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It's Time to Talk about Anxiety

Updated: Feb 6

Today is Time To Talk Day so I thought it would be a good idea to open up a conversation about anxiety.

Anxiety is a common human experience and most of us have some idea of what it feels like to be anxious or nervous.

Remember those exams at school?

Or public speaking?

What about having to have a difficult conversation with someone or doing something that's totally outside of your comfort zone? I bet some of these things caused your stomach to tighten with nerves or perhaps gave you some sleepless nights.


Some anxiety is natural and normal. Back in the stone age when we had to be vigilant so we didn't get eaten by a tiger, anxiety was a lifesaver and to some extent anxiety is still keeping us safe. It warns us that something isn't quite right. It's like an internal alarm system. The thing is though that in our modern lives that alarm system can be a bit hysterical and oversensitive, kicking off when there is actually no need.


If you suffer from chronic anxiety or an anxiety disorder, please know that you are not alone. Living with anxiety on a daily basis is tough. It can be very debilitating and difficult to manage. You might feel unable to leave the house, experience panic attacks and you might feel like you can't trust your body not to go into a tailspin.

The physical symptoms of anxiety can be incredibly uncomfortable and difficult to tolerate. You might feel your heart is racing and that you can't catch your breath.

You might feel like your legs are about to give way or that you might be sick everywhere. You might feel like you're dying.


Anxiety can make you feel like you're not in control of your own body. And you might also get stuck in an anxiety cycle where you get anxious about feeling anxious which in turn causes you to feel more anxious. You might stop doing things because you can't be sure that you won't have a panic attack.


The other thing anxiety does is knock your confidence. It has a massive impact on your self esteem and sense of self worth. We don't always know why we feel anxious, especially if you live with chronic anxiety or an anxiety disorder. This can be frustrating because if you knew why, you could do something about it, right?


I'm afraid anxiety isn't that black and white. Everyone's anxiety is different and presents in different ways. For some people it might be that they have a lot of negative thoughts that then triggers physical symptoms and for others anxiety is more physical.

I wonder though if one of the consequences of living with anxiety is a fear of not being able to cope? After all anxiety makes you feel out of control, doesn't it?


Let's look at the most common fears people have:

Fear of failure- could it be that fear of failure is actually about fear of not being able to cope if you fail? Is it a fear of not being able to cope with the pain or embarrassment or shame that failure evokes in you?

Fear of rejection- similarly, could it be a fear of not being able to cope with the pain of rejection? The feelings of hurt, not being good enough, humiliation?

Fear of confrontation- are you perhaps afraid that you can't cope with conflict or someone being confrontational towards you? Are you scared of someone else's anger? That maybe you can't hold your own in an argument or find the strength to walk away?

Fear of missing out- in our results driven, social media obsessed world FOMO is a common experience but I wonder whether there might also be an element of worrying that you might not be able to cope with missing out on things everyone else is doing or finds important? What does it say about you if you miss out? Would you be able to cope with the feelings of regret you might have?


The other fear as I mentioned above is about your anxiety itself. If you are stuck in an anxiety cycle you might also be worried about not being able to cope with your anxiety and that is totally understandable, after all anxiety is difficult to manage.

This is where your self esteem and confidence come in because what usually happens is that instead of being kind and compassionate with ourselves when we do feel anxious or experience panic, we tend to be self critical, beating ourselves up and feeling like we are somehow inferior. How often have you thought “why can't I just be normal? Why can everybody else cope and I can't?"

Ditto, I've been there too, many times.


Building your self esteem and improving your sense of self worth might help you though to manage your anxiety. I'm not saying that it is a miracle cure and that you never feel anxious again because that is unlikely. What I am saying is that if we can learn to treat ourselves with kindness and compassion, if we can build our self esteem and feel more confident in our ability to cope even when things are tough, that this might lessen the intensity of your anxiety.

This also means being kind to ourselves if our anxiety takes over and we experience panic attacks. It doesn't mean you have failed. It doesn't mean you're a bad person. It just means that you are an anxious person.

And let's face it there's a lot of things to feel anxious about.


Another thing to consider might be to be aware of what your triggers are. Now I know that it often feels there is no obvious reason and that's okay. But it might be something that isn't immediately obvious, for example if you feel panicky about leaving the house, might it be that something bad happened to you before when you left the safety of home? Could it be because you read a news story two weeks ago about someone being attacked in broad daylight? Are you worried that you might have a panic attack in public and that this might leave you feeling ashamed and humiliated (which brings us back to a fear of rejection)?


One example from my own experience is that I struggled to go into a supermarket. Just the thought of it would make me feel anxious. Now supermarkets can be a trigger, often because they can be busy, harshly lit places that can feel uncomfortable. I had previously been to a supermarket and halfway round the shop, I could feel a panic attack coming on and all I wanted to do was leave the shop. It was extremely uncomfortable and distressing and the thought I can't cope in a supermarket lodged itself firmly in my brain. So I avoided supermarkets for weeks, thinking I can't cope.

And we often do that don't we? Avoid the thing that makes us feel anxious as a way to manage? But by doing that we create barriers and cages for ourselves. Now again, the important thing is to be gentle with yourself. It's okay to have triggers and it's okay to feel anxious.


But anxiety doesn't have to rule your life and it certainly shouldn't hold you back from living the life you envision for yourself.

If you feel that it does, then there are things you can do. There is plenty of help out there, including therapy to help you explore and manage your anxiety. You might want to start with talking to a family member or friend whom you trust.

If you feel like you could benefit from improving your self esteem and sense of self worth, therapy might also be a good starting point because it provides you with a safe and non judgmental space and helps you to figure out how to deal with and acknowledge your feelings in a more positive and healthy way.

You might also want to check out last week's blog article on self esteem which includes some handy tips and advice on how to start building self esteem and improving confidence.


Remember you are a worthwhile, unique human being just the way you are, anxiety and all.



feather

For more information on Time to Talk Day, check out https://timetotalkday.co.uk/



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