Coping with anxiety
Updated: Jan 19
Most of us suffer with anxiety at some stage in our lives. In fact, it’s natural to feel anxious when we’re in a stressful, dangerous or challenging situation and an important part of our emotional makeup.
However, anxiety levels can get out of control. Persistent and excessive anxiety can interfere with your life, cause you distress and be very difficult to manage. Anxiety manifests itself in many different ways. Perhaps you now dread going out, suffer with panic attacks, worry constantly about all sorts of things or feel unreasonably fearful.
If that sounds familiar, you’re certainly not alone and it’s not your fault. But if you’ve been feeling like this for a while or are worried about how you’re felling, it’s time to get a little help dealing with it.
What is anxiety and what causes it?
Anxiety disorders seem to be on the increase and it’s not uncommon to hear about them in the media.
For many, feeling anxious in some situations is perfectly natural – that feeling of dread of giving an important presentation or the butterflies or fear you feel on the first day of a new job or school. This is simply your body’s response to stress.
However, it’s when these feeling start to become more intense and take over more areas of your life, that it can be a sign that you’ve developed an anxiety disorder.
Developing an anxiety disorder can happen to anyone at any stage in their life. It can be triggered by all sorts of different events, from something personal in your life, to something on the news or on social media. It might be caused because you’ve been stressed, under pressure or witnessed a traumatic event. There’s also some research which suggests that anxiety may in part be caused by how your brain is wired.
Although it can make life very difficult and you may not want to talk about it, it is certainly not your fault and nothing to be ashamed of. However, help is available and it’s important that you speak to someone about what’s going on. Even just talking about it, can sometimes help.
What are the signs of anxiety?
How anxiety manifests itself varies from person to person and sometimes from one situation to another. Here are just some of the symptoms you may experience:
· Nightmares and constantly reliving an event. You may be unable to sleep or concentrate or be constantly restless.
· Tearfulness and fearfulness including everything from feeling slightly afraid to feeling physically sick, shaking or having a racing heart.
· Panic attacks and fear of going out.
· Compulsive behaviour. This can be very diverse from obsessive cleaning, tidying and washing to not being able to walk through a door unless you do it a certain way.
· Becoming overly anxious and concerned about your health or about being separated from someone.
· You may feel hot, cold, dizzy, sweaty or you may feel like you can’t breathe or feel numb.
· You may suffer joint pain, a swollen tongue, have a rash or suffer with headaches.
· You may be irritable, ashamed, angry, inferior or feel very low.
You may have symptoms that I haven’t listed but that doesn’t make them any less valid. You may have these feeling all the time or they may be triggered by certain things. An anxiety attack may build gradually or come on very fast. Anxiety is different for everyone.
Treatments for anxiety
There are a number of different ways to treat anxiety. These include:
· Going to your doctor for more traditional treatment such as anti-depressant or calming medication.
· Psychotherapy to help you tackle the underlying cause and learn coping strategies.
· Trying alternative remedies and making lifestyle changes.
The right treatment for you is a very individual thing and there is no one size fits all. It will depend on your personal preferences, the severity of your anxiety and how it manifests itself. Indeed, you might try all of the above methods.
It’s important to note, that I am not a doctor so cannot advise you about medication. If you have concerns, you should discuss them with your own GP.
That said, I am a certified therapist with Anxiety UK and an Anxiety UK Approved Acupuncturist. Anxiety UK is a national charity run by people with experience of living with anxiety, stress or anxiety-based depression, and supported by a high-profile medical advisory panel. They provide lots of information to help those living with anxiety and are an excellent resource.
Anxiety and acupuncture
Anxiety UK and the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) are currently working together, to research “the effectiveness of traditional acupuncture for treating those living with anxiety, stress and anxiety-based depression.” And I took part in this research.
As an acupuncture practitioner and therapist, this is an exciting project because clients often report that complementary therapies like acupuncture can really help them.
Most people know that acupuncture involves the insertion of tiny needles into specific areas of the body to help your body maintain its equilibrium. Ancient medicine suggests that this equilibrium can become out of balance by any number of lifestyle events which in turn can result in a variety of symptoms.
Traditional acupuncture is also used to promote physical and emotional harmony and enhance your feeling of wellbeing and people often choose it to help maintain good mental and physical health, as a preventive measure.
My experience is that many people return to acupuncture again and again because they find it so beneficial and relaxing. It is suitable for all ages including children and can also be used effectively alongside conventional medicine and therapy.
In addition to seeking treatment, you may find certain lifestyle changes help and this is something I can discuss with you as a therapist.
These changes don’t have to be massive but could include simple things like:
Getting enough sleep Ensuring you stay active and exercise regularly Eating healthily Minimising alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes or other stimulants.
As a therapist, I believe that perhaps the most important thing you can do if you’re struggling with anxiety is to pick up the phone and talk to someone. It may sound clichéd, but you don’t have to suffer alone and asking for help or just talking about the problem is such an important first step.
There are lots of support groups and I’m more than happy to provide you with their details. But please, call me if you’d like to know more or you just want to talk.