Anxiety – what is it?
Feeling anxious in certain situations can help us avoid danger, triggering our ‘fight or flight’ response. It is how we’ve evolved to keep ourselves safe. Sometimes though, we can become overly worried about perceived threats – bad things that may or may not happen. When your worries are persistent or out of proportion to the reality of the threat, and get in the way of you living your life, you may have an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety is actually a term for a group of mental health disorders. Each anxiety disorder has its own specific set of symptoms. It is possible to experience more than one type of anxiety at the same time.
You can read more about anxiety, the different types of anxiety disorders, and much more HERE and HERE.
Why do I want to talk about Anxiety?
Before I answer the question above, I’ll pause to say that this post is quite a revealing one about my own issues and vulnerabilities with anxiety. I’ve been writing this post in my head at night lately when I should be sleeping, so I needed to get the words out of my head. I also hope that by sharing my experiences it might contribute in some small way to helping to reduce the stigma around anxiety and mental illness generally.
JUST A FEW STATISTICS: Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. On average, 1 in 4 people – 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men – will experience anxiety. In a 12-month period, over two million Australians experience anxiety. Research suggests that people with certain personality traits are more likely to have anxiety. [Australian Bureau of Statistics (2008). National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing]
Now to answer that question above!
Well the thing is, back in 2012 when I walked away from my corporate life suffering with chronic stress, I was also diagnosed as having an anxiety disorder. To this day, I have pondered the legitimacy of that diagnosis, based on whether the anxiety I felt was in direct relation to the mix of long-term chronic stress and the events I was experiencing at the time, or relative to the onset of perimenopause, a mixture of all, or a stand alone issue. Personally, I think it is a result of the onset of perimenopause and change of hormones and I also believe that I was always the right personality type for anxiety – perfectionist and worrier.
The Menopause Centre Australia has this to say about anxiety:
Women experiencing menopause, pre–menopause or peri–menopause usually suffer from anxiety and other symptoms as a result of the decline of hormones such as Oestrogen which can be related to panic attacks or progesterone which is associated with anxiety. It is likely your declining hormones that are the cause although there can be other reasons; psychological and medical.
You can read more on anxiety by the Menopause Centre Australia HERE.
There’s no doubt I am a worrier, though that wasn’t really the case until I was a mother, and more so as the children reached their teen/young adult years as there was much more to worry about then (going out at night, getting in cars with their friends with freshly acquired driver’s licences, driving themselves, etc), but from 2012 onwards the worrier in me became more extreme and quite frankly, unreasonable.
What’s the difference between WORRY and ANXIETY?
Here’s a short 4 minute, 21 second video by John Cordray that explains.
Examples of what Anxiety can look like for me!
As time has passed by, I’ve fallen into a sense of security, feeling content and like my anxiety problems have all resolved. There have been a few triggers on occasion – like in 2015 when I went to a two-day Problogger conference on the Gold Coast all by myself, and there have been triggers when my kids have had overseas trips or driving great distances. I love that they have these wonderful adventures but I am always very glad when they are safely back at home. I have one overseas now!
Recently, following advice that I’m a Finalist for the 2018 Bupa Blog Awards and will be attending an event in Melbourne (on my own), my anxiety has again been triggered.
Anxiety presents differently for everyone, but this is a little glimpse into what anxiety looks like for me on this occasion
1) Trouble sleeping – anxious thoughts
2) Trouble breathing – panic attacks
3) Anxious thoughts include things like the following:
- despite knowing better, anxiety for me on this occasion comes with feelings of being less than others/not good enough/unworthy/feeling like a fraud
- fear of making a fool of myself in some way
- anxiety over what to wear and being photographed
- anxiety over arriving and walking in to the event alone
- fear of not being liked or accepted; fear of judgement
- and more
Here’s what anxiety can look like for me when one of my ‘kidults’ heads off overseas (for example):
1) Trouble sleeping – anxious thoughts
2) Anxious thoughts include things like the following:
- Catastrophizing – plane crashes, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, getting lost, you name it
3) Panic Attacks only happen if there’s a lengthy period of no contact. As long as I have regular communication and reassurance that they are safe and well, I’m generally ok.
