What is Anxiety?

Some of us will know what an attack of anxiety can feel like. Maybe a pounding heart, stomach tension or a dry mouth can all be signs of anxiety. You may begin to worry unnecessarily about things and experience an overactive mind.

Fortunately, there are many anxiety treatments and self-help strategies that can help you reduce your symptoms and take control of your life again.

Understanding anxiety

It’s common to worry and feel tense when under pressure or facing a stressful situation. Anxiety is the body’s natural response to danger, an automatic alarm that goes off when you feel threatened or things start to build up.

Although it may be unpleasant, anxiety isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, anxiety can help you stay alert and focused, spur you to action, and motivate you to solve problems.

But when anxiety is constant, overwhelming and interferes with your daily life, that’s when you’ve crossed the line from normal anxiety into the territory of anxiety disorders.

Do your symptoms indicate an anxiety disorder?

If you identify with several of the following signs and symptoms and they just won’t go away, you may be suffering from anxiety.

Are you constantly tense, worried, or on edge?

Does your anxiety interfere with your work or family responsibilities?

Are you plagued by fears that you know are irrational, but can’t shake off?

Do you avoid situations or activities because they cause you anxiety?

Do you experience sudden, unexpected attacks of heart-pounding panic?

Do you feel danger and catastrophe are around every corner?

Signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders

Because anxiety disorders are a group of related conditions rather than a single disorder, they can look very different from person to person. For example, someone may suffer from intense anxiety attacks that strike without warning, while another person gets panicky at the thought of mingling at a party. Despite their different forms, all anxiety disorders share one major symptom, which is persistent or severe fear or worry in situations where most people wouldn’t feel threatened.

Emotional symptoms of anxiety

In addition to the primary symptoms of irrational and excessive fear and worry, other common emotional symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Feelings of apprehension or dread
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling tense and jumpy
  • Anticipating the worst
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Watching for signs of danger
  • Feeling like your mind’s gone blank

Physical symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety is more than just a feeling. As a product of the body’s fight-or-flight response, anxiety involves a wide range of physical symptoms. Because of the numerous physical symptoms, anxiety sufferers often mistake their disorder for a medical illness. Common physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Pounding heart
  • Sweating
  • Stomach upset or dizziness
  • Frequent urination or diarrhoea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tremors and twitches
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia

Anxiety attacks and their symptoms

Anxiety attacks, also known as panic attacks, ­are episodes of intense panic or fear and usually occur suddenly and without warning. Sometimes there’s an obvious trigger, but this might not appear so evident at the time. Anxiety attacks usually peak within ten minutes, and they rarely last more than thirty minutes.

But during that short time, the terror can be so severe that you feel as if you’re about to totally lose control. After an anxiety attack is over, you may be worried about having another one, particularly in a public place where help isn’t available or you can’t easily escape. It’s this state of worrying that can become unhelpful as you try to put things into perspective.

Symptoms of anxiety attacks include:

 

·       Feeling of losing control

·       Heart palpitations or chest pains

·       Feeling like you’re passing out

·       Trouble breathing

·       Surge of panic

·       Feeling detached or unreal

·       Nausea or stomach cramps

·       Trembling or shaking

·       Hot flushes or chills

·       Hyperventilation

 

Not everyone who worries a lot has an anxiety disorder. You may be anxious because of an overly demanding schedule, lack of exercise or sleep, pressure at home or work, or even from too much coffee.

The bottom line is that if your lifestyle is unhealthy and stressful, you’re more likely to feel anxious, whether or not you have an anxiety disorder. So, if you feel like you worry too much, take some time to evaluate how well you’re caring for yourself.

 

Do you make time each day for relaxation and fun?

Are you getting the emotional support you need?

Are you taking care of your body?

Are you overloaded with responsibilities?

Do you ask for help when you need it?

 

If your stress levels are running high, think about how you can bring your life back into balance. If you’re feeling isolated or unsupported, find someone you trust to confide in. Just talking about your worries can make them seem less frightening.

 

Exercises & practical solutions

Write down your worries

Keep a pen and notebook with you at all times and when you experience anxiety, write down your worries. Writing down is harder work than simply thinking them, so your negative thoughts are likely to disappear sooner than you anticipated.

