You will often see a post about anxiety with a classic portrayal of someone grasping their hands to their face, looking distressed (Not indifferent to the picture here).
And whilst this may be a way in which anxiety and the associated overwhelm is expressed. In truth, anxiety can be more subtle to the outsider and is often hidden from others. A seemingly cheerful and engaged friend, family member or colleague may be experiencing deep and unnerving ripples of anxiety under the surface, doing their best to “hold it in” “pull it together” and “show face”.
You could seemingly have anxiety and look like any of these people too!
Your first panic attack may have been met with a though such as “What the bloody hell is this”. Some research suggests that 13.2%** of people in the UK have experienced a panic attack at some point in their life. This is likely to be under-reported as many people simply may not attune the experience to Anxiety in the first instance.
With the right resource’s anxiety can be managed effectively. Learning to understand the core “purpose” and figuring out ways to help process and change the orchestra of emotions and feelings that anxiety and panic attacks create.
That first panic attack or intense anxiety can feel like you have just pulled the cord on an ejector seat and was hurtling somewhere far outside of our own atmosphere, breathless and sweaty!
Anxiety can represent itself in many forms, most commonly you may feel a flutter or increase in your heart rate. A change in temperature becoming increasingly hot or cold and tingly. Your senses may be heightened or could even be subdued, finding your hearing or vision blurry. You may feel shaky or unstable on your feet and possibly dizzy or light-headed. Your stomach may be upset. For others you might be tetchy or agitated in your communication or unable to process other people’s dialogue clearly.
You may genuinely fear death or madness in these situations with a heightened sense of feeling out of control.
Inside of your body, your brain is reacting to a perceived threat and responding with an amygdala hijack, also known as the fight, flight, faint or freeze response. Chemicals like cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenaline are pumping their way around your body. In modern day living, we are no longer running from woolly mammoths or a rival caveman. Instead we might be overwhelmed by piles of paperwork, negative news stories or a perceived conflict. Panicked by choices, fearful of an unknown change in a life circumstance or worried your going to get fired.
It is quite normal to feel this response in moments that challenge or impact you. Like anything, in moderation this might feel manageable, an every day experience of life that leaves little residue.
If you experience anxiety, it may be more frequent, recurrent and possibly is “shouting a little louder” to get noticed. It has somewhere, along the way, decided to give itself a promotion, Anxiety with a capital A! The go-to strategy, the one who gets the job done.
Now, it is causing disruptions and impacting your enjoyment and ease in life. You want it to go away, but are not sure how to do this longer term.
Anxiety is not biased in its selection. Men and women will experience this at some point of their life, old or young, in moderation or a loud tour de force.
It might feel difficult to talk with someone about your experience of anxiety. Just the other day a friend of mine described how a colleague had scrutinised them “what have you got to be anxious about?”. Other responses might include “you just have to push through” or may just be laughed off awkwardly as the person listening feels unable to respond.
In truth anxiety may be a response to something seemingly trivial to others. I have even worked with clients who were anxious about the possibility they might get anxious. With little or nothing to provoke such a situation.
This does not take away from the unsettling experience of having that feeling of anxiety and panic as a reality in your life.
Being heard and validated is a great way to support someone who discloses anxiety. Often a more helpful approach then “trying to fix”.
Your own unique experience of anxiety, worry, over-whelm - what ever you prefer to call it- will be different to others based on your individual circumstances Helping your brain to change it’s mindset can be done in a range of therapeutic ways. Speaking to a doctor about this you may be offered counselling or CBT or even explore a medication route.
In coaching we will look together at the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that you experience when you “do” anxiety. Learning about what makes your brain do what it does and empowering you to change it. Having choice and freedom in response is a great tool to gain when it comes to problem emotions.
Choice and change enables you to manage your “state”. That’s the physiological response your body has to a situation, task, goal or even person, that is currently resulting in anxiety for you.
A small but simple way you can begin to create the curiosity to change your mind Is to consider hype or calm our body. Simply think about speeding up your heart rate and then slowing it down with deep breathing and focus…..All within your own choice and control. How amazing is it that we can do this, without even moving! Imagine what else you could do with more resources at your fingertips.
Shifting your relationship with anxiety helps your brain stay more in it’s logical frontal lobe “setting” and over time the Amygdala learns to “chill it’s beans” and keep calm! This makes way for a whole host of calmer, clearer resources and with time and understanding your experience of anxiety will be different and your options and actions will be more in control.
** mental health foundation