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What to do when anxiety is ruining your life!

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.

What is 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).

Why do we get it?

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.

Impact of anxiety on our actions

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.

 

What can you do now to help your anxiety?

  1. Breathe deeply. Imagine that there is a balloon in your stomach. As you breathe in, imagine the balloon expanding. As you breathe out imagine the balloon getting smaller. Do this exercise for a few minutes to calm your breathing down.
  2. Get some perspective. Anxiety can stem from needless worry about a lot of things that aren’t important in the long run. Consider how this will really impact you in five minutes, five months or five years..
  3. Talk it out. Research proves that simply naming your feelings can help to calm you down. This is easier to do when you share your feelings with others.
  4. Don’t ignore. Anxiety is like a red flag, telling you that something needs attention. Don’t ignore this sign — contact a professional to help you through it.
  5. Rule out other causes. Sometimes medical issues can mask themselves as anxiety or mimic its symptoms. Make sure you have a chat with your GP about your symptoms and find out if anxiety is the cause of them
  6. Keep an anxiety diary. It is really helpful to understand what sets off your anxiety. We call these triggers or antecedents. Make a note in a diary or journal of what caused your anxiety each time it happens and then look for any patterns.
  7. Become more aware of negative thoughts. As it is the thoughts about the situation that causes anxiety, become more aware of what you are saying to yourself in your mind. You can find a great exercise that you can download for free here.
  8. Use problem solving to help your anxiety. Consider what you would say to a friend if they were struggling with the same issue, this puts you in problem solving mode. Whatever suggestions you come up with, make sure you do them!
  9. Take a break. Often anxiety and stress go hand in hand so try and take some time out where you don’t have to think about all the things you have to do. Book a spa break or take yourself off to the local library to read quietly for half an hour, find something that works for you.
  10. Research things that can help you. Things that I recommend are hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness. The best thing for you is to look into different therapy options and try something that seems right to you. You can check out my Anxiety 2 Confidence online hypnotherapy course here.

 

What makes anxiety worse?

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.

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Discover which common negative thinking patterns you have.

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.