In 2013, there were approximately 8.2 million anxiety sufferers in the UK alone. These statistics from the Mental Health Organisation reveal the true extent of anxiety as a disorder, and it emphasises the importance of learning how to manage or let go of anxieties before they overwhelm. I myself am no stranger to anxiety, and feel overwhelmed at times.
An anxiety disorder left unchecked can have a debilitating impact on life generally, and while anxiety and stress responses can be deemed positive on occasion, i.e. in fight or flight where a quick reaction to danger is warranted, in the main, this is not necessary. Where anxieties become the norm, it is damaging to the individual. From the statistics given here, and with so many individuals affected, there is a real demand for mental health nurse jobs just to cope.
Some anxiety in life is natural. It’s easy to worry about performing well in a job interview or feeling anxious as a result of financial or relationship issues, but an anxiety disorder is different. Although medical assistance should always be sought, it is important for anyone experiencing anxiety attacks to try to take control of their life, accepting some elements if they are impossible to improve, while making small but positive changes in other areas. Sometimes, even the smallest of adaptations can make a considerable difference:
1. Often negative thoughts go hand in hand with anxiety. These are unproductive and only fuel a sense of vulnerability or helplessness. Analyse thought patterns and aim to look at a negative situation from a new perspective. If this is impossible, try to make key changes in life.
2. Take up yoga. It has a naturally healing and calming effect. It requires the mind to be focused on the posture and to work on alignment and the ‘hold’. This ensures that the mind is distracted away from negativity.
3.Practice breathing techniques each day. Anxiety and nervousness generally make people breath more erratically or, hold their breath. Diaphragmatic breathing helps to calm and to focus on the technique forcing negative or anxious thoughts to one side.
4. False anxiety attacks. Although the fears may be unfounded, the impact is the same. Learning to control panic and to breathe calmly throughout helps to lessen symptoms affording some control.
5. Some anxiety sufferers have learned that disconnection techniques work well. Instead of being in the moment and feeling overwhelmed, they create a film from their fears and visualise themselves sitting back watching so that it no longer seems quite so daunting.
6. Exercise has been proven to release endorphins which help improve mood, but it also improves the immune system and increases energy levels. This is especially good as anxieties can reduce energy.
7. A worry journal is useful to help identify triggers. When in the depths of anxiousness, it is difficult to identify any causes but on reviewing the worry journal, triggers are much more evident. With knowledge comes the ability to make important changes.
8. Make a plan – when you’re anxious about being anxious, the cycle can go on forever. Think about the consequences of the anxiety, for example if you’re worried about something, play it out in your head, how you would cope with it if it happened, how would you deal with it, the absolute worst case scenario. Making a plan will help you feel better about it if the worst happened, rather than worrying about the what ifs. Also, think about what happens when you go to the ER with anxiety. Know that there are professionals that can get you through an episode.
9. Talk to someone, even a stranger, or seek help from your GP or a charity like MIND. You’re not alone in feeling this way. You can also talk to a therapist at ThriveTalk.
10. Face your fears, a little at a time and gradually they won’t seem so bad. Force yourself to go into the situation and you will feel anxiety but it will lessen each time. If you’ve made a plan (see no.8), you’ll feel more prepared.
This is a collaborative post, all opinions are my own.