Unknown anxiety…

We’re 2 weeks into lockdown 2.0… how are you doing/feeling?

Even though this latest lockdown has been given a 4 week cap, it’s hit people a lot harder. Unlike first time around we’ve not got the good weather and long days/evenings, we’ve come out of that seriously long slog… things felt like they were getting back to old normal… and then BOOM… we’re given another massive blow – to put it mildly!! This level of uncertainty and unknowns IS going to create anxieties.

Now I’ve suffered with pretty bad stress and anxiety over the past few years… I know what it feels like, how it can come out in its various forms (physical, psychological and behavioural) and how that has looked and feels for me… and this is different for everybody. What I am seeing and hearing from most people is that they are suffering… but don’t necessarily know it. If you’ve not suffered with it before, knowingly, you are most likely passing it off as other things.         

Anxiety is the feeling you have when you think that something unpleasant is going to happen in the future. Other words such as feeling ‘apprehensive’, ‘uncertain’, ‘nervous’ and ‘on edge’ (everything that Corona is kicking up) also provide a good description of feelings linked to anxiety. Anxiety is completely normal and something that all human beings experience from time to time, when faced with situations that are difficult or threatening. The word ‘anxiety’ is often used to cover a broad range of experiences and is linked with emotions such as fear and worry. In fact, ‘fear’ and ‘anxiety’ are almost interchangeable terms. Anxiety itself can be a helpful emotion, as it can help you to prepare for events ahead as well as improving your performance. However, anxiety can become so severe and intense at times that it becomes debilitating and starts to restrict daily routine and life as a whole… and this is what we all need to watch out for!

Knowledge is power, as the saying goes… and so understanding more about anxiety, what it can look and feel like, what can cause it and how you can cope and manage it… can only be a good thing.  

Here’s just some of the signs and symptoms…  

Physical: muscle tension, chest pain, abdominal discomfort, hot and cold flushes, skin disorders, back pain, increased resting heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure, dizziness, weight change.

Emotional: depression, irritability, anger, boredom, feelings of helplessness.

Mental: irrational thoughts, lack of focus, paralysed state of panic, low self-esteem, overly self-critical.  

Behavioural: changes to eating patterns, social withdrawal, aggression, mood swings, sleep changes.    

IF… anxiety and chronic stress are left untreated / unaddressed, it can have a significant impact on long-term health… leading to depression, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, some cancers, osteoporosis, IBS to name a few… long-term exposure to the ‘fight or flight’ response results in the release of cortisol, a catabolic hormone that suppresses the immune system – really not good!  

Management of anxiety…

Because the reasons and root causes of anxiety and stress can vary so much from person to person; different circumstances, life events, traumas etc. the management has to be individualised to a degree. What works for one person, might not be the best course of action for the next… you need to pick yourself apart and very often do a combination of things to address and manage different aspects. Some of the most common management techniques and therapies include:

  • Exercise – a biggie! Exercise is that escape / switch-off from stressors and endorphins give the best boost. Exercise is as good as antidepressants for mild-moderate anxiety and depression (this is not saying that if you are on medication you can stop taking it and just exercise).
  • Breathing and relaxation exercises and techniques – something that is so simple and can help in an instant as anxiety and stress builds. When my anxiety was at it’s worst I would do the Benson breathing exercise and always listened to a guided mediation before bed or first thing in the morning (and still do this now). I listen to the same ones over and over, and now I can’t get the full way through before I’m away with the fairies.
  • Counselling and talking therapies – opening up to someone impartial about life events and traumas can be so beneficial. Counselling is a way to help you process and deal with difficult things/feelings, understanding how to process them and move forwards, how to deal with them as they come up in future. I’m a big fan and encourager of this, talking and opening up to whoever you feel comfortable with can help so much.
  • Diet, caffeine and alcohol – eat a sensible/balanced diet, fluctuations in blood sugar / snacking can produce the same symptoms as anxiety. As can consuming too much caffeine, and the aftereffects of drinking too much alcohol (100% the alcohol effect gets worse as you get older!).
  • Complementary therapies – massage therapy, reflexology, acupuncture, reiki; all of the above can help to alleviate stress and anxiety, alongside other management methods. I am a massive advocate of complementary therapies. They have helped me greatly, reiki in particular. Reiki and exercise are my must haves in life. I go to my good friend, Jane, weekly, she’s the best! Read more about her services and reiki here.    
  • Medication – depending on how bad your anxiety and stress is, it may be that you have tried various/numerous methods of self-help and your anxiety levels are still high. If this is the case, the best course may be medication, and this is something that you should seek advice from your GP.

Self-help resources and information

Anxiety UK – have produced a comprehensive Understanding Anxiety Guide with information about what anxiety is, understanding symptoms, treatments and various therapies.

Click this link to view and download other free Anxiety UK booklets and guides.

Moodjuice (free site) – is a site designed to offer information, advice and support guides to those experiencing conditions such as depression, anxiety, stress, panic and sleep problems. Click here to find out more about Moodjuice.

Moodgym (subscription site – £21 for 12 months) – moodgym is an interactive self-help book which helps you to learn and practise skills which can help to prevent and manage symptoms of depression and anxiety. Click here to find out more about Moodgym.

Useful resources and websites

Anxiety UK

Mind

Mind – types of mental health issues

Mental Health Foundation

Samaritans

PANDAS – PND Awareness and Support  

I hope this information; downloads, links for further information and support helps… speak up and reach out if you are struggling, always.

If you’re wanting to get more active, exercise and start PT or classes… get in touch. Follow the links below for more information on classes and sessions I’m currently delivering.

Station 22 classes – currently being delivered online via Zoom

Buggy Bootcamp – an outdoor exercise class for mums/parents at Stubbylee Park in Bacup

Mum-to-Be & Mum & Baby Bootcamp at Station 22 – studio based group exercise classes for pregnant women and new mums

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