Feeling anxious at times is normal
But when it restricts your day to day life, it can feel overwhelming and frightening, to say the least. The physical symptoms of anxiety or a panic attack can be so scary people can believe they are having a heart attack. Understanding what and why it’s happening can be helpful. I’ve listed some of the physical symptoms and the effects it has on your mind below.
But – first I want to explain what’s happening and why. And try and take some of the fear away. Our brain is extremely complex as we know. So, the parts that are related to anxiety is the limbic system, which is a collection of structures involved in processing emotion and memory, including the hippocampus, the amygdala and the hypothalamus. So, it's focused on our survival. I’m going to put this into simple language, as I feel it’s much more helpful.
Imagine you are walking through the woods and out of the corner of your eye you think you see a snake. The part of your brain that stores memories (A bit like a photo album) scans that album and reminds you that snakes are dangerous.
So, your body goes into Flight- Fight- Freeze response. • If you could run like Usain Bolt, chances are you would run like hell away. • If you were someone like Steve Backshall you would stay and check it out and know how to handle it • If you were like many of the animals we share our planet with, you may freeze in the hope that your nature colouring would camouflage you and the snake would glide on past, not noticing you.
Each of those actions is a reaction and isn’t reasoned through, as that part of the brain isn’t intelligent – it just reacts. Microseconds later your Neocortex (in simple terms the more intelligent and reasoning part of the brain) springs into action and you realise it’s not a snake at all, It’s a stick! You feel a sense of relief but it's too late. Already your body has reacted, getting ready to run, fight or freeze. It’s then you get all those unpleasant sensations. Your heart beats faster, you get shortness of breath, you feel sick, andyou may need the toilet urgently. You get jelly legs, pins and needles, and maybe other symptoms.
Because of those sensations, you get even more panicky, trying to fight off these unpleasant symptoms. But that only makes them worse!
Our body is doing what its meant to do, it's just overreacting, just like a faulty alarm
We really do depend on this survival system, otherwise, we would walk off the edge of a cliff or walk into traffic. When we have food poisoning our body will expel the poison, by giving us an attack of diarrhea and vomiting, expelling anything until it feels the poison has been eradicated. It’s pretty miserable which it lasts, but you know why, so you accept it – often reluctantly. This is just another example of our bodies' survival system at work.
So, what if instead of fighting the feelings of anxiety, you acknowledged them, thanking your body for protecting you, and asking it very politely – to do one! I find it works for me and many of my clients. It takes practice, just like anything else. But it really does help. Instead of fighting it and making your symptoms worse, it can calm them down. Give it a try! You have nothing to lose.
Below I have listed some of the symptoms, and also some other techniques you may find helpful. Here are some of the physical symptoms you may experience and there are times when the symptoms are so strong the sufferer believes they are having a heart attack – • a churning feeling in your stomach • feeling light-headed or dizzy • pins and needles • feeling restless or unable to sit still • headaches, backache or other aches and pains • faster breathing • a fast, thumping or irregular heartbeat • sweating or hot flushes • Sleep issues • grinding your teeth, especially at night • nausea (feeling sick) • needing the toilet more or less often • changes in your sex drive • Panic attacks
The effects of anxiety on your mind can include –
• Feeling tense, nervous, or unable to relax • Having a sense of dread, or fearing the worst • Feeling like the world is speeding up or slowing down • Feeling like other people can see you're anxious and are looking at you • Feeling like you can't stop worrying, or that bad things will happen if you stop worrying • Worrying about anxiety itself, for example worrying about when panic attacks might happen • Wanting lots of reassurance from other people or worrying that people are angry or upset with you • Worrying that you're losing touch with reality • Low mood and Depression • Rumination – thinking a lot about bad experiences, or thinking over a situation again and again • A feeling of being disconnected from your mind or body, or like you are a character that you are watching in a film • Worrying a lot about things that might happen in the future
A few tips to help you reduce your anxiety longer term.
Be Kind and Compassionate towards yourself Beating yourself up isn’t going to help and is more likely to make things worse. Take some deep breaths.
When we feel anxious we tend to breathe shallowly, and that starves our brain and body of oxygen. Sometimes, trying to breathe more deeply can make the sufferer even more anxious. So use it when you feel more comfortable doing it. Deep belly breathing helps decrease anxiety by stimulating the body’s relaxation response, lowering our heart rate and blood pressure. It’s a powerful technique that works because we can’t breathe deeply and be anxious at the same time. Inhale deeply for a count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 4. Exhale for a count of 4. Repeat several times.
Go for a walk. It not only creates a diversion, but it also releases muscle tension, and connecting with nature can really relax you. Listening to music at the same time can have a calming effect.
Make use of Coping Techniques I was recently told by one of my clients that they had been told by another therapist they shouldn’t do this. They should sit with their discomfort! I really don’t agree with this. It only makes the anxiety even worse. Use whatever makes you feel more comfortable. Whether it’s self soothing with your faviourite cuddly toy, singing to yourself, using your Sat Nav even on a familiar journey…………. If it eases your anxious feelings then do it.
Meditation and Yoga There is an abundance of classes around. Either ones you can attend or online. There are also lots of resources on YouTube and Apps.
Don’t suffer in silence. Talking to someone speak to friends and family. Don’t bottle things up. Also talk to your doctor, they may prescribe medication. But working through the root of the problem is the best way of healing.
The Love ~ Listn ~ Talk ~ Repeat Podcast with Wendy Capewell
#151 Furkhan Dandia - Pursuing his passion to support men struggling with life issues
Furkhan Dandia is a therapist, author, speaker and coach. After going through adversity and working in the corporate world as an Engineer for many years, Furkhan decided to pivot and pursue a Master's in Psychology. Furkhan is passionate about making a difference in people’s lives and working with them to find their purpose.
Here's the link to listen to the complete episode https://love-listen-talk-repeat.libsyn.com/
If you are struggling with Anxiety or anything else that is affecting your life. Please contact either Furkhan or myself. Both our details are in the podcast show notes.