Time to Tackle Anxiety
Anxiety, It’s still a bit of a dirty word isn’t it? Despite the fact that 1/5 women suffer from anxiety, there is still, sadly, a bit of a stigma attached to it; largely because there is no one physical symptom, making it hard to diagnose and understand. I, however, am not ashamed to say that I suffer from anxiety on a fairly regular basis, and have done for a number of years.
For me, the majority of my anxiety is health related, for two main reasons. The first because I am an emetophobic (I have a phobia of sick/vomit) and the second because I was dangerously ill with sepsis after the birth of my second child last September. As a result, I overthink and over analyse almost every potential illness that myself and my family get, terrified of the potential vomiting that may follow or the worst case scenario it could represent. It sounds almost ridiculous writing it down, and yes, as a Mum of two who has experienced two pregnancies and two young children I have experienced my fair share of sick; but the feelings are completely irrational, unconscious, and something I don’t feel I can control. In the large I consider myself to be a calm, logical and reasoned individual, but when the anxiety kicks in, all my logical thoughts go out the window.
It’s not only women who can suffer from anxiety. Research from Kalms #livelifeready project found that 70% of young men’s’ work performance and relationships are also affected by their anxiety. 80% of young men found anxiety affects their social life and for 65% of men in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties, their work was the cause of their anxiety.
My partner suffers from anxiety less often, but when he does, it is nearly always about work. He is very passionate about what he does, but as a result, he worries about his success, worries about things going wrong, or worries about the unknown that a big work event or presentation may bring. He makes himself accountable, which from an employers point of view is a great trait to have, but it can cause a lot of anxiety as a result. He will experience physical symptoms such as tension headaches, irritability and struggling to sleep. He’s been known to give up trying at 5.30am after lying awake staring at the ceiling, and head into the office early instead.
The symptoms of anxiety will vary from one person and can at times be confused with being an extreme reaction to modern day life. People can be accused of simply ‘being a drama queen’ or get told to ‘chill out’ but if only it were that simple!
For me the symptoms of anxiety include:
- An inability to sleep – even when I am exhausted, which granted, is most of the time. At the time of writing my youngest has a sickness bug. As a result, I have barely slept for 48 hours. I am sure you can appreciate that this isn’t healthy for anyone, and causes it’s own raft of issues! Unfortunately for me (and this is totally ironic), my daughter has a terribly strong gag reflex and is under a dietitian, and as such, is incredibly sensitive to nausea. Even when the initial bug goes away, she can be sick again with a fairly long gap in between. Just when I start to feel hopeful that the sickness has stopped, there will be another episode and as a result, I find myself lying awake listening out for every cough, murmur or movement, worrying when the next bout of sickness will arrive.
- Over thinking – as a result of my health anxieties, I also worry about germs. I hate soft play with a passion, as nearly every time Erin to one she has been poorly soon after. If someone so much as mentions someone was ill in their family in the recent past I avoid them like the plague, and every time I hear a child say “my tummy hurts” I actually want to run off into the hills – even when it’s my own. Oh, and don’t get me started on people not following the 48 hour rule!!!
- Restlessness – When I am feeling anxious, I cannot settle. I have to be doing something – anything! Whether it’s blogging (my therapy!!), playing stupid games on my phone, or flicking aimlessly though Facebook watching stupid viral videos, it doesn’t really matter what it is, but I have to divert my attention to try and distract my brain from the anxious thoughts.
- Tension – The anxious thoughts cause genuine tension, to the point where this can actually manifest itself in physical symptoms. Weirdly perhaps I tend to get pelvic pain as unconsciously tense my pelvic floor muscles, as well as the more obvious headaches across my forehead.
- During a particularly bad episode of anxiety (normally when someone actually is ill), I get racing heartbeat, physical shakes (as if I am cold) and start to feel nauseous myself. That then becomes a vicious circle, as the fear of vomiting myself sets in, and so the cycle continues.
This year, as part of my 18 Goals for 2018, I promised myself I would allow myself more time for me, and part of this is finding ways to cope with my anxiety, and try and find strategies to cope with them. By doing this, I am hoping it will help both of us cope better when the feelings arise.
For myself and my partner, talking things through can be a massive help, but talking to someone who understands and doesn’t patronise is absolutely key. If you see someone who appears to be anxious PLEASE do not say things like “What have you got to worry about?” “Don’t be silly’, or by far the worst one – “calm down” – it doesn’t help. Instead, an acknowledgement that you are aware of how they are feeling and that you are there to help is much better. You might not understand or agree with how they are feeling, but appreciating that they can’t just turn it off like a switch is a great place to start.
Being aware of the trigger of your anxiety is a great starting point. Sometimes the trigger is hard to find, where as with other people, like myself, it is glaringly obvious. I am lucky that my trigger is pretty clear. That said, this doesn’t mean you can simply remove all situations that may trigger anxiety from your life. By knowing your trigger, you can however try and cut yourself some slack. In the same way that an arachnophobe will be scared when a spider walks by, it’s ok for you to feel anxious when your trigger occurs.
Finally, practising mindfulness techniques is a huge help. This isn’t just a buzzword, but a way of processing your thoughts and realising that they are simply ‘mental events’ and shouldn’t control us. For me, running is a great way to do this, taking time to focus on the sound of my trainers hitting the floor and the movement of my chest up and down as I breathe; trying to turn my brain off for a while and focus on the physical me. I have recently started couch to 5k, and a weekly group run as well as a couple of homework runs a week is a great way of getting myself back out there, focusing on both my body and mind.
There’s no quick and easy cure for anxiety, but these techniques along with a herbal remedy such as Kalms Lavendar One a Day capsules can be a huge help. I am hoping to get my anxiety under control in 2018, and do so in a positive and proactive way.
If you think you or your loved ones may be suffering from anxiety, Kalms have created the below animation which you may find useful to help people recognise the symptoms.
Do you suffer from anxiety? What techniques do you use to manage your symptoms?
*This is a collaborative post*