So it seems that I haven’t resolved my anxiety problems after all! It’s just been dormant for a while. Regardless of why or how anxiety has become a part of my life, this HAS become a part of who I am now and has only been silenced (aside from the kidults travels) because I have not stepped out of my comfort zone for quite some time!
How I’ve managed my Anxiety
When my kidults go overseas Flight Aware Flight Tracking is my BFF. Also important is to have means of communication sorted – be it Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. Regular communication is vital to keeping my anxiety at bay.
Here’s some things I’ve been doing to help manage my currently triggered anxiety:
- Understand that it IS ANXIETY and anxiety is most often unreasonable thoughts.
- Get some reasonable thoughts happening. For example, from past experience, I know that once I’m there at the event that everything will be ok! People will talk to me. People will be nice to me. Hopefully people might even like me.
- I’m eating healthy and being sure to regularly move my body (pilates & walking – except for the 3 weeks I was sick!). Doing this is so good for my head, not just my body.
- If anxious through the day I find that keeping busy or occupied helps to distract my mind and getting outdoors for a walk or to water the garden is always helpful.
- If I’m having problems relaxing enough to sleep at night, I find it beneficial to listen to a guided meditation or relaxing music. It depends on how I’m feeling. If feeling anxious, relaxing music can help. If things are a bit worse and I’m feeling panicked, I might need a guided meditation to help me find some calm.
I recently found this meditation which helped me when anxious thoughts turned into a panic attack one night. Now this might seem a bit cringeworthy for a person not experiencing a panic attack but trust me, when you’re in the throws of one it can be quite a different experience. On the one occasion (so far) that I’ve used this meditation, I found Whispering TF’s voice and words very calming and comforting. This meditation goes for around 20 minutes.
Sometimes when I’m anxious, I prefer to listen to relaxing music like this piano music below. This is a 24 hour stream, so perfect to plug in your earbuds at night and go to sleep listening to.
As for the 2018 Bupa Blog Awards event (where winners will be announced). I might have anxiety over it but of course I’m going! I’m very excited to be a part of it! I am determined to not let anxiety reduce my world and prevent me from having new experiences and opportunities. Life is short and I don’t want to miss anything!
Are you a worrier? Do you suffer with anxiety? Share your tips for managing either or both!
Ciao for now,
Linking with Denyse Whelan for #LifeThisWeek
I hope sharing this will help with some of your anxiety symptoms Min! I also experience anxiety and take medication to help me through everyday life. I also have trouble sleeping when anxiety appears, struggle to focus with so many chaotic thoughts in my head, can’t stay still and find my ability to make decisions falls away. It’s so hard to deal with but the first step is to recognise that you’re anxious and find practical ways to manage it (exercise, time out, etc). Congrats on the nomination and all the best for the awards night!
I hope so too Kirsty! I didn’t realise you experienced anxiety too. You explained it very well! Mostly I am fine but when anxiety has been triggered and is being experienced it clouds my brains ability to think straight, make decisions and to relax/sleep etc. I don’t take any medication for it – just rely on the strategies that I’ve found work for me (mostly). Thanks for the congrats and best wishes for the awards event night! 🙂
Hi Min – It’s terrific that you’ve found several ways to manage your anxiety. Congrats again on the Bupa nomination and enjoy the awards night! I wrote this post “be happy, don’t worry” about the various ways I use to bust my worry and thought I’d share it here today https://natalietheexplorer.blogspot.com/2018/02/be-happy-dont-worry.html. #lifethisweek
Thanks Natalie! I had a read of your post and am pleased to say that I do most of the things you’ve listed. Love the title too! 🙂
Thank you, Min. I don’t usually include the link to my post in my comment. I thought it would be ok to share with you, or you can delete my comment. Have a great day! #MLSTL
Thanks Natalie – it’s perfectly fine to share the link with me in your comment. Of course I won’t be deleting. Hope you have a great day too! 🙂
So I didn’t realise this until I had to request medical records for a green card application, but apparently I have anxiety? LOL, I just thought I was a worry wart. And maybe it’s better that my doctor just wrote this in my notes and didn’t mention it to me because I’d probably start worrying about having anxiety as well. 😉
I do a few things to manage it – running and exercise helps a lot, and also pointing out to myself that I may be over reacting about something. #LifeThisWeek
LOL sounds just like me – better I didn’t know or it’s another thing to worry about! Yes – exercise, eating good food, understanding that anxiety is a lot of unreasonable thoughts, all these things help! All the best to you Katherine! 🙂
Thanks for sharing this – I hope your tips and experience will help someone to find ways to manage their anxiety too.
