He feels his heart racing. His breathing is shallow, quickening as he sits in discomfort. He sits on the couch, a lump growing in his throat. A million thoughts are running through his head. He can’t pin one down; it’s like looking through a car window while driving on the highway, life just speeding by. These aren’t new feelings. His worries build up until they burst through like a shaken Coke bottle. Even the little things cause this reaction – the things he can’t control, the things that haven’t happened yet, the things that don’t make sense. He feels a constant pressure. He can’t stop thinking. Can’t get anything done. Can’t relax.
This is anxiety.
Anxiety can be described as intense worry. Some forms of worry and stress are normal, and can even be helpful. But if those worries continue for longer than a few days, or interfere with your daily life, it could be considered a more severe form of anxiety.
There are many physical reactions that a person can experience with anxiety, as well as mental and emotional stress. Some of the symptoms might be:
- Fast heart rate/heart palpitations;
- Shortness of breath;
- Nausea and/or vomiting;
- Shaking or trembling;
- Hot flashes and sweating, or chills;
- Problems falling or staying asleep;
- Inability to concentrate.
Someone struggling with anxiety is put into a flight or fight mode – a physical response your body uses when it thinks there is a threat. These flight or fight responses are intended to keep you safe and in survival mode, but the responses are not always proportionate to the reality that’s taking place. When your body is reacting in this way, you are not as able to have clear, rational thoughts. This may cause you to put greater significance on your fears and concerns than is warranted.
Anxiety can feel debilitating and scary, but it can be managed.
Above all, do not judge yourself for the emotions that you feel. Your emotions are always valid. Approach your feelings, and yourself, with kindness and acceptance.
Many people keep a worry journal to manage anxiety. As thoughts and worries come up throughout your day, write them down in the journal and set it aside. Then dedicate a set amount of time at the same time each day and allow yourself to worry about the things you’ve written down and any other thoughts that may come up. Writing your concerns down helps to release them and gives them less power. When you start to become anxious about a thought, tell yourself that you can’t spend time worrying about it until the time you’ve set aside.
Mindfulness is another tool to use when anxiety creeps up. Anxiety often entails worries about the future, things you can’t control, or things that haven’t yet happened. Being in the moment can help bring you back to the present and ground you.
Use your senses to help get grounded. What can you see? What can you smell? What can you hear? Breathe slowly, deeply, and with intention.
Anxiety can be stressful and scary in the moment, especially when thoughts and feelings are about the future and situations out of your control. With these and other strategies, or with guided help, anxieties can be managed and worries can become more bearable.If you’re struggling with anxiety and those feelings are becoming overwhelming and impacting your ability to function, don’t wait to reach out for help – register for counselling at Calgary Counselling Centre today.