Anxiety, for some people it is more than just a word. For some, it is a very real and very painful fact of life. Your mind moves a million miles a minute, your palms sweat and your hands tremble uncontrollably, you feel nervous and nauseous. You can’t shake the feeling that the worst possible scenario is not only possible but inevitable and certainly anything that could go wrong is about to.
You begin to panic,and your mind races to worst case scenarios playing over and over in your mind. Your heart pounds in your chest and as you approach that moment you fear most, you pray that your heart doesn’t explode.
As someone who has suffered from anxiety for the better part of 3 decades, believe me, I understand your pain. If you’re like I was, there are some things you might avoid doing entirely because of the impending disaster lurking around every corner and you’d rather miss out on a possibly great outcome than deal with the stress, right?
Let me ask you, what is it that causes your anxiety? What are you actually afraid of? If you could rank it, what is the actual probability of your fears coming true, 1 to 10? What can you do about it? Before you answer that one and say, “Nothing.” Finish reading this article and hear me out and hopefully, you’ll see things a little differently.
Typically, anxiety stems from a fear of the unknown and things that haven’t happened yet and this is common knowledge. For some, prior negative outcomes may cause anxiety about an upcoming event in which we are trying something again. Or maybe the circumstances surrounding an event remind us of a past experience and we fear the same embarrassing result.
Relax, you’re not alone and honestly, there’s nothing wrong with it. A little bit of nervousness and even to a point, anxiety, can be a healthy tool in which we can use. Stop hyperventilating and set the paper bag down, I promise you it’s easier than you may think.
I get the fear, remember I’ve been there. It can seem extremely real at times that imminent doom is on the way to cripple us but what if I told you that inside you is the power to transform that self-manifesting prophecy from a negative one to a positive?
If we’re consciously in tune with our emotions and able to mindfully be aware of them as they happen without immediate panic, we can use that uneasy feeling in your core as a sort of bell of mindfulness. In other words, when we begin feeling anxious if we can program that unease as a subconscious signal that we need to be cautious and mindfully deliberate in our actions as we advance through the coming unknown, we are less likely to make the mistakes wee fear so much.
By slowing down and carefully moving through the trickier points in our life, we are not only less likely to blunder, but we may even excel at what it is we’re apprehensive of. That’s right, we may just surprise ourselves truly. Wouldn’t that be something? Not only not screwing it up, but actually surpassing our expectations, and being rewarded by not fainting, and who knows? Maybe we might find that we enjoy whatever it was that caused the anxiety.
We all experience anxiety differently, just as we all have different triggers or causes for our anxiety. So, how do you know if you have true-blue anxiety or just garden variety butterflies? I think the difference is easy for the sufferer to ascertain. However, for those that love someone prone to anxiety and it’s more frightening cousin the panic attack, the signs and symptoms may be as allusive or varied as ways to soothe them.
Sufferers of anxiety can most likely tell you what their tell-tale signs are and their normal reactions to anxiety and panic attacks. Some may even be able to guide you in how to help them calm down and breathe easy. It’s not always easy, but it is doable. Some common signs of an anxiety attack either coming or in progress may include:
1. Rapid breathing, shortness of breath: Usually, when an anxiety or panic attacks begin breathing speeds up as the heart rate also increases. This feeds itself rise in heart rate leads to constricted blood vessels which in turn cuts down the oxygen levels in the blood going to the brain. This may cause the anxious person to speed up their breath which can then become labored further by effects of asthma or simply a tightness in their chest. Oftentimes, it can feel as if there’s someone sitting on their chest.
2. Light Headedness/ Dizzy Spells: As the oxygen levels in the blood lower, and the brain gets less and less O2 as the blood is rushed to the extremities to prepare for fight or flight response, the body prepares to flee but this sudden drop in oxygen feeding the brain may make the anxiety sufferer dizzy or lightheaded and if hyperventilation occurs, fainting or passing out may even be a side-effect. The good news here is that if the anxious person actually does faint or pass out, as long as they do not hurt themselves, their body will regulate quickly in a relaxed subdued state and the person should recover in a few seconds to a couple minutes.
3. Confusion/Fear/Agitation: While panic, fear, and confusion are the most common side effects of anxiety, there is a separate group that has a slightly different reaction to their anxiousness and unrest. Some may become agitated or even angry and aggressive as a result of the confusion at why they suddenly feel this way. Perhaps an internal feeling of shame or embarrassment could cause this. The best person to tell you, unfortunately, is the one having the attack and rarely do they realize at the moment of the anxiety/panic attack that they are actually behaving in this manner. Do not scold or try to confront them here, instead of continuing to reassure them that they are safe and to continue slow rhythmic breathing.
The best person to let us know how to help, unfortunately, is the one having the attack and rarely do they realize at the moment of the anxiety/panic attack that they are actually behaving in this manner. Do not scold or try to confront them here, instead continue to reassure them that they are safe and to continue slow rhythmic breathing.
This is a tricky bit of advice to give. While we obviously care for them and want to calm them as quickly as possible, sometimes an anxiety attack just has to run its course as the victim has to ultimately be the one to regain control of the Steps to Managing Our Own Anxietyemotionalroller coaster they’re on. None the less, here are a few things to try, though again your loved one will be able to tell you best what works for them.
1. CALM & COLLECTED: It’s very important if we wish to calm an anxiety sufferer down that we ourselves remain calm. We need to remove unneeded extra stimulus such as crowds, loud noises, or bright lights. When we speak to them, we need to remain at ease and use a soft, soothing voice to gently remind them to slow down, breathe deeply and rhythmically.
2. BREATHING IS KEY: Reminding the victim to breathe slowly and deeply in a soft tone is essential. Assuring them that they are safe and everything is and will remain to be ok in a confident yet soft manner and even breathing deeply with them while placing a hand on their back, chest, or shoulder asking them to breathe with you.
3. RELAXED & EASY: When some of us suffer an anxiety attack we may want to lie down, others may find it easier to breathe while sitting up. Personally, I like crash position. Don’t laugh, it’s what works for me. I will sit in a chair and bend down placing my head downwards between my knees and focus on my breathing. Yet, if someone is truly struggling to breathe, having them sit up with their arms on their head should help to open up their airways.
4. EMERGENCY/RESCUE MEDS & RESPIRATORS: For those who are blessed with the double gift of Asthma & Anxiety, sometimes helping them calm down and get through may require the use of a rescue inhaler for their asthma. If the person is a chronic victim of anxiety/panic attacks their doctor may prescribe an emergency medicine such as Clonazepam, Xanax, or something similar. Personally, I’ve been prescribed these and to an extent, they work in serious cases. I believe that through regular good emotional practice, knowing the anxiety triggers and symptoms one suffers, knowing what works to calm the overactive mind as well as meditative and mindful breathing techniques can help reduce if not eliminate the need for prescription medicines.
Bottom line, anxiety is typically experienced by someone who is focused on the negative possible outcomes of something that hasn’t happened yet. Furthermore, if they are able to practice emotional awareness and good emotional IQ as suggested earlier they can use that unrest in their guts and nerves as a reminder to pay attention to their movements, decisions, and actions and avoid the things that are causing them stress.
Having anxiety does not mean we have to live a lesser life or avoid doing things we fear. It does not mean we are subject to a boring or humdrum life of mediocrity. Plenty of folks before you and I have had anxiety and I’m sure that unfortunately, we will not be the last.