Everyone experiences some level of anxiety, especially when faced with danger or a sudden change in our lives, it can help us prepare and jump into action when needed. Adrenaline is pumped through our body to help us deal with whatever perceived threat is in front of us. However, if this feeling continues and is niggling away and impacting your life on a more regular basis then you might have an anxiety disorder. This can be a very frightening experience and you may not know what is happening or what to do.
What does anxiety feel like?
Everyone is different and therefore will experience anxiety in different ways. An anxiety attack or panic attack can sometimes feel like you are having a heart attack and you might think you are going to die. This is a common feeling that is scary and uncomfortable but the good news is you will not die from an anxiety attack and in most cases will subside after 5 - 30 minutes.
Some of the ways people experience anxiety include:
Pain and needles
Shaking, feeling weak
Shortness of breath
Dissociation - feeling disconnected
Prolonged anxiety may stop you from enjoying things that you once loved and in some cases can prevent you from socialising, relationships may break down or you might have difficulty holding down a job.
Sometimes the feeling of anxiety can come out of nowhere and we can’t understand why we are feeling like this or you might know what is causing your anxiety but you don’t know how to control it.
Some people are born anxious, some are genetically predisposed to feelings of anxiety and others develop anxiety through trauma or life experiences. If you do suffer from anxiety it can be useful to talk about it with a trained professional who can help you explore the reasons for feeling why you do and together you can explore techniques available to help manage the debilitating symptoms and help you to move forward and live a more fulfilling life. Whatever the reason it is useful to have some tools available to cope when that dreaded feeling comes along.
Techniques to manage anxiety
Grounding - this really means what it says, put your feet on the ground and feel the floor beneath you, say out loud what day and month it is, try to bring yourself back to the present.
Breathing - this might sound obvious but during an attack you might start to hyperventilate and getting a breath is difficult. Try to take slow deep breaths, some people find it easier to close their eyes and count in and out, in for 4 seconds, hold for 1 second and out for 4 seconds. Repeat this until your breathing is calmer.
Acknowledge to yourself that you are having a panic attack and it WILL pass.
Consciously relax your muscles, this can help control your body’s response.
Splash water on your face – this isn’t just something that they do in films, it can really help. Splashing water on your face will shock your system and make it think about something else other than what’s causing the anxiety. This will slow your heart rate down and you start to feel calmer. If you don’t have access to water at the time of an attack another useful diversion is an elastic band on your wrist. Snapping the band will also divert attention and slow down your heart rate.
Whatever the reason for your anxiety it can be very debilitating, talk to someone whether it’s a friend, family member or seeking the help of a professional, you do not have to go through it alone.