actions so that you can address each one specifically - this can help you realise that the causes aren't as big as you first though.
Always keep focus on things that you can control and influence – this can significantly reduce feelings of anxiety. It shows you can do something about it.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, drugs and other addictive behaviours, like gambling – this will exacerbate any symptoms of anxiety, especially if this is part of the cause
Breathing exercises can help reduce your heart-rate, allow you to reduce any symptoms of anxiety
Meditation has a wide range of benefits and when you're experiencing anxiety meditation can help calm your mind and allow you to focus on things that will help
Improving your diet will make sure things like fatigue or poor nutrition aren't a factor. When you're eating well your brain has the right nutrients to function properly and this contributes to dealing with situations that can cause you to experience anxiety
Physical exercise, especially if you're eating a good diet will make you generally more healthy. When you're dealing with anxiety a healthy body goes a long way to overcoming it. Specifically it can help with things like heart-rate, blood pressure and improving the amount of endorphins which can trigger more positive feelings
Getting a more restful sleep is one of the best things you can do to deal with symptoms of anxiety. When you're tired a few things happen. First, your body and brain don't function well. This means your physical and mental reaction to situations that can cause feelings of anxiety tend not to be the most effective. So when you're tired you're more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety. When you're fully rested you're mind is more prepared to problem solve, find solutions and seek out the path ahead in a way that reduces the likelihood of anxiety rearing it's head
Before you close this page, remind yourself of these three things:
Anxiety is normal! And it doesn't last forever and talking to someone will help
Symptoms of anxiety are something that you can, and will overcome with the right approach when they appear
Considering and resolving the causes of anxiety is the most effective way of reducing anxiety symptoms in the long term
And whether you're experiencing anxiety yourself or you know someone who's dealing with it at the moment, reach out, start a conversation and take steps towards overcoming it.