Thank you Vanessa – I hope so too!
Hi Min, I love how you manage your anxiety and also how you have looked at it in a wholistic way as being composed of many things. I too became (what I thought was) a raving lunatic in peri-menopause, and couldn’t understand why. I thought it all happened after menopause, (which I sailed through) not before. Anxiety, depression, feelings of unworthiness, helplessnes, they were all there. and I was trying to be normal, and ‘there’ for everyone, after a big international move. Sometimes I think words like anxiety are bandied around a little flippantly these days though, and maybe society creates bigger problems than necessary – I believe my anxiety is more of an acute worry syndrome (no panic attacks thankfully) which probably nearly everybody, except the most supremely confident, feels on many days of their lives. I’m with you about the Bupa Awards though! When I won an award in 2014 I changed my outfit choice about 6 times, wondered why on earth I had been chosen as a finalist, and thought everyone would just ignore me when I arrived, and panicked about what to say and was I an imposter … and and and! It all worked out well in the end and I just shouldn’t have exerted the energy worrying! Good luck and Have FUN!
Jo – thank you so much. I don’t feel quite as much a raving lunatic just by knowing you’ve experienced similar feelings. Yes I think anxiety can be flippantly put in a little neat box when in fact there are many possible contributing factors and many varying types and degrees of it. I’m still perimenopausal and have been for many, many years and its not been easy. In fact I think i have every possible bad symptom in the text book so why not throw anxiety in there too! lol It gives me hope knowing that once through menopause these feelings settled down for you. They might for me too. It was also a comfort to read about how you felt when you won an award in 2014 and know I’m not alone in my anxious thoughts and worries etc. My plan is to enjoy the night and have fun and I sure am gonna try and stick to that plan! Thanks Jo! xo
Hi, Min – Thank you for sharing these important tips on managing anxiety – including writing about it. The more that we share with each other, the more that we help each other. Good luck at the BUPA Awards!!
Thanks Donna – would you believe I got anxious about sharing that I get anxious?! LOL Crazy … but I want to help get rid of the stigma and to help people understand and also for others that suffer with anxiety to know they are not alone!
Min I can relate to a lot of this – particularly the social anxiety. The first thing I felt when I didn’t get to the finalist stage of the Bupa awards was a huge sense of relief at not having to go to the presentation – flying over alone, attending alone, choosing an outfit, feeling adequate – everything you are feeling I’m sure. I think it’s normal for those of us with a bit of a self-esteem issue, but when it notches up further (as yours does) it must be really difficult to deal with. I’m so glad you’ve found some coping mechanisms and I’m also glad you’re not letting it hold you back (and that you’re not putting it onto your kids either). Wishing you the very best for the awards and you’ll be fabulous xx
MLSTL – and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂
Thanks Leanne. To be honest once I was nominated I posted a thank you to whoever nominated me on my FB page and never gave the awards another thought again. I never in a million years expected to be a finalist. If you look at all the other blogs that are finalists you will understand my anxiety. I mean – wow – some big names there and very popular – so off my brain goes on a tangent in cahoots with my inner critic and shazam … anxiety and the odd panic attack. Yay! It’s not pretty … but I’m managing it! xo
Good on you for tackling this topic. I suspect there’s much of it around that’s not acknowledged. Hope you can embrace the excitement of the award nomination and leave the anxiety behind.