Create an anxiety “worry period”

Choose one or two 10 minute “worry periods” each day, time you can devote to anxiety. During this time, focus only on negative, anxious thoughts without trying to correct them. Make the rest of the day free of anxiety. If anxious thoughts come into your head during the day, write them down and postpone them to your next designated worry period.

Accept uncertainty

Unfortunately, worrying about all the things that could go wrong doesn’t make life any more predictable, it only keeps you from enjoying the good things happening in the present. Learn to accept uncertainty and not require immediate solutions to life’s problems.

Practice relaxation techniques

When practiced regularly, relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing can reduce anxiety symptoms and increase feelings of relaxation and emotional well-being.

Adopt healthy eating habits

Start the day right with breakfast and continue with frequent small meals throughout the day. Going too long without eating leads to low blood sugar, which can make you feel more anxious. Reduce alcohol and nicotine as they lead to more anxiety and stress.

Exercise regularly

Exercise is a natural stress buster and anxiety reliever. To achieve the maximum benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days, particularly cardio vascular.

Get enough sleep

A lack of sleep can exacerbate anxious thoughts and feelings, so try to get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep a night.

Using NLP Techniques for Anxiety

In terms of managing anxiety, there are many tools that can help reduce the symptoms as described above. NLP techniques (Neuro Linguistic Programming) can help you with managing anxiety so that you can live your life in a more productive way.

There are some very useful NLP tools you can use to better manage your anxiety including Reframing, Altering Submodalities and using Anchors.

Reframing

Reframing how you view stress and anxiety can help you with managing these problems much more effectively. For example, anxiety doesn’t always have to be a negative occurrence and can occur when you are anticipating something like a pleasurable event.

If you can learn to reframe or harness the power of stress and anxiety, you can use it to as a stepping-stone in your life.  The oldest part of your brain is always working to protect you, but a natural tendency to be on the lookout for fear may just be holding you back.

As human beings, we are hard-wired for “fear”. It can help to keep us safe, sometimes taking the risk out of situations and preparing us for certain eventualities. As a result, our adrenaline kicks in so that we can either take the fight or flight option, just like our ancestors did.

So how can you reframe anxiety or look at it a little differently? You can start by looking at stress and anxiety as a sign that something needs to be addressed or changed in your life. Reframing is a potent technique for helping you change your behaviour. When you reframe, you must expect that there is a positive outcome that can be accomplished by all of your behaviours.

When you do a reframe, you are negotiating with that unconscious part of your brain and determining what that secondary gain is. In reality, your anxiety might really be trying to tell you something, the key is figuring out just what that is. If you try and look at that positive intent, it can change how you view it.

If you can reframe or view your anxiety from a different perspective, you can change how you react to it. Try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes – how would they deal with the issue you are facing? By stepping away mentally and looking in on your world rather than out from it, you may see a different angle to solving your predicament.

Altering Submodalities

NLP Submodalities allow you to change the impact of specific memories. This works in two ways:

You can learn to make good memories better, stronger and clearer.

You can learn to make bad memories weaker.

This is a fantastic tool, especially for those with anxiety. Despite the complex name, it’s a relatively simple concept. NLP submodalities simply refer to the individual components of a specific memory or things like how big it is, how bright the colours are, how loud the sounds are or even how far away the image is from you.

Using submodalities, you can make good memories better, bigger, brighter and more powerful so that every time you think of them you feel better. You can also shrink down bad memories and push them away, instantly making them weaker, making yourself feel better in the process.

NLP Submodalities are one of the easiest and most powerful NLP techniques you can play with. Try using them as part of your visualisation techniques and also in Anchoring.

Using Anchors

Using relaxation anchors is another great NLP technique for managing anxiety. Anchors are simple to use and all that is required is that you close your eyes and think back to something in your life that is calm and relaxing. You can do this by taking a few deep breaths, focusing on a positive memory that you have selected.

In this example, you may imagine yourself walking along a beach, enjoying the feel of the sand between your toes and the sun on your back. Try and see if you can sense the feel of the waves or the smell of the sea air as well.

Stay in that relaxed state as long as you want and when you feel like you have reached a state of relaxation, create an anchor by touching your thumb and index finger together for example.

This process creates the anchor, cementing the thought in your mind. To stop the anchor, simply release your thumb and index finger. The next time you want to bring back that good memory, follow the same process again to anchor the thought. Anchoring may take a while to get used to but it really does work!