Before directly talking about anxiety and how it can have a debilitating effect on someone’s life, it’s important to know the difference between having ‘anxiety’ and a natural response of nervousness and apprehension.
If you have a job interview or an important meeting, you are bound to feel nervous and uptight about the situation, you still have the ‘fears’ of wanting to do well, the apprehension of something going wrong or not wanting to embarrass yourself and do well. This is a natural response to a situation, your body and mind is preparing you for an event that is particularly stressful to you.
However the term ‘anxiety’ is used when these ‘fears’ and ‘phobias’ come into situations where a nervous approach isn’t needed and creates unnecessary unpleasantness that takes over your whole life, preventing you living your life to your true potential.
I started off explaining this because the term anxiety is a commonly used phrase, in modern day society. This is because of numerous reasons, partly because people that are in the media are largely using the term so it has become more widely socially accepted. Other because social media has become a large part of a young persons’ life. Children are naturally influential characters and when anxiety is a focus part of social media it becomes part of society and realising how they may feel also. Not only this, there are the comparative measures a young person may feel of ‘not feeling good enough’ and burden to feel ‘they need to do better’. Numbers of people have increased feeling anxious and having low moods, which wouldn’t have been so high say ten years ago. In some ways, the fact that anxiety is socially accepted is a positive aspect as there isn’t such a high stigma attached to it, however the majority of suffers would add that there isn’t much understanding to what anxiety is and how it can truly affect a person’s life. This can further anxiety as people will feel a higher increase of anxiety when leaving the house, or faced with a person or situation who may perhaps not ‘understand’ how the feel; the fear of having an anxiety or panic attack in front of someone and the ‘embarrassment’ they may feel afterwards. If they have felt anxious in a particular situation before, they may have heightened anxiety the next time round or avoid the situation completely. In a recent survey it stated, “Depression and anxiety are by far the most common reported mental health ailments. Of those who suffer, 77% have depression-related problems, and 74% have anxiety related problems.” (yougov.com, UK July 22-29 2016) This is considerably high.
People need to recognise anxiety on a scale ranging from mild to severe. As with all mental illnesses there are different variations of severity and there different symptoms and experiences a person may feel and a set of individual triggers alongside. Anxiety as a whole cannot be generalised and personally, that’s where I feel the majority of the lack of understanding comes in. People also need to realise that wherever people are placed on the scale, it doesn’t mean it can be brushed under the carpet. What someone feels with anxiety, is a real concern to them and can sometimes be extremely frightening. As a person who used to suffer with severe anxiety, I know how people can label you as being ‘not proactive’ and that ‘I can’t be bothered’ and as a result spent three years housebound. The problem I faced was when I tried to tell people about my anxiety and they replied with how they knew someone with anxiety so they knew how to help mine. I think it is important to note that if you next encounter someone who says they have anxiety, ask them how exactly their anxiety affects them and what you could do to help.
The word ‘anxious’ has negative connotations, so change the word anxious into a positive one. Below I have given 7 steps to help you overcome your anxiety and look at your anxiety with a positive approach.
A – ‘Apple a day’
It is important with anxiety that you keep to a healthy routine and eating. Having a high sugar diet, energy drinks and caffeine will increase your nervousness, its best to avoid this in your diet to allow your body to stay at a naturally calm level.
N – ‘Notice the triggers’
This is both of someone who looks after someone with anxiety and also for a person living whose with it. It is important to notice what initially sets off an anxious day, or anxiety or panic attack. Once you identify where your anxiety is heightened you can begin to work on ways to prevent the initial panic. The problem most people face with anxiety is when they are already feeling anxious it can be easily increased with minor situations throughout the day. It’s important to understand where the anxious feeling started.
X – ‘Exclusion prevents change’
Once someone can identify the trigger it is important to remember to exclude it from your daily life. I understand at first, it will be something you will want to avoid, but excluding it will prevent you from overcoming the anxiety you feel. You know your personal limits, so include your ‘trigger’ moments a little bit at a time, when you feel you can do it and try to slowly overcome it to eventually be able to achieve it without anxiety.
I – ‘Include a trigger: Increase your positivity’
Once you have overcome a trigger or achieved it with less anxiety you felt before, you will instantly feel good about yourself and your positivity will increase. Your outlook will change and you will feel more positive that your anxiety will be overcome, even if it does happen slowly. Remember when helping someone; encouragement and support is key, understand it is a problem to them and support that.
O – ‘Open up to a trusted person’
Talking to someone you trust is a positive step of being able to admit you have anxiety but also they can offer support and advice in your process of overcoming it.
U – ‘Understand there is an end’
Have the knowledge that anxiety can be overcome with the right support and understanding and that will enable you to have faith in your mind. I understand anxiety isn’t a choice but it can be fought – ‘beat anxiety and not let anxiety beat you’.
S – ‘Small steps, big changes’
A little step every day will create a big change in the long run. Don’t be defeated if some days you feel unable to take a step, overcoming anxiety is a process and will take time, a lot of small steps over a period of time will eventually evolve to one big change. Remember to be prepared to take the first step and help someone to take the first step and together anxiety can be helped.
Remember there is plenty of support for anxiety and it is not something you have to live with and whatever your circumstances are with your anxiety, please do not feel you have to suffer alone.