Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling
through the mind.
If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other
thoughts are drained.
Arthur Somers Roche
Have you ever found yourself in a situation that made you break out in a sweat, felt your heartbeat racing, and suddenly notice that you were short of breath? As you have likely figured out by now, especially if it has happened to you more than once, you probably weren’t really having a heart attack, but an anxiety attack. If you suffer with anxiety issues, learning to manage it is the first step to trying to live with it and then overcoming it. Anxiety is usually characterized by extreme reactions to fearful situations. When someone follows you into a dark alley, those anxious feelings of a racing heartbeat and sweaty palms gives way to heightened sense of awareness and a rush of adrenalin that may just save your life. This is called the “fight or flight” syndrome.
In the case of frequent anxiety issues, the fearful feelings are related to the dread of a particular situation and not necessarily to the situation itself. A situation like getting caught in traffic can bring on anxiety attack over what might happen if you get to work late. Beginning a new job can sometimes bring on anxiety attacks. You don’t know anyone and the overwhelming fear of the unknown can send you into panic mode.
Everyone experiences panic or anxiety in small ways. Like the “fight or flight” example above, it can save your life. In new situations, you get a little panicky but when the outcome you fear fails to materialize, the anxiety should stop. For someone with chronic anxiety, this is not the case. It doesn’t stop. Every situation that brings anxiety is not life-threatening. Often it is an extremely stressful situation that brings on the anxiety as a way of coping with it. But, unchecked anxiety of this type can eventually lead to depression.
If you suffer from anxiety attacks on occasion or a more frequent anxiety disorder, there are some steps that you can take to help keep your anxiety under control.
1. Seek professional help. This is always a solid first step. Self-diagnosis of any type of physical or mental condition is often unwise and can be very dangerous. A professional psychologist can help you understand your anxiety and its triggers. They can also provide counseling, teach you useful techniques, and if necessary prescribe medications for the short-term.
2. Get a good night’s rest. During the sleep cycle, your body works to repair itself. You should feel more rested after several hours of restorative sleep. Most people require about eight hours a night, but this can vary an hour or two either way.
3. Take care of your body. Get some exercise on a consistent basis. Exercise helps you to use oxygen more efficiently. It helps to get more oxygen to the brain. It also increases your ability to focus which can help you see solutions to problems rather than simply worrying about them.
4. Meditation. Meditation is more than chanting mantras and naval-gazing. Yoga is an exercise that involves quieting your mind and controlling your breathing. Using simple mediation like taking 5 minutes to clear your mind everyday can work wonders in your fight against anxiety.
5. Manage the worry or it will manage you. When you feel your pulse start to speed up, begin counting backward from ten. As you count, focus on the reality of the situation. What has actually happened? Resist any urge to read something more into the situation. Don’t let the situation escalate inside your head.
6. Avoid using alcohol as a “cure.” You may think that your evening glass of wine is relaxing your tension but alcohol is a depressant. In anxious situations you could begin to rely too heavily on it and then wind up with another problem in the process.
7. Chill out! Stress can rob you of your energy. On a regular basis, do something you like such as gardening, painting, dancing, singing, reading or listening to music.
Anxiety can creep into your life at any time. It is absolutely normal. When the anxiety becomes a frequent issue you may find yourself at risk for more serious conditions. If you feel your anxiety is starting to take over your life or increasingly causing you problems, seek professional help immediately. There is no need to suffer this terrible condition in silence.