Awareness about anxiety has been on the increase in recent years. Whilst some will have an indepth understanding of anxiety because it is their daily existence, many are still unaware that what are often considered our little quirks and foibles are actually anxiety, and our brain and body's attempts to try and keep us safe.
According to the Blurt Foundation, there are 11 Symptoms Of Anxiety That Are More Common Than You Think. They consider those 11 symptoms to be:
Aches and pains
Cold, numb or tingly hands and feet
Inability to remain still
Lack of concentration
Sweating and hit flushes
There's no need to repeat their excellent article about it (you can read it here), instead I'd like to focus on ways to address anxiety and provide some helpful tips and solutions.
To be clear with what we're dealing with, the NHS defines anxiety as:
a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.
There are multiple types of anxiety. Some are situational, such as siting a driving test or meeting someone for the first time. This form of anxiety is short lived and passes when the event is over.
Other forms of anxiety show up on a daily basis. These can be fears around your's or someone else's health, money worries, fears around job security or worries about leaving the house. These forms of anxiety ally to a bigger sense of fear around our safety in life in general.
When anxiety shows up on a daily basis and isn't associated with another mental health condition, it is known as Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Whilst the NHS estimates the 5% of the UK population to experience this form of anxiety, I believe this to be a dramatic underestimate as many do not realise they are experiencing the symptoms and therefore don't ask for help. Add to that the current pandemic, and I would put the current figures at more like 50%, not 5%, with anxiety forming the basis of many other mental and physical health issues.
Addressing the cause
For short term anxiety, we can rephrase it and therefore experience it differently. If we take away the label of anxiety or nervousness and we just sit with the energy as it is without judgement, we often can experience it as a sense of alterness, excitement and a feeling of being pumped! I remember discovering this when sitting my GCSE maths exam. I found myself at the front of the hall grinning from ear to ear. I definitely wasn't "happy", I was nervous, pumped and physically and mentally ready for the challenge! (It must have worked, because I got an A!) This is situational anxiety and I recommend you expand your vessel to allow it in to facilitate your performance and embrace the experience.
With General Anxiety Disorder, the approach needs to be a little different.
First off, I'm not a fan of the word "disorder" because it implies there's something wrong with the person. GAD is a survival response, born out of perceiving an experience to be life threatening. These can, but do not have to be major events. A loss of attention from a parent in infancy not dealt with at the time, can to a child be a life threatening event (children are dependent on their caregivers for survival). Other examples of what might be perceived as life threatening events are:
Disturbed or insufficient sleep
No permanent home
A health issue
Neglect (for any reason)
Overly harsh parenting or schooling
Lack of physical connection
Communication issues (including sight, deafness and speach issues)
Trauma experienced when in the womb
Difficulties during birth
Loss of someone close to you.
Any event that happens, particularly when you were young, that threatens your sense of survival that has not yet been resolved can leave you with the instincts to remain hypervigilant, aka anxious.
50% not 5% (or maybe even 100%)
So you can see why I now believe anxiety in the current UK population to be more like 50% than 5% because a) I know of very few people that have zero unresolved life threatening events in their psyche and b) we're currently living through a pandemic and even if we feel safe and have no anxiety, our community does, and our communities affect us.
So in reality, I would say 100% of people are experiencing some kind of direct or indirect anxiety right now, so it's worthy of our attention.
So what can we do?
So if the cause of our anxiety is an unresolved, or a string of unresolved life threatening events, our first step is to be compassionate. Seeing ourselves as someone that is trying to survive as best they know how takes the blame and judgement out of what is already a difficult situation. Anxiety is not weakness, it is an understandable and often autonomic response to a difficult experience.
The next thing to be aware of is to know you can heal. To heal is to make whole. No matter when your trigger events happened, because life is only ever lived in the now, with the right tools and resources, we can bring our difficult events to a wholesome conclusion and provide ourselves with the love, connection, encouragement and support that we didn't receive at the time.
This is because it isn't what happened to you that is the problem, it's what you thought and how you felt about what happened that creates your current anxiety issues. Addressing your thoughts and feelings about the event, and seeing it in a bigger context, allows us to resolve and release the stuckness, meaning the anxious behaviour no longer needs to protect you and show up.
It sounds very easy on paper and it can be. It can also be a lifetime's work, as we learn from our life experiences and expand our knowledge and capacity.
My favourite ways to let go of thoughts, feel feelings and see my trigger events in a bigger context is to:
Live in awareness
Practise self compassion
Have a daily meditation practice
Have a daily Reiki self-healing practice
Learn about the mind, body and healing
Spend time in nature
Listen to music, particularly healing music
Building and nurturing healthy relationships
Working with a coach or therapist
Practising boundaries, mental hygiene, good sleeping habits and as healthy a diet as I can
Traveling and seeing other parts of the world and cultures.
Whilst I appreciate some of that list above can be very hard when we have severe anxiety, just starting with one, and making progress with that is enough.
Ideally, for us to heal the driver(s) behind our anxious behaviours, we require the love and support of another, preferably multiple people. This can be friends, family or pets if the anxiety is mild or they are skilled. If however, if the anxiety is chronic and stopping you from getting on with the day, it is likely to need a skilled expert that is trained dealing with the causes and ramifications of anxiety.
Finding the right person to work with can be challenging and a topic for another blog. However, it is likely to be one of the biggest decisions you make, so it's worth putting some effort in and finding the best person you can.
As a healer and coach with 11 years helping people find, feel and resolve the causes of anxiety, I'd be more than happy to have a chat to see if I and my multidisciplinary approach is right for you. You can get in touch to ask questions or schedule a quick phone chat via the contact page.
The biggest take-home about anxiety I would like to leave you with is this:
Anxiety is a doorway to a greater realm of understanding and possibility.
Life isn't about getting rid of anxiety, but listening to it and letting it guide you back to wholeness. ❤️