No one said being an adult was going to be fun or even easy and there are times when the stress of carrying all your adult responsibilities can feel like it’s too much.
It’s perfectly normal and perfectly understandable that you may feel like this and often these feelings ease as we take our foot of the gas a little and life eases up. However, there are times when our response isn’t to take positive action but to try and cope by any means necessary. While these solutions provide a quick fix, they very often exacerbate the problem in the long term, heightening anxiety and playing into the mental fog that builds in times of stress and worry.
In this blog we look at some of the symptoms of anxiety and how to combat them in a healthier way than through alcohol or other substances. We explore how to tackle issues head on without feeling you’re taking on the impossible and how to get the support you need to make it easier next time.
What is anxiety?
Let’s take a look at what this feeling is all about, the causes and the symptoms. First of all it’s important to say that anxiety is a very normal, very human feeling and, in the right context, can be useful. It serves to heighten our sense of danger or fear when we are in a situation that calls for us to be a little more alert for trouble. It puts our bodies and minds into fight, flight or freeze mode which in turn prepares us to take immediate action by making our hearts beat faster, getting blood to where it’s most needed or getting our minds in a high state of alert to think on our feet.
Unfortunately for some of us, this sense of anxiety kicks in when our safety is not in question but our minds still tell us it is.
Physically we might feel unable to leave our own homes and feel dizzy, cold, sweaty or sick. It might make your mind feel like it’s racing as you try and pinpoint exactly what it is that you’re worried about. This can spill out into a panic attack, which sufferers might fear is something more serious.
Anxiety is something that should be taken seriously and while there are strategies you can use to control it and see off panic attacks if you are struggling you should talk to a doctor who will be able to put you in contact with a mental health specialist.
How do people treat it?
If you have taken the positive step of talking to a mental health professional then you will have been given some techniques to help deal with your anxiety, you might also have access to ongoing treatment such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and medication if appropriate.
Of course, many sufferers try to take matters into their own hands, making the problem worse and self-medicate with alcohol or illegal substances. While giving the sufferer momentarily separation from their symptoms, facing back to the reality of the situation is often very hard.
If you are struggling with addiction or need to find a supportive community then you might want to consider checking out: https://silvermistrecovery.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/making_friends_in_recovery_for_sober_adults_guide.pdf for some valuable support.
You can also find groups in your local area who will give you advice and a sense of community to help you through any addiction or reliance problems that you might be experiencing.
There are a number of ways you can help yourself that for milder sufferers will prove invaluable and can help to stave off symptoms in the early stages before they intensify.
The first thing you should consider doing is finding a trusted friend or relative to talk through your feelings with. This alone can help ease some of the burden. Tell them about any specific worries that you have and the symptoms you have been suffering. Often people on the outside have no idea what’s going on and are relieved and happy to offer a supportive and listening ear.
Ask them to be on call for you when you do start feeling panicky and you’ll feel safer knowing they are just a phone call away and are ready to listen, if they can’t always get to you in person.
Expressing your worries in writing or in another creative way can really help. Once you have your concerns on paper, close that book and commit to putting them away for an hour or two. Some people set aside a time when they will think and write about what’s on their mind each day and that can help to manage your racing mind.
Even if you find it hard to step out of your house the benefits of exercise are very well documented in aspects of mental and physical health. Not only is exercise a great distraction it releases some useful chemicals into your brain that will give you a momentary boost and help you to feel better.
Tying into your physical well-being, try to get enough sleep and eat well. Sleeping in particular can of course be tricky when you’re tossing and turning with worry but there are techniques you can employ to try and get your sleep back on track.
Get a routine in place each evening where you dim the lights, switch off any screens and let your brain start to unwind. Take a warm bath, drink a warm drink or read a book and begin to feel your body relax before you get into bed.
Create a safe sanctuary in your bedroom, keeping it warm (but not hot), dark and quiet. With some regular practice you should begin to see some improvement in the length and quality of your sleep.
No one has the perfect diet but if you can try and avoid food that makes your body feel bad and think about nourishing it instead, you will see a difference in your energy levels, which will have a knock-on effect to how you feel.
Depending on what type of anxiety issues you are facing you may or may not find techniques such as mindfulness and meditation helpful. For some, the act of being very still and living in the moment with their symptoms will help them but for others, particularly those who suffer from social anxiety problems, keeping busy and distracting yourself from how you are feeling is of greater help.
If you are suffering from panic attacks then the best advice you can take is to breathe deeply as you feel the symptoms of panic begin to surface. It is hard to remember when you’re mind is focussed on how you’re feeling but stopping and taking ten deep breaths is one of the most effective things you can do to stop a panic attack in its tracks.
Finally, give yourself a break. Suffering from an anxiety disorder is hard and it can rob you of motivation and joy. When you do get outside or get through a day at work recognise your achievements and even give yourself a small reward.
Build on your success and keep a diary of when you have successfully navigated a difficult social situation or spoken to someone at the school gate without feeling panicked or too awkward. Small steps are what it takes on the path to feeling better.
It feels like a long road but with the right support and the determination to help yourself you will see success and beat anxiety for good.