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.
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