Being anxious keeps me alert, on the ball and maybe even a couple of steps ahead of the game! It means I pay particular attention to detail, other people’s reactions and am rarely late. In many ways it works ! It is a self-reinforcing strategy.
But on the other hand it is uncomfortable, tiring and restrictive. It is the opposite to freedom. When I am anxious it adversely affects my sleep, my digestive system and creates muscle tension.
I had to giggle when I read wikipedia’s definition of anxiety which includes that “anxiety is paranoia of something out there that seems menacing but may not be menacing and may not even be out there.”
But anxiety is not a laughing matter for people who suffer it in their daily lives. And if that is you, you are not alone !! Apparently, anxiety disorders, including General Anxiety Disorder, are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults or 18% of the population. The UN World Health Organization (WHO), reported in 2004 already that anxiety disorders were the most common disorders in 13 countries out of 14 they studied (including U.S., Mexico, Columbia, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Lebanon, Nigeria, Japan, and People’s Republic of China).
When anxious we spin into the future, preparing to cope with possible negative events. What would happen if….? It is basically praying for what you don’t want.
Anxiety is like kicking for goal while looking at the goalkeeper, or crossing a tight rope looking at the ground!!!
Anxiety is not Healthy
The body responds to anxiety in a similar way as if there is a real threat (even though it is just in the mind). The sympathetic nervous system is fired up and the body releases stress hormones. Blood pressure, heart rate and perspiration are increased and blood flows to the major muscle groups, preparing for a ‘fight or flight’ response. The immune, digestive and reproductive systems are inhibited.
It takes the body 24 hours, apparently, to break down these impacts of a stressful situation. Imagine so the impact when your anxiety or stress continues over longer periods of time or even for years!! Is it any wonder then that we have chronic muscle tension, weak immune systems, heart problems, burn-out, difficult digestion, problems conceiving, and so on? When the nervous system gets messed up it takes a long time to recover. More than a holiday or a few weeks off work, it is more like years that are needed to recover, and more importantly, a change in attitude and way of being.
Anxiety, whether a diagnosed disorder or something you feel more or less often, is not healthy and not fun. It holds you back from living your full potential and being truly happy.
The good news though is that it is totally treatable and you can do a whole lot yourself when you take responsibility to manage and overcome anxiety and live the life of your dreams !
Here is the first step!
Step One: Acknowledge your Anxiety
The first step of change and taking responsibility for your life is acknowledgement, and in this case acknowledgement of when you are feeling a sense of anxiety. This seems silly but in fact only recently did I really stop and reflect on what was happening when I was feeling anxious. At these moments, notice and say to yourself, “I am feeling a sense of anxiety” or “I have an anxious state of mind”. Saying it like this is quite different from saying “I am anxious”. Notice the difference as you say it and notice what is happening in your body. At this stage and in the days to come, just work on this acknowledgement.
In a series of posts, I am going to explore anxiety a little more and propose some tools that I am finding helpful to better understand and manage it. We are also practicing these tools and sharing experiences each week in my Restorative Yoga classes in case you live nearby and want to join.
I hope you’ll find this series useful.
Related Posts in the Series: (I’ll keep adding links as I post them)