How to Overcome & Manage Anxiety: A Personal Perspective
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WHO AM I?
I am a fully qualified secondary school teacher in the U.K. for 7 years, with a first class honours degree in education. I have worked with children for over 10 years & pride myself on the relationships & understanding of emotions I have for young people & teenagers.
During my own journey in education I faced some huge emotional set backs in losing a parent unexpectedly & found that the teachers I had, made a huge contribution to the person I am today. These experiences & memories have fuelled my passion even more, to give back later on in my own life & now vocation.
Mental health is so prominent in our lives today & 1 in 6 young people currently suffering with anxiety. Females are twice as likely to experience anxiety in their lifetime. Something we need to talk about is de-stigmatising mental health & to begin offering support.
WHAT TYPE PERSON AM I?
I am a bubbly, confident & outgoing person &, until I was about 21, my awareness of anxiety & how it can effect us was almost non existent. Until I fell head over heels in love & realised that a lot of my childhood experiences were now manifesting in my young adult life, from separation anxiety & abandonment.
Because of this I have spent over 5 years reading & researching anxiety, Mindfulness & mindset, which was also reinforced with 2 years of cognitive behavioural therapy & extensive counseling. I have also recently taken part in a Mindfulness course, which is leading on to more training & development.
We take pride in our body & health & I feel passionately that the same should be done for our minds & mental health.
Which leads me to this exciting blog on the subject of anxiety.
WHAT IS ANXIETY?
'A feeling of worry, nervousness or unease about something with an uncertain outcome'
Anxiety can lay dormant for any years, until a trigger finally sets it free. We may even have displayed & felt some of the smaller symptoms of anxiety but just never labeled it as such.
There are so many different forms of anxiety:
To name just a few, but for whatever anxiety you may feel or be coping with, I believe that through my own experience & knowledge any of these techniques, tips & recommendations can help improve your current mental health & enhance your positive thought processes & mindset.
WHAT CAN TRIGGER ANXIETY?
The list really is endless for this one!
It could be a sad movie, a quarrel with a friend, someone cancelling plans, lateness, traffic, an argument with your partner, an interview, flying, driving in the motorway, crowed places or venues - honestly the triggers could be absolutely anything you experience.
The most important element to being able to overcome & manage your anxiety is highlighting & recognising what your triggers are.
I feel the best way to start pinpointing what your triggers may be is to write an emotional journal each evenings, which simply contains where you have been & what you have done in your day, linked with one or two emotions you felts at the time. As the days & weeks pass this journal should enable you to find the trends in your emotions & what may stimulate negative thoughts or feelings.
If the journal idea doesn't float your boat, later in this article I will be giving you some apps & books I found beneficial & this may be the way forward for you in your journey. We are all different & that is OK.
HOW CAN ANXIETY PRESENT ITSELF?
For me one of the most dominant symptoms I experienced was irrational thoughts & feelings, married with catastrophising.
This then lead to some physical symptoms of sweating, dry mouth & the feeling of dehydration & restlessness - whether it be not being able to sleep at night time or not being able to sit still & focus in the daytime.
Some of the minor symptoms I would be faced with was lack of appetite, no desire to socialise or make an effort with people around me, difficulty going to the toilet (apologies!), tiredness & the need to feel wanted or loved.
As I said earlier, we are all different & that is OK. The way your anxiety presents itself may be totally different - the fundamental key to this is to make sure you can be honest with yourself, brutally honest, & identify when these feelings are just you & when they are fuelled by anxiety & worry. That way, you can detach from them, depersonalise the emotions & make them almost tangible in your mind, so that you can take hold of them & gain back control.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO MANAGE OUR ANXIETY?
I have 3 tried & tested techniques with I absolutely depend on and always have. The names I have used are my own references so may not be as technical as you would have hoped, but I felt they kept things concise for me!
Colour association (for those audio/verbal people out there that like discussion or to explain worries and anxiety) Think of a colour that can have 3 phases. For instance mine is - Red, Pink, White. You could have thought of Navy, Sky Blue & White, Black, Grey, White Red, Orange, Yellow...It really doesn't matter as long as the colours are your choice.
These colours then become part of your everyday dialogue & conversation, whenever you need to discuss or mention anxiety.
- The strongest colour would be when anxiety has taken hold of you emotionally & physically.
- The middle colour is when you can identify that the signals are arising & starting to niggle.
- The least dominant colour of when you feel completely at peace with your emotions & thoughts, just you.
These colours will then act as a guide for your loved ones to be able to support, understand & empathise with how you are feeling, without needing a full break down & explanation from you every time. Which can cause even more anxiety & frustration for both parties. This was my absolute go to when I felt I needed to let my husband know my emotions & thoughts & made life so much easier for him to then know how to respond & react accordingly.
