We’re hearing the word more and more in the media and online, but what is it? How does it feel? Do I have it?
Anxiety is defined as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome”
I’m not entirely sure defining a feeling is possible. Nor am I sure we should try to. I can’t tell you how every-one else experiences anxiety, but I can go someway to explaining my experience of it, which may help somebody else become aware of their own, and find comfort in the fact we are all fighting something; nobody is alone in their experience. Ever.
Anxiety has been a part of my life since I remember; I want to say early school years (11+). By nature I’m a worrier, and because of that, I try to control things and ensure that everyone is happy, I feel like that’s my responsibility — to make every-one happy. I absolutely take the concerns of others as my own concerns and would help any-one with anything. A side-effect of that is the aim to always please, and not being always able to please. So anxiety for me, comes and goes. I do not have Anxiety Disorder, nor do I experience any form of depression, but I do experience that feeling where I just feel worried, constantly, about a certain event or outcome. And it can, at points, take over my thoughts.
Growing up, there were alot of health concerns within my family, and so my teenage years were taken up being fearful and worried about life around me. I almost trained myself to ‘be ready’ for any negative outcome of ill health; I was trying to be ready for death. Fortunately, the worst never happened, but those experiences did leave scars. The scars for me, being anxiety.
Anxiety can play out in my life in different ways for me. Some days it will be a forefront runner, a leader of my thoughts, imagine there’s a voice in your head that you are battling with; a voice that takes any situation and speaks to you in whispers of ‘what if’s’
I’ll wake up worrying about specific events in the day. I’ll be running through my day like I have to prepare myself for the worst possible outcome. I’ll be concerned about the future; not aware or interested in my present tasks. I’ll feel like a cloud of concern is over my head, pushing down any feeling of freedom or liberation into a tiny little bag and tying it shut. Tying it tightly shut. I won’t be able to focus on anything that seems irrelevant. I’m in survival mode, but I don’t need to be. My brain is just telling me that I should be, that I need to be ready for flight.
Other days, it’s the opposite. I’ll feel completely in control of my day. I will wake up and think of the positive outcomes of doing tasks. I will want to engage in anything I can, not worried about what may happen. Absolutely present in the moment — feeling calm, expecting nothing.
How does it physically feel?
I’ll have this tight and uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. My body will be working on high energy, shaking slightly and will require me to move around a lot to get rid of the energy. I won’t want to eat much, or be interested in food. I turn to caffeine, which isn’t particularly helpful really because it’s a stimulant in itself. But I do.
How do I manage it?
This is a daily process and completely dependent on how you experience the anxiety in the first place. I know my anxiety is there one day, gone the next. So I manage it daily. I try to be aware in the morning of the thoughts entering my mind. What is going on with me that day — what feelings am I carrying around currently. As I become aware of the thoughts going on in my mind, I can tell a lot about how my day could play out. If I’m waking up stressed, worrying about the day ahead, I know I’ll be feeling anxious for some of the day, and this is a signal to me that I need time out. I try to not put myself in situations that require much energy, or at least try to manage how much energy i give out. Practising self-care is SO important. Learning to put your mental health first is a hard lesson to learn, especially if you’re like me and like to keep going and keep achieving.
If it’s possible to take time out, I’ll try and not plan any events or socialising for a weekend and try to shut my brain off for a day or two and catch up on sleep. I’m a sponge; I pick up on everyone’s emotions and take in feelings of others. Because of this, my energy gets drained quickly and I find I’m exhausted very quickly. It really helps if your partner is supportive and will enable you to take some time out and they can take over anything you needed to do. This can work both ways as it’s not just anxiety that can drain peoples energy, just working can do that. A great relationship will work off balance and this can help you to cope day-to-day.
I would stress that i don’t think i have bad anxiety, and it’s never been a concern of mine enough to go and seek professional help. However, i am highly self-aware and would not disregard the idea, or the intention to get help should my anxiety get worse. There is no shame in having anxiety; every-one has it at some point in their lives. There is no shame to saying to yourself ‘I’ve had enough’ and seeking help. Help can be telling your friend about how you feel. Help can be anything that makes you feel like you’re heard and your feelings are acknowledged. I could talk about anxiety all day (hence the long blog post), please leave a comment or e-mail me if you want to talk about yours. You could also leave a comment below if you’re wanting to discuss it with others.
Anxiety is real. Your feelings are real and they matter.