Anxiety and Its Impact on Daily Life
Do you frequently worry and feel panicky with a racing heart? You may be experiencing anxiety. 12% of Canadians suffer from some type of anxiety. So approximately, one out of every 12 people reading this article struggles with anxiety. The most common type is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) which may consist of hot and cold flashes, racing heart, tightening in the chest &/or escalating worries and obsessive thinking. Feeling irritable or restless is often described to me by clients. These feelings need to persist for over 6 months for the purpose of diagnosis by your doctor or a mental health professional.
Many people who do not have regular anxiety have at least one panic attack in their lifetime which includes a sudden surge of intense fear, feeling you cannot breathe and many describe feeling like they are dying. This often results in trips to hospital emergency because people tend to think they are having a heart attack. Panic attacks are not physically harmful as your heart is beating fast, but nice and regular. You are not going to die but it is horribly uncomfortable and often seems to come out of nowhere.
Physiologically, anxiety increases arousal as it is autonomic and neuro-endocrine activation. The chemicals released in our body take time to break down so their affect lingers. Deep breathing from the diaphragm will help to begin that breakdown in the body. Try to breathe from your belly, keeping your chest still. Take in three big, deep breaths before starting to slow your breathing down, until you are breathing deeply and comfortably from your diaphragm. It only takes three deep breaths to feel calmer.
The reason I feel anxiety is an important experience to talk about and be aware of is the intense impact it can have on daily life. When people come to my office and we begin to talk, it is usually around the third one-hour session I have with them when they start to talk about anxiety and its impact on their lives in a deeper, connected way. It leads to realizations that their life has been created around avoiding feeling anxious. So they may not go to social engagements, even with close friends, avoid spiritual or religious ceremony etc. as they are afraid of feeling panicked in public. Fear of change may leave them in unsatisfying jobs that do not challenge them because they know exactly how to be and function in their current workplace. Sometimes we do not even know we have done this until we start to talk about it.
As a Psychotherapist I know anxiety is a pervasive and, unfortunately, common experience. But it is also the mental health struggle that is the most responsive to treatment. So getting help works! It the meantime eliminating caffeine, alcohol and exercising or meditating daily is a great start.
Sit in a comfortable position. Avert your eyes to the floor or close them, whatever feels more comfortable. Breathe through your nose. Inhale and exhale slowly through your belly, rather than your chest. Inflate your belly like a balloon and deflate it, like a balloon. This deepens the breath, it is too shallow in the chest. Breathe deeply and naturally, slowing it down. Focus on your breath and the feeling of it entering your nostrils and exhaling out of your nostrils. In with the good energy, out with the bad…as thoughts intrude, observe them and let them go. Refocus on your breath…