Understanding what anxiety is and how it affects people
Anxiety is a feeling of discomfort and distress that can be mild or overwhelming. It can range from being mildly nervous to experiencing extreme dread. Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life. For instance, you may feel uneasy and apprehensive when facing a test or medical procedure, or during an important job interview.
It could be as simple as not being able to pick up the times table as fast as other students. During times like these, feeling anxious is a perfectly normal human reaction. Unfortunately, some people struggle to quell and stave off their anxious thoughts.. Anxiety can be a daily struggle for them, and their feelings of distress may become more chronic over time.
Anxiety is the main symptom of several conditions, including:
- Panic disorder
- Phobias, such as agoraphobia and claustrophobia
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)
When should you get help for fear and anxiety? If you feel you have symptoms of any of the above conditions it is recommended to see your GP or mental health professional. In recent years the focus on mental health has been magnified. Although still underfunded, mental health services are now being seen as of paramount importance.
Having a healthy body, means also having a healthy mind. Anxiety is much more common than you think and a lot of people struggle with mental health issues. They range in severity, it could just be negative thoughts about yourself or a certain situation, or it could be a more chronic feeling that is distressing.
Symptoms of social anxiety are now becoming easier to spot as well as it becomes more prevalent due to social media. They include worrying about speaking to others, dreading social events, like work functions or larger family events, weddings etc. Avoiding eye contact and having low self esteem are also key indicators.
There is much more expectation on young people in our society nowadays too, everyone is judged superficially and it feels like you have to keep up appearances all the time. It’s exhausting, and a man made pressure and issue we have pushed onto ourselves.
There is no shame in having these issues, and nowadays there is much less stigma attached to them. They can be addressed and resolved in a number of ways including therapies and medication. But what we are going to talk about is a natural solution that anyone can and should practice involving grounding.
Grounding exercises and techniques to aid anxiety
Ever had a moment where you have felt the world is crumbling around you? Maybe you feel under pressure, or like you’re drowning in thoughts? Perhaps you even feel like you are going to have a full blown panic attack.
Well, these are common feelings of anxiety and it may seem as no one is listening or can understand how you feel but it is perfectly normal. Anxiety has a way of isolating you, cutting you off from the outside world and building in a negative feedback loop that’s hard to break. This is where a few simple techniques can work wonders.
The first is square breathing. Focus on your breath, making sure its as smooth and relaxed as possible. Breathe in for four seconds, hold it, then breathe out for four seconds. Rinse and repeat this process until you feel back to normal.
The next technique is sharing. It may sound a little basic but have you heard the old adage ” a problem shared is a problem halved”? Well the same never rung truer than with anxiety.
It may be slightly out of your comfort zone but you will be amazed at how much in common you have with someone. Having someone listen to your story and resonating with it or providing crucial feedback that allows you to stay in reality and logical thinking is like gold dust.
There is also the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. Name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. The reasoning behind this is distracting your brain and using different parts of it. Thinking of something like an experience is much more vivid and tangible and requires more focus, thus leaving less time for your brain to fill in blanks.
You could also try something called the alphabet game. It’s often used in care homes as well or places with people with diminishing brain function. Pick a subject like boys or girls names and come up with an answer that starts with each letter. None of these are instant fixes and its important to note that not all techniques will work on everyone.
As humans we are all individual and as such we react and engage differently depending on the stimuli, so if one method isn’t working be patient with yourself and try a different idea.
These are a few of the mental techniques that are free and can be invaluable in times of unrest. Of course there are more physical techniques as well but that may be a conversation for a different article.
To briefly touch on a few though you could put your hands in water. Really try to focus on the temperature of the water, and how it feels on your palms and fingertips. Maybe there’s a fond memory you could attach, like swimming in the sea on a warm summers day.
You could take a short stroll, hopefully you have a picturesque park or sprawling woods near you. If not, just immersing yourself in the fresh air is healthy and soothing. Picking up and touching items nearby can also be a wonderful grounding tool.
For example a set of keys or something really tactile, different textures would work wonders. Maybe a lucky coin or a dice, something you can manipulate in your hands and play around with.
Grounding yourself isn’t always simple. To discover the best tactics for each distinct dilemma, you may need to experiment and explore over a period of time.. Grounding techniques can be powerful tools to help you cope with distressing thoughts in the moment.
If you’re having trouble using grounding techniques, a therapist may be able to assist. It’s also important to get assistance from a therapist so you can address the root cause of your distress.
There are many quotes that underline the need to stay positive and maintain the right mental outlook. A couple of my absolute favourites are:
“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results”
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new”
“Keep smiling, because life is a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about”
Wiser people than myself thought these up, but when things seem the most bleak, remember that things aren’t as terrible and irredeemable as they seem. Its always darkest just before the dawn. Fight your way to the light at the end of the tunnel and emerge the other side with a renewed spirit and outlook.