Picture This

Jim can’t face the flight he’d need to catch in order to visit his beloved sister living in Barcelona.

Rob can’t face filling in the form he needs to get a passport; he might “get it wrong”.

Sophie can’t face going to the Post Office for a Passport Application Form, it might involve conversing with the person behind the counter.

Amy can’t face driving her car; she might forget her way, “or worse, crash the car”.

Joe can’t face leaving the house; he hasn’t felt safe enough to do so for five weeks.

Debbie “can’t face getting out of bed” and has another “duvet day”.

Anxiety is relative; at best it provokes us into taking positive action, at worst it can stop us living. We all suffer from anxiety to a lesser or greater degree. Some people only notice their anxiety occasionally. When it impedes our progress in life it is a problem.

So we know ‘normal’ levels of worries don’t usually get in the way of our daily routine and we’re able to manage unpleasant concerns without any great distress. It is also normal to occasionally experience a number of concerns that we find more worrisome, overwhelming even.

If you find you are suffering from a more disruptive, uncontrollable anxiety level or feel your worries are out of control; limitless, or you are always expecting the worse, you may be experiencing a more pervasive, generalized type of anxiety, known as Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

There are usually complex reasons why people suffer from GAD. Symptoms of anxiety vary significantly in severity from person to person. Symptoms will be physical and psychological; although, this is usually true of people who experience more ‘normal’ levels of anxiety also.

rosePhysical symptoms of anxiety are common place in all of us, you may recognise these or know of others you could add to this list:

  • Headaches/tension
  • Sweaty or clammy hands
  • Feeling sick
  • “tight’ chest
  • Panic attack
  • Restlessness

Relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises and/or taking a mindful approach to your day, can be helpful in reducing anxiety.

Here are some ideas to help take practical steps forwards to manage anxiety levels:

  • Give time to specifically manage any worries for a limited time slot (fifteen minutes may be enough). This can lead to problem resolution and leave you freed up to enjoy your day free from worries knowing you will give time to them appropriately.
  • Get into the habit of noticing anxiety ‘triggers’. Think back to what was going on at the time you became anxious; did someone say something to provoke anxiety in you or perhaps even a smell reminded you of something? For example, one of my daughters hates the odour inside an aeroplane because it reminds her of leaving her friends behind when she moved countries.
  • Many people who are anxious don’t understand why they are; by focusing on the events that trigger us we can explore what it was about that event we found upsetting.
  • Asking yourself “what is the worst that can happen?” and consider if that is really likely to play out … It should help to challenge unrealistic worries and negative thinking.
  • Consider how our life could be affected by our fears being realised and ask yourself does this remind you of anything that happened in the past?
  • What would your parents say about this and would it affect how you see yourself?

I also particularly like one of Paul McKenna’s exercises designed to reduce worry and help you sleep.

Read the exercise through once before trying it:

  1. Remember now one of the things you lay awake and worried about. Bring it to mind, and picture it now. It may be something from the past that still worried you, or something you were worrying about in the future such as not being able to sleep.  You may see it as a few pictures – for example, someone’s face or a room full of people – or you may see it as a sort of mini-video, a film of something happening or people watching you and talking. It doesn’t matter what sort of picture or video it is – just see it in your mind however it looks to you.
  2. Next step out of the image like a special effect in a movie – in other words, imagine floating out of yourself, so that you can see the back of your head as you float further and further away until you can see yourself in the picture.
  3. Now, float the image away from you another 12 feet so you can see the stressful situation as if it is happening to someone else.
  4. Next drain out all the colour from the image until its only in black and white like a very old movie.
  5. Now shrink it down in size until it’s a lot smaller.
  6. Keep watching it and make it as transparent as you can.
  7. Finally, now that the emotional intensity has been reduced, ask yourself if you need to make any decisions about the situation, and if you do, make those decisions using the calmness and sense of distance you have now that you can see the situation like this.

Paul McKenna, I Can Make You Sleep, 2009, Transworld Publishers

I hope you find these tips helpful; in order to bring about change it is important to be open to the possibility of trying something different and giving it a go. Good luck and let me know how you get on.