Anxiety can be a good thing. Honestly, it can. It’s there to help keep you aware of things in potentially bad situations. That’s good, right? Anxiety rearing it’s head in everyday activities where it’s unwarranted, that’s where it starts to become an unwelcome companion.
Let’s start by trying to get an understanding of what anxiety is. At it’s most base level it’s a fear response, something that’s generated by the mind when it feels like you need to be in a heightened state. It helps allow the body to maintain a fight-or-flight position when it needs to. Sufferers from anxiety though have it excessively. It’s present almost constantly at a background level, peaking at inappropriate times or even overstimulating the person when it doesn’t need to.
Take me for example. This time last week I was flying to Berlin with Sarah for a holiday. While I was there I had bouts of anxiety. I was in a foreign country I’d never been to before surrounded by people who spoke a different language to myself. My anxiety never really overpowered me in these situations. I was kind of aware it was going to happen so I’d helped prepare myself for it. Sarah had a good working understanding of the language (even though, surprisingly, most Germans have a better understanding of English) which made communication an easy thing. We’d read guidebooks before going so we kind of knew the places we were going to so had an idea of where we were going and when. We had guide maps and apps downloaded to our smartphones so we could navigate their public transport system with ease. Even the written word wasn’t a problem thanks to the wonderful invention that is Google Translate.
And now today. I’m on the bus going to work. It’s my first day back in almost two weeks back to the job I’ve done for a while now. And my anxiety is tweaking my senses. Nothing has changed with my job role, I’m not expecting any issues or problems but the anxiety is letting me know it’s here.
You can try and deal with anxiety in a couple of different ways, either proactively or reactively. Sometimes you need a balance of both to get through a particular bout.
Being proactive means looking into the future a bit. It means looking at situations and preparing yourself for them. Get an understanding of what’s going to go on and what’s expected of you. It means looking at things rationally and logically. Granted, you might not always be able to do this all the time but if you have the opportunity to do it then do so.
Sometimes you have to deal with your anxiety by reacting to it, by having to deal with it real time. This is where, with a little preparation, you can still try and overcome it whilst suffering an attack. Things like making a note of what works for you in the past and make sure you have access to them. For me it’s about having writing materials with me, music and also some of my relaxation apps on my phone.
Things like being able to run guided meditation sessions and focus on your breathing can really help you, so making sure you have the ability to do that can be beneficial. Even something like being able to talk yourself down from the anxiety attack will help, being able to rationalise what you’re going through, writing down what you think is causing you concern so you can make some kind of sense of it. Anything that makes you feel better will help, even if it’s just taking the edge off things.
As it turned out, my anxiety about going back to work was unfounded (isn’t it always?) and the day was fine. Now it’s day two and I can already feel the agitated state and shallow breaths starting. Welcome to anxiety groundhog day……..