What is anxiety? Where does it come from?
What symptoms can we watch out for? Ciara Lone answers these questions and highlights ways you can find help if you are suffering.
“Whatever you’re feeling, be good to yourself. If you feel lost, be patient with yourself while you find your way” – Lori Deschene
In our current world we are overexposed to a ridiculous amount of stimuli. Our days are filled with assignments, obligations, worries, demands, other people. Our devices are constantly on, bombarding us with notifications, messages, bright, brilliantly coloured advertisements, emails and images.
Many people are oblivious as to whether they have anxiety and what it may look like. Some people may imagine anxiety as a bouncy ball within the mind. It is relentless, it has no direction and it is persistent, it tends to provide no obvious use, yet it continues on flinging itself from one thought to another continuously.
In addition to this, certain thought processes may pop up such as ‘am I liked?’ ‘am I doing my best?’ ‘what if I mess up?’ ‘have I said the wrong thing?’ These self deprecating and extremely judgemental thoughts tend to spiral and gain momentum from each other. This anxiety can manifest physically too. You may pick at points in your body including your hair, your nails or your skin. People also have a tendency to fidget or shake their legs.
Anxiety can prove to be very detrimental as it blocks you off from the present moment and can be very isolating for a person as you may feel trapped within your mind and it feels is as if you are the only person in the world who experiences this.
As human beings we forget that we are highly sensitive beings. We are feeling beings. If our immediate five senses are overloaded with information, anxiety becomes our bodies’ natural response to this. Therefore, it is absolutely crucial that we develop a high level of self awareness and compassion towards ourselves so we can learn to cope and address it.
Certain coping mechanisms include ;
Positive self talk
The quality of our thoughts tends to dictate the quality of our life. Spend a few days observing your anxious thought processes without judgement. Listen to the thoughts that pop up, question them and redirect them. For example, when you feel that you will definitely fail an assignment, and then consequently fail college question this. Ask yourself if this is a true statement or is it a reaction of your mind?
Instead of this, speak to yourself in reassuring terms, as though you were speaking to a friend or child. Say ‘this may happen but it will only be a minor setback, I am able to deal with this. I am supported in this area by my lecturers and tutors. I will be okay.’ This helps to validate your feelings and create new thought patterns. Through repetition of this, the anxious feelings created by anxious thoughts will eventually subside.
Simply being mindful of our thoughts and the more destructive ones lets us control what we think and prevents spiralling. With compassionate speech, we react from a place of love rather than a place of fear and shame.
Create an S.O.S. LIST
Anxiety traps us within our mind, therefore it is very helpful to redirect our energy from inside to outside and ground ourselves back in the present moment. Write down a list of five things to do, and if possible make sure they are active things that require your focus. This could be as simple as cooking or cleaning or participating in your preferred sport. If you are having difficulty thinking of things, think of activities you used to adore when you were a child. I personally love doodling absolutely anything on a sheet of paper because it takes me out of my own head, and the anxious thoughts tend to subside. Cleaning can be very therapeutic, as you introduce order and organisation into your immediate environment. Providing this image can signal to your mind that it is allowed to feel more structured, more at peace.
Try to prevent scrolling through your phone or mindlessly watching Netflix. This can lead to sensory overload and your mind will act on autopilot and wander, naturally perpetuating that cycle of anxiety.
Keep this list on you and refer back to it whenever you feel that your anxiety is beginning to rise once again.
Mental exercises and visualisation
During anxious times, find a place where you can become very still and close your eyes. Imagine each of your worries are swept up in a massive wave. This wave is rising into a crescendo. It is big and blue. Allow this wave to wash over you, feel that sensation of rising and falling and take a deep breath out to let it all go.
Another thing to do is to find three people, pets or material things that bring up an immense amount of gratitude for you. Conjure up images of these people either in your mind or with photos and focus on all the aspects of them that you love. Focus on their laugh, your fondest memories, their facial expressions. By reflecting on these things, you are moving away from a place of fear and realising all the good that is in your life.
The only things in life that you are able to control is yourself; your habits, the people in your life and your daily routines. It is crucial for someone living with anxiety to establish routines and to establish boundaries that you have with yourself and with other people. Firstly, try to wake up and go to sleep around the same time each day. Another non negotiable aspect is your eating habits. No matter how busy or hectic your day is, you must make time to have at least two to three meals per day. These must be eaten and prepared slowly, no rushing and no substituting meals. Life revolves around food, and an anxious mind is quelled by good quality food. It stabilises you and it also gives you something to look forward to.
Now assess your relationships; your mindset is directly affected by the people that surround you. Pay attention to how you feel around certain people, does your anxiety decrease or increase? Do you feel comfortable saying how you feel and do you feel yourself with these people? Make your anxiety something that could be useful for you, use it as your compass to direct you towards the right people for you. Be selfish in this process and don’t be afraid to cut ties (kindly) with anyone who no longer resonates with you. At the end of the day, this is your life and you must make choices that feel fulfilling and protect your mental health.
Overall, never judge yourself for having these feelings, as they are something every single human has or will experience at some point in their life. The important thing is that you treat yourself kindly and with patience. If you are suffering with anxiety or know people suffering with anxiety, the following resources should help:
HELPLINE FREEPHONE 116123(callers from Rep of Ireland)
N IRELAND Helpline : 0845 90 90 90 (callers from Northern I
TEEN- LINE IRELAND
Irish Advocacy Network (Peer advocacy in mental health)
Tel: 01 872 8684
Turn2Me.org (Online one to one or group counselling)
Grow (Mental Health support and Recovery)
Tel: 1890 474 474