Tips on how to deal with anxiety Written by Brendan Mooney Psychologist
Anxiety is a very common experience for many today. Anxiety can feel very uncomfortable, and typically includes symptoms such as:
‘Racy mind’ or ‘difficulty switching the mind off’
Avoidance of people or situations
Shortness of breath
Whilst the above are common symptoms of anxiety, why do people experience it?
We are all deeply sensitive and naturally feeling lots of things within ourselves and around us all the time.
We go to the shops during the festive season and realise there are many people walking around stressed and restless as they attempt to buy whatever gifts they are seeking.
Our friend is talking to us about a topic but it seems they are holding back really telling you what they feel is going on.
We go to a local bar and for some reason we feel unsafe, though there appears nothing obvious that accounts for this.
There is much intensity in the world today, which means we are exposed to a lot of unresolved emotional issues and various tensions going on around us. We see this in people’s relationships, between work colleagues, whilst sitting on a bus, and this is on top of anything we may have emotionally unresolved within ourselves personally.
If a person does not feel equipped to be able to deal with what they are feeling, anxiety can be experienced
For some anxiety can appear to be related to a specific situation (e.g. socialising in public) whereas for others it may appear more generalised and chronic in their life. Some people may have experienced a specific past incident that initially triggered significant anxiety (e.g. a traumatic event) although for others they may experience a gradual increase in their anxiety symptoms without any apparent trigger. Whatever the reason, anxiety is uncomfortable and can even be debilitating depending on the severity of the symptoms experienced.
A way to consider anxiety is that it is a secondary condition to an otherwise primary condition. For example, if a woman has low self-worth (primary condition), she may experience anxiety when publically rejected by her work colleagues (secondary condition). Note this is just an example, and is not necessarily the experience for all with low self-worth. In this example the key could be for this woman to develop a deeper relationship with her sense of self-worth rather than just attempting to reduce her anxiety symptoms. Without addressing her primary issue/condition it can otherwise become a mere management of a secondary issue, in this case anxiety. Whilst we can learn to successfully manage the anxiety symptoms the underlying issue is left unaddressed and will continue to negatively impact the person’s quality of life.
Hence developing more awareness about ourselves and life is key in addressing anxiety.
Although how often do we underestimate just how much we are feeling within ourselves and around us and instead ignore, dismiss or deny what it is we are becoming aware of? For example:
We may become aware of what food supports our body however we instead keep choosing to eat other foods that result in us feeling heavy, tired or bloated.
We may begin to realise that a person is not telling us the truth but we quickly dismiss it because they appear to be ‘a nice person’.
Whilst we are all innately super sensitive, we can choose to dull or numb our sensitivity - even to the point where we can say ‘I am not sensitive’. However we cannot change the fact that we are all deeply sensitive and that it is our nature to be so, no matter how hard we may try to deny this. The key therefore is to stop the inner fighting of this fact and begin to develop a very conscious relationship with our sensitivity and how to use it. When we do this our awareness and understanding of ourselves and life deepens, ultimately allowing us to feel empowered and at ease with what we are becoming aware of.
Supportive Tips to Deal with Anxiety
Walk with presence Go for a walk and focus on your body – the way you are moving and your feet as they bounce with each step. Bring quality by moving your body gently, this will support you to slow down mental activity and overwhelm.
Develop a ‘wind down’ routine or rhythm The hours between 9-10pm and 1am are the most rejuvenative hours of sleep but often we can’t just go to bed, switch off and go to sleep at this time. Consider ‘winding down’ 2-3 hours before you go to bed by avoiding activities that make you feel ‘wired’ or stimulate the nervous system e.g suspense or dramatic television shows, having an emotional or heightened conversation with someone, drinking caffeine too late.. This will support you to have a deeply restful sleep.
Exercise Make gentle exercise a part of life. Start with regular walking and look at light weights and stretching to build a stronger relationship with taking care of your body.
Food and diet Foods can affect how we feel about ourselves. A heavy meal can leave us feeling heavy and sluggish. Sugary food can leave us feeling ‘high’ followed by a ‘sugar crash’. Eat foods that support your body and this will also support your state of mind.
Communication and expression When if comes to dealing with anxiousness, communication and expression is much more important than we might think. Nominating and identifying the dynamics that are going on around you, empower you to understand why you are feeling sensitive, and support you to not react. Sometimes you will need to verbalise something that you feel, sometimes it is enough to simply observe it. In either case you will be developing a greater sense of your own awareness and this will support you to feel more equipped to deal with life’s daily challenges.
More will be written in an upcoming series of articles on this topic. If you would like to read more be sure to subscribe to receive email updates.
BIOGRAPHY Psychologist Brendan Mooney works with adults, adolescents and children. With a genuine interest in people's well-being, Brendan brings a warmth, practicality and an equality that supports clients to truly address underlying issues and blockages that are preventing them from moving forward.