Living with anxiety and ways to cope with it
I have a lot of thoughts about anxiety, so decided to write a follow-up to my previous train-of-thought article Handling anxiety.
In Finland people are not very fond of talking about mental issues out loud. The matter is many times overlooked and underrated, as if having them makes you those kind of people who cannot cope — or at least it’s generally thought that way if not said.
Anxiety, however, is a real condition for many people like myself. It’s normal to be anxious or stressed out when you do something bad, when you are preparing your wedding or talk in conferences, when you meet your new girlfriend, start a new job and so on. It’s normal to be anxious about certain difficulties in life, like when you run out of money or are not good terms with your relatives or friends. It’s normal to get anxious in hangover for instance without any particular reason, because not feeling good about drinking too much. It’s even normal to be anxious whole day if you have a bad day are tired or consume too much caffeine.
But usually, anxiety stops in certain point. You get over it and you can have a more or less happy life for the rest of the month or even a year if you don’t bump into obstacles in between. But for a person suffering GAD (Generalized anxiety disorder), anxiety stays, comes and goes. It doesn’t stop. It doesn’t matter if you have things in order, life in balance or friends near.
I usually don’t like general Lifehack-articles, because they are too shallow, but this one article This Is The Real Life People With Anxiety Experience Every Day is spot-on. I’d like to add or correct few things about those points.
Can’t really write too much about the subject, because it literally is the only thing anxious people like me and you can do about it.
If you are suffering from anxiety, talk or write about it. If you are not, listen.
I have often said I don’t like to talk about anxiety any more, because I start to think what other people think me repeating the same things over and over again or I get frustrated myself not getting away from it and I’m afraid others don’t like to hear it any more. And I get that if they do, because there’s no real actions you can do. And that’s okay. One of the few thing anxious people can do to help themselves is to talk or write about their condition. Only thing you can do is to listen.
I get that some extroverts or people with “positive thinking” mindset think anxiety is a negative subject and try to avoid talking about it. But closest friends and relatives should still try to listen each other best they can.
How I wish that anxiety was more acknowledged. If I had known about it when I was younger, it would have saved me for a lot. I have been having this my whole life, I know it now, no doubt about it. The more I learn about my condition, the more healthy I will get with it.
Anxiety doesn’t always show
I mean of course you may have outside symptoms. I however, have tendency for a bad stomach, trouble breathing, shaking or flabby legs. Those can be hidden very well. I also like to spend time inside and it feels very difficult to meet people. I have developed a mindset for that in normal work days, but in the same time it’s so easy to decline a meeting or pass it to someone else.
Sometimes when being in anxious situation like in conversation, I get dizzy and hyper-active, very social even, and the feeling is like under the influence of coffee, despite not having any caffeine during the day. Then when talking about my anxiety, people are sometimes amazed, well you’re that social, how can you be anxious. That is perhaps the most frustrating part.
Over-anxiety leads to an episode or a panic attack
The worst day can be in a situation where lack of sleep and too much caffeine lead to a situation that when you are finally alone, you get so anxious that time disappears, can’t do anything, just sit and shake and wait for it to get over, sometimes crying. Usually the only thing helps is to be close to a spouse, breath, sleep or cry, if can’t talk.
Panic attacks are quite rare for me personally, because I have developed a mindset for those as well. If I know I can’t handle it, I usually calm myself for example by exercising my breathing and reminding me it’s not that bad and I’m not going to die.
Breathing is important
I know my breathing is not right. When I’m anxious (most of the time) my breathing is all over the place without me noticing it. That way I get dizzy often.
Can’t remember where I read it, but I call it “5–5–5 Hard Reset”, inspired by 30–30–30 Hard Reset Rule for routers. It means simply:
1. Slowly inhale air in through your nose with your mouth closed for 5 seconds
2. Close your nose and keep the air in for 5 seconds
3. Slowly breath the air out through your mouth for 5 seconds
4. Repeat 5 times
After this you notice the change in you physically and mentally. I do this every time I have a really anxious time or near an episode or a panic attack. It really helps and most of the time eases the anxiety very much or even completely, for a while.
Can’t think clearly — but it’s okay
When you worry about everything and most of the decisions are a pain, you mostly just concentrate on the things you do best and which feel the most comfortable. It helps to have people around who help and understand.
Sleeping is not a standard
Last night I spent over 2 hours in bed without being able to sleep because of anxiety. I asked my wife to smooth out my back and fell asleep. Had terrible nightmares whole night and spent the next day overly anxious. Sometimes sleeping is quite nice, sometimes a pain. Some people take sleeping pills, but as an anti mental drugs advocate I just try to cope.
Being anxious does not mean you can’t be happy
Anxiety and happiness are not two separate things. You can be content about your life and live with anxiety in the same time. You can be social and introvert at the same time, because you can learn to do things, adapt to certain mindsets and to cope with your condition.
Sometimes I get sad when I think why I’m this way, I just want to be “normal”. But who is normal? Do I want to be normal? It’s a sad thing to think that there’s not much things that can be done besides SSRI-medicine. But there is. It’s called cognitive realization (just made that up, but it adds up). It means, you should learn about you and how your mind works. You should realize, not avoid it. Be aware. Embrace it. Feel it.
That’s my two cents about the subject today. Let me know what you feel by commenting or tweeting. Thanks for reading!
Soundtrack for this article: Arms and Sleepers — Nostalgia for the absolute ambient / trip-hop / post-rock / electronic