Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. On average, one in four people will experience anxiety at some stage in their life.
How do you know if you or a loved one suffers from anxiety?
Signs and symptoms:
While depression might make you feel heavy, slow, and unmotivated, anxiety often feels like a restlessness that will not end. It might make you feel nervous, on edge, irritable or even angry. It might make you feel manic, like you cannot stop doing-doing-doing. It could be that you feel so worried about something bad happening that you struggle to leave your house. Anxiety can take on a lot of different forms and look different for every individual.
What are the different types of anxiety?
(GAD) Generalised Anxiety Disorder such as social fears, health or money worries, anticipation of dangers and disasters, or perfectionism.
Women are 60% more likely to develop GAD than men.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Signs and symptoms:
Before social interactions, the individual may prepare and rehearse excessively in advance, planning topics of conversation or how to present themselves in a specific way.
During interactions, physical symptoms may occur such as trembling, rapid breathing, racing heart, sweating, or blushing, as the “fight or flight” system is activated. In extreme cases, the person may experience a panic attack.
After interactions, the person conducts a detailed, negative and self-critical appraisal of their performance within a social situation, dissecting conversations and body language with a negative slant.
A phobia is a highly pronounced fear. The person may feel an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger about a situation or object. Beyond Blue describes it as feeling very fearful about a particular object or situation, so much so that you may go to great lengths to avoid it, for example: having an injection or travelling on a plane.
A person who has reoccurring panic attacks for no obvious reason, generally triggered by the brain’s ‘fight or flight’ function.
Signs and symptoms:
Overwhelming feelings of fear or danger. Dilated pupils. Increased heart rate. Tightening of the chest. Difficulty breathing. Feeling faint. Dry mouth. Sweating. Shaking.
Anxiety has an uncomfortable, unsettled feeling in the body and mind, and it can hold you back from being your best self.
Where to get help?
There is always a deep rooted issue that lays beneath anxiety. Seeking professional help by talking to a psychologist is my number one tip for anyone who suffers from anxiety in any form. A professional can work with you to find out exactly what events trigger your anxiety, and teach you ways to prevent and ease future anxiety attacks while finding peace within yourself.
However, in the short term, if you feel anxious or feel like an anxiety attack is coming on, here are some tips that may help you:
Focus on your breathing — Take long, deep breaths. Lay on the ground if this helps and breathe in while slowly counting 1, 2, 3… Breath out slowly while counting… 1, 2, 3… Repeat as many times as necessary.
Call a friend — Reach out to someone you love and trust. It doesn’t seem so scary and isolating when you have someone to help you through it.
Write it down — Get yourself a journal or a notepad and write down how you’re feeling, what has triggered you feeling anxious and anything else that’s on your mind. Not only is it a great release for all the overwhelming thoughts in your head, it is also a great way to find common patterns, which will help in easing anxiety in the long term.
Get fresh air — Open a window, go sit outside, go for a walk. Anything! Just get that oxygen moving through your mind and body.
Have a shower or bath — I find just taking some time out helps me realign and feel centred.
If fight or flight has been triggered, turn off your phone — When fight or flight has been activated, your brain doesn’t always think rationally or logically, and sometimes we will do or say something we don’t mean that can potentially really hurt and upset not only ourselves but other people.
Make a tea and/or read a book — This is one of my favourite things to do. I find reading therapeutic; it helps me switch off from the busy outside noise of the stresses in my life and I can get lost in the words and the stories of a good book. If you find reading too challenging while you’re in a state of high anxiety, make a cup of tea. Try to slow down and take your time with it while focusing on the sensations, feeling the warmth of the cup in your hands, the smell of the tea, the taste of the first sip…
Watch one of your favourite movies — When it all gets to be too much, pull out your doona and watch your favourite movie on the couch. If your body is telling you to rest, REST. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking some time out from the world and getting lost in a movie... or, in some cases, binge watching an entire TV series on Netflix in one day.
Most importantly, do whatever works for you! These are just some tips that have helped me, everyone is different and everyone copes with anxiety differently. Pay close attention to what your body needs during these times and find ways to honour that. But always remember, you are never alone. There are always people out there who can help.
— References —
Image source - Ian Espinosa Photography
Beyond Blue - anxiety checklist
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Beyond Blue - 1300 22 4636
Lifeline - 13 11 14
How Psychology Works - applied psychology visually explained