What Are You Afraid Of?

Living with and Moving Beyond Generalised Anxiety

Photo by Tim Trad on Unsplash
Living on the Edge

What does it feel like to suffer from Generalised Anxiety?

In my body, anxiety manifests as a pressure in my chest and tightness around my neck and throat. It is sweating palms, regular bathroom visits and a palpitating heart.

In my head, anxiety is a show reel: everything terrible that might, could, maybe, will happen; a dystopian preview of my own future. It is a cast of characters narrated by the voices of myself, my family and people I've known, telling me every way in which I am, and have always been an abject failure and unworthy. It is a slo-mo rerun of the events of the day, complete with literary level critique of how every one of my comments and actions was perceived by my peers (spoiler alert- none of them well.) It is the ultimate in self-centred obsession, 'I'm not much, but I'm all I think about.'

In my heart, anxiety is a lonely place. Its favourite place to live is beneath the warm and dark covers of a duvet. It is mythical self sufficiency and self- imposed isolation, because people and places are terrifying and just too much for me to handle. What am I afraid of? Everything. Nothing. Life. The Future.

Now I'm recovered, I'm afraid of going back there again, of fear itself. I suffered with anxiety for so long, I thought it was a typical state of being. Turns out, it's not typical to feel afraid all the time. I'm glad someone told me because I missed the memo. When the molten lava of anxiety burning in my chest finally began to melt away, I thought what I was left with was boredom. I even started to manufacture drama, in order to feel 'normal,' or my version of normal, which was a constant state of heightened anxiety.

As with many mental health issues, there is no one way to feel anxiety. There are many other symptoms, or ways that generalised fear manifests in the physical body, the mind and the energetic or subtle body. I had this thought pattern where I believed if I didn't worry about things or automatically expect everything to go wrong, I was 'jinxing' it. I don't know when I started to think like this, but it's really not a healthy perceptual framework. If you worry constantly, are always on high-alert, or waiting for some thing to go wrong, please understand that you don't have to feel this way, and this isn't typical for people with balanced mental health.

What can you do about Anxiety?

If you recognise any of the above thoughts or feelings, then you may be wondering what to do about it. As if anxiety wasn't scary enough, you are now faced with the anxiety provoking prospect of reaching out for help! The first part is the most challenging, but once you take steps to share the burden, believe me, it starts to get better. There are a few things which helped me to tackle my anxiety, ranging from more costly solutions, to no cost at all. Here is a list of actions to take:

  1. Tell a friend or family member you are struggling. If you can't do this, call one of the telephone numbers listed on the Mind Charity website

  2. Learn and practice some breathing techniques (there are two free videos on my homepage to start you off) The breath and the mind are synchronous and by slowing and deepening the breath, the mind follows.

  3. Speak to your G.P or find a therapist online. Check out this information on types of therapy and finding an accredited practitioner.

  4. Take a break from drinking coffee, tea or drinks with caffeine.

  5. Go outside for a walk (in nature if possible) for 30 minutes a day.

  6. Give alcohol a break as it is a depressant and actually increases anxiety once its effects have worn off. If you can't stop drinking, try out a free Recovery 2.0 Meeting online or Alcoholics Anonymous.

  7. If you use drugs recreationally, give this a break. If you can't stop, try out a free, online Narcotics Anonymous meeting.

  8. Practice Yoga and Meditate regularly. Headspace is good for beginners and Insight Timer is free.

  9. Look at your diet. Try to cut out processed foods and eat lots of green, fresh vegetables. You can look at some free example recipes on this site for ideas!

  10. Give the news a break. Don't watch it or read it for a week. See how media can be a daily drip feed of misery that detracts from your wellbeing.

  11. Try giving social media a break. Comparing yourself and wondering why everyone else' lives look so much better gets very wearing.

  12. Try some grounding exercises. I learned these in therapy to help me to be present and get out of my head.

  13. If you have tried all other options and the mental pain persists, speak with your therapist about medication solutions: SSRI's or other anti-depressants. There is no shame in taking medication if you need it. I do!

If you are suffering, finding the courage to take action with one of the above steps will be the first step on the ladder to living free of constant fear. If you want to email me at opentochangeyoga@gmail.com, I can also share with you more candidly some of the things that have helped me. Whilst I am not a licensed therapist, I can share my experiences from recovery and inform you as a licensed yoga teacher.

This year, many people are suffering more with their mental health than ever before. It is a perfectly understandable and reasonable response to all of the change, uncertainty and isolation of this year. I am working with many others out there to de-stigmatise discussion about mental health so that people are not afraid to say they need help. We all need help, and we can't survive without each other. Let's drop the shame in admitting it, all reach out and haul one another onto the life raft, so we can all survive and thrive!

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