Thanks Christine and yes – it’s true – I know so many people who suffer with anxiety and many people who do but don’t realise it. I recognise it. I know it well. I have every intention of leaving anxiety behind and enjoying myself at the awards dinner for sure!
Such a great post and thank you for being brave and sharing it. We all need to talk about matters like this. I was (and still can be from time to time) anxious almost every day from 2014 until my cancer diagnosis. I had many tools to use and they helped somewhat but it was not until I discovered what I COULD do even with anxiety (exposure therapy) and the weight of anxiety shifted down a notch or three. Funnily enough anxiety “about” cancer is something that I now recognise is ‘normal’ in a post-cancer treatment world. I had brilliant help from my GP . psychologist and husband and continue to follow routines of self-care which help. I too would be anxious about attending the BUPA awards but in saying that, I would be glad to get the chance! Well-done you.
Thanks for linking up for Life This Week. Next week’s optional prompt is What I Have Learned Lately. 15/10/18. Denyse.
Thanks Denyse and yes I know you’re familiar with anxiety. You’ve done so well with understanding what works for you to keep it at bay or at least calm it down. You’ve been particularly inspirational in the way that you’ve tackled everything in the face of your cancer journey. Self care is so important for us all and I’m glad you know that and ensure that you do that for yourself. xo
Thank you for sharing a very personal part of yourself, as well as so many positive ways to cope with anxiety. I am not an over-worrier by nature, but can relate to many things you have experienced. #MLSTL
Thanks Candi! I hope that it helps someone else in some way.
Thank you Min for sharing this deeply personal piece. There was a period in my life where I was wracked with anxiety. It started quite suddenly (relatively speaking) and looking back seems out of proportion to what was happening in my life. Now I wonder if it wasn’t related to the onset of menopause. Since then, I have had several traumatic experiences, which were difficult to navigate, but never pushed me into that chronic anxiety. I’ve definitely developed some coping skills–many of the same ones you’ve outlined here. Good luck with the blog awards! #MLSTL
Thanks so much Christie! My anxiety started quite suddenly too … which is why I personally believe that it ties in with the onset of perimenopause and change in hormone levels etc. I also believe that some people are more prone to it … and being a perfectionist and already a bit of a worrier … I’m one of them! I hope life is more harmonious and calm for you now. xo
I am a worrier (and as you mention in the comment above, I think it is tied to my perfectionism… what if I do it wrong? what if I appear foolish?) … but I’m not sure I suffer true anxiety attacks (for which I am grateful). The best remedy I have found – when the voices of worry in my head won’t subside – is to sit down and journal by hand. Somehow giving those thoughts a place to land helps relieve some of the worries. Thank you so much for sharing!
I think perfectionism is definitely a key personality trait that will be prone to worry and/or anxiety. Yes .. the what if I do it wrong? … what if I appear foolish? thing is very much part of my inner dialogue too. I can’t journal by hand as I find writing hurts my hands, however writing my blog certainly helps! 🙂
Yep-I’m a worrier. I’m just getting started on this blogging adventure and I’m anxious about finding readers, getting my self-hosted website set up, and just stuff going on with my family. Calming music DOES help, as does exercise. Thanks for the reminders. #MLSTL
Congratulations on joining the blogging world! Sorry though that you too are a worrier. After 6 years of blogging I can tell you that the best way to get seen and known of is to join blog link ups – just as you’re doing. It’s a great way also to meet other bloggers and form a bit of a network and maybe even some collaborations. Don’t focus too much on your stats. In fact, I barely ever look at mine anymore. I’m glad calming music helps you – it does me too! 🙂
I have panic attacks and have found that Guided Imagery… a form of meditation… helps me as do breathing exercises. My favorite GI audios are from Belleruth Naperstek, the founder of GI. She’s amazing. Brenda #MLSTL
Thanks so much Brenda for sharing about Belleruth Naperstek and Guided Imagery. I’ll go check her out! 🙂