Anxiety can often feel like it is completely ruining your life!
When I struggled with anxiety it lead me to fail my combined masters degree and meant that I couldn’t enter the profession I wanted to.
Although anxiety can feel completely desperate, there is hope and ways that you can get back on top of your anxiety.
Put simply, anxiety is a fear of a future event.
This fear can occur because of previous experiences that have been negative, a new experience that you can't control or an experience that is normally fine but somehow you suddenly become scared of it going wrong.
Anxiety is both a mental and physical condition. The mental aspect in anxiety is the mental fear of something and this comes about because of negative thoughts. The physical aspect is the symptoms of anxiety which range from slight heart rate increase and butterflies all the way through to panic attacks and fainting (vasovagal syncope).
Our brains have evolved to react fast in situations that may be dangerous to us. We have a part of our brain called the amygdala which can set off our body's danger response in a split second. This danger response is now well known and is commonly called the fight or flight response.
What the amygdala does is also stimulate a part of our brain called the hippocampus which helps our brain to learn and to form memories.
At some point our cortex will get involved and start to assess the situation to see if there is any danger. If there is no danger then the prefrontal cortex will send a message to the amygdala to chill. In theory this should stop our body's response however it can sometimes take a little time.
Please note: this is a very simplified version of the neuroscience.
Basically when we worry about something we send a signal to our body to be ready for danger. This causes feelings of dread, raised heart rate, sweating, feeling faint and many more symptoms of anxiety.
So far I have explained how thoughts activate an extremely old self preservation process in our brains so what usually happens next? Most people with anxiety try and avoid the anxiety as much as they can. There are other actions but avoidance is the main one, others include substance abuse and engaging in comfort activities such as over eating.
By being in this cycle of thinking something bad is going to happen, feeling anxious and then avoiding the situation we end up in a negative spiral that essentially sensitises us to the symptoms of anxiety. So, over time, people generally make their own anxiety worse.
This is when it can start to feel like anxiety is ruining our lives as even the simplest of things can set off the anxiety and make things difficult for us to cope with.
Things like comfort eating, drinking or substance abuse make us feel better for a while but then often cause more upset and anxiety down the line. Consider which of your bad habits are made worse by anxiety and consider if these things may be contributing towards your anxiety.
Dwelling on the past is also a sure fire way to make your anxiety worse. Try and leave situations that have happened in the past and distract your mind whenever you catch yourself dwelling on the issues.
Negative self talk is another very good way of making sure you stay anxious. You can find out what negative thoughts are making you more anxious by heading here for a FREE downloadable exercise on negative thinking.
The way we think has a huge impact on our mental health. If you are looking to overcome your anxiety or just improve your mental health then first you need to know what thoughts are making things worse.
This download gives you a list of the most common ways we think negatively. All you need to do is see which ones you do most.
Also, keep an eye on your emails! I will be sending you a really useful video that goes with this exercise.