The elevator of anxiety
Anxiety can come in so many different forms. It is so widespread, for me, it feels very prevalent at this present time, living with a pandemic we are struggling to control. I have come to realize people can struggle to recognize signs or symptoms of anxiety.
Anxiety can show in the body as palpitations, tingling in fingers or toes or even in the mouth, chest tightness or pain, muscle tension or twitching, nausea, dizziness, headache, gastrointestinal problems, blurry vision, feeling hot or cold, fatigue, trouble swallowing, numbness, dry mouth, difficulty breathing, jaw clenching, panic attacks, memory problems, overthinking, avoidance, sweating and even needing reassurance. I wonder after looking at this list how many of us can now start to identify with some symptoms and realize the core of their symptoms could be anxiety.
Whilst working with clients who have anxiety, I have learned that much of anxiety stems from our mind telling ourselves a bad story such as,
I am too young,
I am too old,
I am going to fail,
People do not like me.
If you can change the language of your story, you have the potential to change your life. A life with less anxiety. Listen to the voice in your mind and what is it trying to tell you, if it seems a faulty way of thinking try to eliminate this story. Our minds are so clever at telling us the negative, this is because we have a survival instinct. If we think of the negative, we are helping to protect us from danger. This was all well and good when we were living in our early cave man days, when we needed to be ready to survive. However, these days we have little need for the negative bias our minds are constantly telling us. I wonder how many times you have struggled of think of a positive comment. If you are given 10 positive compliments and one negative, our mind will filter out all the positives and focus on the one negative. The part of the brain that deals with the negatives is much larger in size than that of the part that deals with the positives. Hence, we struggle to live our lives positively.
For me anxiety is like getting in an elevator at the ground floor, then before you know it the negative thoughts are starting to race away. Just like an elevator travelling fast up to the top floor. Picture yourself at the top floor no where to go and feeling stuck, then try and take a breath in and slowly exhale, try to talk yourself through these racing thoughts. Is there any evidence this thought is a fact? There is a good chance that most thoughts are just that, thoughts. Try imagining yourself coming I down floor by floor, with each deep breath you will reach the ground floor again and back to safety. This is where you can start to control your anxiety as you would control an elevator.
When we are in control anxiety struggles, as it is born from fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of negativity, fear of not being in control. If we can focus on a familiar image like a lift and visualize the lift coming down, we help to talk down our anxiety. Many people find anxiety crippling and it can interfere in every aspect of your daily life.
What someone with anxiety may show to the outside world is a person who is always on time, when in fact they may believe they will suffer an instant tummy upset if they are one minute late.
An anxious person may appear always in control, yet inside they believe something is going to go wrong if they do not do everything themselves.
A person with anxiety may appear a good planner, yet they feel they need to be prepared in case a, b, or c happens.
An anxious person may appear really relaxed, Zen like and yet inside they believe if they do not meditate or do yoga they will “lose it”.
A person filled with anxiety may appear calm and composed and yet to them they may have just finished crying in the bathroom pleading with themselves that “I can do this!”
We cannot control the climate, the economy, or feelings/actions of other people so why not focus on what we can control such as our own thoughts, attitudes, feelings and behaviour.
It must be so exhausting, as in reality a person living with anxiety is leading a double life, the one they present to the outside world and the one that is existing in their mind and body.