The big A
Ah Anxiety, the big A! How many of us suffer from this? I actually believe every single one of us does at some point, just some are better equipped to deal with it and may be blessed with slightly lower doses of it! Anxiety is part of our emotional and physical human response and is a big part of the landscape of human suffering and can be helpful when harnessed. However the harnessing can be the hard part.....
I have suffered without really realising for over 30 years. When I had a full blown anxiety attack at the age of 17 I thought I was going mad and loosing my mind. My panic attacks were really terrifying for me as I had no prior knowledge of anxiety. I never had breathing issues, for me my heart raced as the adrenaline pumped through my veins and from the outside you would never know I was fully freaking out inside. So I hid them from the world and carried on and suffered and suffered in silence. It snuck up on me so fast, I went into a "spin" after a series of overwhelming events and what proceeded was a decade of hanging on for dear life at times. I got by with "self help“ that in hindsight should have been accompanied by some professional help but hey ho...
Im still here and learnt a HUGE amount on the way. I have managed to find and create some techniques that I am really excited to share. If I can help one person who is suffering the way I did, I will be so happy.
The thing that really blew me away and was such an "AHA" moment came many years later. I came across a simple explanation of what anxiety was - yes that's all! When I simply understood what anxiety "is" more than 50% of its power over me was gone. I cant recommend this site enough https://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety-attack-symptoms.shtml#how-to-stop-an-anxiety-attack-and-panic-attacks
Knowledge really is power. Understand the physiology of anxiety, understand how it grips you and how its chemical and hormonal components work, it makes complete sense. In this over stimulated, fast paced world we are running around on the edge of "a fight or flight response" all day (and sometimes night). understand this, watch it, learn it, master thy enemy!
So basically if you are interested read on :)
An overactive sympathetic nervous system leads to anxiety disorder. What does this mean?
We have two states we can "be" in and we cant be in both at the same time (this is key, we come back to that later). The Parasympathetic nervous response and the Sympathetic nervous system. The later is when you are in essentially the ancient "fight of flight response" this was useful when we were living with saber toothed tigers and running for our life and in some ways we need it now too. However with too much stress, bad food, caffeine, worry, stimulation etc our body flips into the "fight or flight mode" too often. Leaving us out of breath, with high blood pressure, feelings of dread and worry and full of two hormones - adrenaline and cortisone and these make us feel super anxious when we are not running from a tiger. Long-term anxiety and panic attacks can cause your brain to release stress hormones on a regular basis. ... When you feel anxious and stressed, your brain floods your nervous system with hormones and chemicals designed to help you respond to a threat. So as you can see this is not the system you want to hang out in on a daily basis :). We want to be in the normal state of equilibrium, where are body and mind can function calmly and normally and the adrenal system is balanced and giving out the right hormones and our heart rate and blood pressure and all bodily functions are in a state of homeostasis (balance).
So I wish someone had explained this to me years ago. Anxiety is a TOTALLY normal physical response to the preception of threat. We need to recognise this when we feel anxious and recognise "ok so my system is off balance and IT WILL come back to balance". So breath, distract and ride this out. In the mean time get practicing the tools that help your body back to balance and give your mind and body a daily relaxing work out! Teach your mind and thus body back to its natural relaxed state - THE PARASYMPATHETIC STATE.
Read the little signs that you are getting "anxious" and start bringing your body back into the parasympathetic response right away. Basically we need to learn to self balance and there are easy and logical ways to do this. Don't hit drugs and alcohol etc, they make it worse and thats another story. If you train your mind and learn how to trigger your own parasympathetic response, you are always one step ahead of the big A.
Daily commitment to a practice is key to recovery (especially at the beginning), you need to be diligent and committed and consistent. Keep triggering that state of relaxation. then you start to slowly flip the scales, you will realise "hmm I haven't felt anxious all day - cool!". You will then realise you have easily fallen asleep, you have had a whole week with no panic incident, then a month and you keep practicing your techniques anyway.
Some people find their balance again through yoga, some through mindfulness, some breathing and sport. What I really recommend is a 20 minute, twice daily guided meditation and breathing technique. This holds you by the hand and gives you a structured and targeted time for relaxation. Once when you wake up and once as you lie in bed is perfect, then by all means hit the yoga class or go running and watch funny movies and follow your bliss. From my experience there is no quick fix to anxiety, no pill, no short cut approaches, you need to put the work in to heal and heal you can. I can assure you of that. In time you can skip days and even weeks as you have built a resilience and literally re-wried your brain. Its awesome.
However life is life and situations, traumas, bad habits all occur and the "big A" can pop up again, but guess what, you know how to handle it, you know your tool kit is always there for you and this thought alone just keeps things in a more rational, calm place. If I can help you with the techniques I used great, otherwise I really recommend the awesome Gabby Bernsein AKA The Spirit Junkie. She has some awesome tips and techniques and walks the walk herself https://gabbybernstein.com
If you are suffering and feeling that terrifying feeling that your thoughts and feelings are taking you down too far and you cant cope, always always reach out for help. Your local medical emergency services are there to help. There is no shame what so ever in reaching out and saying "I cant cope anymore and can't continue this way“ - In fact it is the first step in recovery and the bravest most empowering thing you can do. As soon as you are in a safe place and decide on your care plan with your health professional(s), perhaps some of the ideas I love, can help too. Always discuss anything you are thinking about doing with your doctor first. Never stop your medication if you feel you can without the advise of the doctor. I have seen this go wrong and is never worth it.