Balloon Visualisation (for the more visual people to get their hands on) This is a visualisation tool to help take the anxiety out of ourselves & see it before us. Which can be so helpful at then creating distance & space between those feelings & how we actually want to be feeling.
I would say this technique works best for the 'middle colour & below' from the colour association technique. You just sit, lay or stand still & close your eyes. Imagine an empty deflated balloon in front of you & as you focus on each of those negative feelings, thoughts or physical attributes, add them to the balloon & watch it fill up in front of you. Grow the balloon as big as it needs to get before those symptoms start to leave your body & you feel lighter. Then - the best bit! Let go of the balloon & watch it deflate & whizz off in front of you, letting go of all of those things you want to dispel. It can be empowering as well as uplifting, but it takes times, patience, practice & most of all perseverance to get the best from this tip.
Simple question method (for those strategic and realists characters that may find anxiety hard to grasp and rationalise) For some of us anxiety catches us off guard & we cannot pinpoint or explain why. This is totally natural & something a lot of us do when we become ill or unhappy - ask why or how.
This method can help us really to methodically answer some of those questions.
When you are feeling calm & positive in your mental state create 3 questions that would resonate with you when anxiety starts to creep in. You could even add these to your emotion journal from the beginning of this article.
These questions are there to refocus your energy & mind when anxiety begins to appear. They could be questions you internalise & ask yourself, or your loved ones can ask aloud if you feel this would work best for you.
Some examples could be:
Are these feelings facts?
Can these feelings help change things?
Do you want to feel or think this way?
Can you find another way to think of this?
Who can help fix this concern?
When you then feel the signs of anxiety grow within you, use these questions to take back control of your mind and emotions and reduce the energy being given to these negative traits.
The 5 whys (for any of us needed to try to quantify our anxiety) Only after you ask yourself the 5th and final why, will you reach the deep conclusion & answer you need. The root of the issue.
When anxiety is looming inside & you can feel it knocking, begin the 5 why process.
Why am I thinking this?
Why worry when I can't change it?
Why create a bigger concern?
Why give this energy & attention?
Why is this growing today, this instant?
All examples of why statements that may help untangle the web of worry that lies within you.
BOOKS THAT HAVE HELPED ME
This is my absolute bible of mindset & gaining control! It is the most insightful book about how to control our thoughts & understand where they come from & how they affect our everyday life.
A quick peephole of information from this book which still resonates with me every day.
Your anxiety is a chimp that lives inside you - separate to yourself. Name your chimp. Take charge of your chimp & let it know you are in charge. Don't let your chimp run wild in your mind & take control of you, we don't want our chimps to grow but live happily inside us content with the small slice of our brain we let it live in.
This is me paraphrasing but I adore the way this book makes psychology & psychological references easy to digest & explore for an everyday individual.
This book is new age & has some interactive tasks & activities to remind us of how, when & what makes us happy. What makes us smile in our lives. This book is uplifting & joyous & a great way to bring about happiness into your everyday life.
I have so many other books that I would recommend! Please follow my Instagram or email me for more information on books & research you can do around this topic. Information below.
APPS I HAVE FOUND USEFUL ALONG THE WAY
Pacifica - this app is brilliant for:
Creating a log of your emotions each day & part of your day.
Talking to communities of people without revealing any information about yourself, on Mindfulness, anxiety, work life balance, school life balance, etc.
Logging your nutrition & health habits in each day.
Writing down any negative or challenging thoughts & using their techniques to identify what type of thoughts these are & how to refocus them into positives.
Looking back retrospectively to find trends in your diet, lifestyle, emotions &thought process.
Headspace - gives you great tools to:
Learn how to breath more calmly & relax your mind
Guide you through Meditation & peaceful thinking
Step by step approach to Mindfulness & a healthier happy mind
Allows you to take control of your Mindset & make it as positive as you can
MUSIC TO HELP BRING CALM
Again, we are all different & I fully embrace that. For me these are suggestions that help reduce my focus on specific things & allow my mind to become free & calm through these songs, give them a try and let me know what you think.
Samuel Barber 'Adagio for strings'
Pachelbel 'Canon in D'
Angelis - any of their songs are fantastic
STATEMENTS I REFER TO FOR COMFORT AND POSITIVITY
It is normal to worry about some things
Your anxiety does not define you
Feelings are not facts
Positive grows positive & diminishes negatives
I feel so passionately about making anxiety a more talked about area of our life & developing ourselves into becoming more supportive & understanding individuals, so that when ourselves or our loved ones experience anxiety we can all create a healthier happier mindset to overcome these feelings.
Do you have any questions or comments about overcoming & managing anxiety? Make yourself heard in the comments. You can also reach us via email at info@TheEssentialLife.org. We would also like to invite all of our readers to make their mark on The Essential Life by becoming one of our contributors. If you would like to share your wisdom, your words & your story with The Essential Life community, & you'd like to see your articles featured here on The Essential Life website, please submit your articles here.