Anxiety is an emotion characterized by nervousness, excessive worry and driven by fear. It is an unpleasant experience and it can vary from mild to severe anxiety. Everyone has some experience of being anxious in their life time, e.g. feeling anxious before going for an operation or for some feel anxious before doing a public speaking, others may feel anxious before giving birth, etc. One of the common causes why some people are anxious is because they bring their unknown future to the present time, as if it is happening right now.
However, if you feel constantly anxious without any particular cause, then it is most likely you experience an anxiety disorder, which is a mental illness. There are different types of anxiety, including panic attack and phobias. Many people who suffer anxiety disorder may experience depression at the same time. It is understandable that sometimes having a label like “anxiety disorder” or other types of mental illness can be quite daunting and for some fear of the stigma and scared will be treated differently by their family and friends.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PEOPLE ARE ANXIOUS
People who are anxious rely on outside factors for their happiness, instead of it coming from within. Their motto is “what if…” and this can lead to panic attacks and phobias. For example: “what if no one likes my presentation”, “what if I cannot answer all the questions in the interview”, “what if no one will talk to me in the party”, etc.
They see themselves through other people’s “glasses” and believe in it even though it is not proven yet. For example: “everyone thinks I am not good”, “others might see me over-dressed”, “no one likes me”, etc. They like to compare themselves with others and it impacts on their low self-esteem. For example: “I am not as clever as him”, “I am not attractive like her”.
They catastrophise things, letting small problems grow into huge disasters in their mind. For example: “He didn’t call me, maybe he is interested in another girl”. They focus on the failings, shortcomings, weaknesses of themselves and/or others. They are waiting to be rescued rather than trying to overcome their issues, and they blame others while feeling let down. Even when things are going right and everything is smooth, they start looking for and anticipate that something will go wrong again. Anxiety takes over and paralyses their life and they are unable to move forward, which gives a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU EXPERIENCE ANXIETY
- Acceptance – accept that you are suffering from anxiety. Anxiety is part of your life. Denying it will make it your own worst enemy, as it will catch you sooner or later.
- Mindfulness – be aware of your own pace. For example: monitor your own breathing, take a deep breath in and breath out slowly. This will help you to distract your anxiety at the present time and avoid hyperventilation.
- Truth versus trick – ask yourself whether your thinking is based on truth, if not then it must be a trick, because sometimes your brain goes faster than it should and tries to trick you. Allocate a worry time as this will help you train your brain by setting a time each day, say 30 minutes, where you can attend to all things that you are anxious about and jot down what they are. For instance:
- If you write “everyone thinks I am not good”, ask yourself, “really?”. Try to list 3 things that you are good at and see how you are good at something.
- or “others might see me over-dressed”… who are these others? has someone commented already? If no one has commented on that, then you will know that your brain has tried to trick you again.
- Stay in the present time – to break the cycle of bringing the unknown future to the now, which is not the reality, but it is your brain trying to trick you.
- Facing it – you need to face and overcome your anxiety by taking small steps against what you are anxious or fearful about. The more you do it, the more confidence you will gain, and the more confidence you gain, the smaller your anxiety.
If you cannot handle your own thoughts and emotion yourself, perhaps it’s time for you to seek professional help, to be assessed or diagnosed properly. Your courage to seek professional help will enable you to have a better quality of life than living under the power of anxiety.