Anxiety… it’s our body’s natural response to stress. It’s a fear, an apprehension, dread, doom. Anxiety is also a feeling of nervousness. It’s feeling worried, having butterflies in your stomach. It’s an impending sense of restlessness…danger. Its also a normal response to stress. Why we get anxiety is complicated? Im not an expert but I figure it could be the way our unique brain chemistry, genetics and what we learned as children that we haven’t unlearned. Having some anxiety is normal, maybe healthy and necessary for survival. But it got unhealthy for me when it affected my everyday life, routine, work, relationships etc. It built up slowly as stressful events approached.
How did my anxiety feel?
It started as worry, then I had difficulty controlling my worry and then the unnecessary worry about what was going to happen created anxiety. Even when I was safe, I felt unsafe. I had difficulty differentiating fact and feeling. Every feeling needed to be investigated to determine if it’ accurate. I was irritable and I felt inadequate and ashamed “How could I not handle challenging emotions or situations?” It then led to a vicious cycle, a never-ending treadmill of irrational thoughts. A sickening feeling in my stomach, fearful. I kept having a sense of dread and doom, painful butterflies were in my stomach. I felt weak and had a sense of helplessness. I had a strong sense of disconnect, nightmares and procrastination. My mind kept going round and round replaying possibilities and scenarios. It triggered for me a flight-freeze response.
What triggered my anxiety?
The global pandemic, work stress, financial stress, changes to my routine as a result of lockdown, conflict in personal relationships.
Learn to recognize the cycle of anxiety.
“Sit with your feelings”. Whenever I felt like I was in a labryinth of feelings, I would distract myself with Netflix streaming, watching TV instead I tolerated the negative feelings, said hello to anxiety. Usually in the morning, anxiety knocks on the door, I say hello, talk to it like a friend and then just sit with it like you would a long term friend… then I take a shower, go about my day, some days relatively easier than others.
Practice this breathing technique. I love it. It has helped me in times when Im not ready to sit with my feelings. It helps to break the anxiety: Inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds. It’s a fast effective
Treated myself with compassion and kindness
Regular exercise. The moment i feel anxious, if I can, I stand up, take a 10 minute break, go for a walk. Regular exercise releases helpful feel-good hormones
Meditation. Helped me to calm the nerves down.
Avoid alcohol and cigarettes, helped me to stop the obsessive round and round irrational thoughts
Listening to soothing music. Classical, jazz, rain sounds. Youtube gave me a wide array of calming music to download and listen to.
Writing out in a journal…helped me to clear my mind of the thoughts and helped me pinpoint the source of my anxiety, as well as analyAlso going back to journals, showed me progress.
I strived for a healthy perspective of reality by being only responsibly informed i.e. get news from reputable news channels that report responsibly.
I avoided social media posts and videos with trigger words and images.
I did what I could do in my world to take care of myself and my family.
I saw my anxiety as a fire that can be a small matchstick flame or a raging burning bush. I can either pour water or gasoline on it or recognize its presence, and let it burn out. Like any fire, my anxiety eventually burns out, if I just let it sit for a while.