In this day and age with our fast-paced lives we all experience anxiety symptoms. We chase after the better career, we strive to improve our social media status by spending hours on our phones, we run after our “bossy” three-year old’s while carrying their younger sibling around and at the same time we try our best to keep some form of social life by seeing a friend or going to the movies. Sometimes a social life may not even be possible. There may be no babysitter or family member to watch those rambunctious little ones to give you a break. You may be working over-time to impress your boss, thus leaving you with enough time to go home, have dinner, decompress for an hour and sleep to do it all over again the next day.
OF COURSE, we are stressed out and having anxiety and panic attacks. Of course, we feel overwhelmed and wish for more hours in a day. We might sleep too much when we don’t want to think of the day or too little when we can’t shut our thoughts down. Will that tub of ice-cream help? Only temporarily which comes with the unwanted extra pounds and the regrets of having to eat it! Will screaming into our pillow make us feel better? FOR SURE! But once again, these are temporary solutions. We all know that in the depths of our unconscious, don’t we? Well, in case you don’t know or in case you need to just remind yourself then let me tell you. We can’t avoid anxiety ridden situations or days. They will always be knocking on our door. Surely each person is different and certain events will cause anxiety whereas for others it may not and sometimes we cannot do anything to make it go away.
If you do not know whether you have anxiety or not, here are some of the SYMPTOMS: You may feel that your heart is beating fast, your breathing has increased, your hands are sweaty. You might be taking short and fast breaths, you may be feeling dizzy, having a hard time focusing and having anxiety provoking thoughts. However, there are certain things we CAN do that can help reduce the symptoms and perhaps even make us feel like we have a handle on it.
Take a deep breath! Yes, it helps. As soon as you feel your heart-rate going up, breath. If you feel disoriented, overwhelmed or panicky, BREATH. Sounds like such a little thing to do, but has a major impact. When you pause for a minute and focus on your breathing and even better by counting to five when you breath in and five when you breath out, you are literally putting a pause on everything. And you can do it as many times you like until things improve. By breathing slowly and steadily, you are slowing down your rhythms. So, that fast heart-rate will get slower. Your rushing thoughts, will also slow down and your panicky state should improve.
I am not the type that enjoys exercising. I will be the first to admit that. But I am also aware of the benefits of exercising, especially to people that suffer from forms of anxiety or depression. Yes, exercising can help tone your body, be a great benefit to weight loss, but it is a proven anti-stressor. Your endorphins raise, your serotonin levels go up and you get a feeling of euphoria. Exercising can raise confidence and during your work out and by the end of it, your body and mind is focusing of relaxing and recovering which can also reduce any negative thoughts or feelings.
Take a pause and think. What is happening right now? Why am I anxious? Is there something I can do to make this go away? Become an analytical thinker. Break down what is giving your anxiety. By asking yourself questions and giving answers to them, you are in a way categorizing what you are going through which in turn makes the cloud of thoughts make more sense (we also sometimes may over-exaggerate situations in our state of panic) and may give you a calmer and better sense of direction and how to face things more appropriately.
What is your go to relaxing thought? What is your favorite place you like going to or the people that you enjoy the most and make you laugh? Go there. With your mind. While you are going through anxiety, picture the last massage your received which was relaxing and took away any tension. Focus on your favorite tree (mine is weeping willow tree) and picture a light breeze moving the branches and the leaves while you are sitting next to it feeling calm and secure. Picture your best friend that you laugh a lot with and just visualize the both of your laughing. Visualizing a happy place, a moment or a feeling can bring a sense of calmness and relief. Do this, and even better accompany it with the slow breathing I mentioned earlier, and you can have great benefits.
Keeping your feelings in does not help. Sharing thoughts and fears of what you are going through sometimes is not easy and takes courage, but the result can be relief and perhaps even a conclusion as to how to improve your state. Talk to a friend, a family member or a counsellor. Someone else might give you a different perspective on your situation or just opening up can be a relief in itself. Talking to a mental health professional can be a great benefit in helping tackle certain situations. A counsellor will listen to you, not judge and be there to discuss any concerns you have and provide you with the tools you need towards a better state of mind and emotional well-being.
Should you feel ready to explore your feelings and want to talk to someone that is there to help, go to http://www.willowrootstherapy.ca and contact me through phone or email to schedule an appointment.
I am located on Chapel Street, Ottawa, ON
Sophia Nicoli, M.S. Marriage and Family Therapist