Monday, 30 December 2013

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety, is something that most people today are aware about.  It is very common, particularly during stressful periods of our lives, i.e. examinations, before an interview or simply planning on how to propose to your lover!

For good functioning in our daily lives, it is healthy to have some anxiety, the feeling of nervousness, as it pushes one to perform and achieve targets and goals.  That is how people manage to surpass limits beyond humans' understanding.

Although anxiety may serve as a great tool to push us to improve in many different areas of our lives, but when it is overwhelming for one and consistently bothers one, one may develop some form of anxiety disorders.

In general, anxiety is when one worries in an either irrational, unrealistic and/or excessive manner.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), there are types of anxiety disorders

1) Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
2) Panic Disorder
3) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
4) Phobias
5) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Well, I am not here to describe diagnostic labels of the DSM, rather would like to explain to those who are less aware, feelings or rather symptoms that one experiences when having anxiety.

Have you ever experience the feeling that you're out of breath, panting heavily before going onto the stage for a solo performance?  It is an anxious feeling.  It is a worrying worry.  And by nature, if we are conscious of the anxious feeling, some may tend to dwell on it, spinning his / her minds over and over and around the problem -- the anxious feeling.  It feels like a "thing" to get rid of from our minds and hearts, or simply butterflies in the stomach.

If you understood the part I wrote & describe above, you'd understand what Fear is.  Fear is interrelated with anxiety.  They are like close cousins of some sort.  When someone has anxiety for examinations let's say.  Most of the time it becomes a cycle.

1) The person fears examinations due to lack of preparation, hence creating intense worries a.k.a. anxiety
2) The person gets so afraid and panicked when thinking about the probability of him/her failing during the exams, triggering more fear and apprehension / dread.
3) Discomfort, pounding heart, sweating, trembling, feeling of choking, shortness of breath or even fear of losing control.. all these symptoms of a Panic disorder sets in.
4) Fear of fear / anxiety / losing control generates more of it.  Hence, the person will find much difficulty trying to calm down.

As it is often the perceived danger that causes people to fear and worry unnecessarily, one can do this absolutely simple thing to seriously calm down... and Chill

Breathe, do deep breathing using the abdomen.  Repeat about 30 times focusing on every breath.  As you breathe, just be aware where is the anxious feeling going to?  Is it moving from one part of your body, i.e. chest, to another, i.e. stomach?  Is it slowly disappearing?  With every intake of air, say to yourself, "Calm", and with every exhalation, say to yourself, "Relax".  Soon, trust me, the anxious & scary feeling will go away.

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.  Do not make unrealistic expectations that the overwhelming anxiety will forever be gone for good after one try of the breathing technique.  Practise, get accustomed to it.  So, you will be closer to anxiety-free (mostly) life!