Last Night, I kept tossing and turning, unable to sleep, restless and tense. My heart was beating so rapidly, I was afraid it might burst. I was breathing very fast, so fast that it made me feel a little faint. A chill ran down my spine. I got up and started walking around the room, unable to be still anymore. As I walked around, my eyes fell on the mirror and I stopped. The knot in my stomach tightened. I hadn’t realized that I was sweating so much. My clothes were soaked. I went to the bathroom and splashed water on my face. I was trembling. My mouth was dry and I felt like everything was over.
I was having an anxiety attack.
Anxiety is our body’s natural response to stress and worry. It is a normal response to stressful situations. But a person feels disproportionate levels of anxiety regularly, when the level of anxiety is too large as compared to the natural response to the stress, it starts hampering your everyday life.
The exact causes of anxiety disorder are unknown but it’s triggers can be identified. Excessive and unresolved stress is one of the commonest triggers. Another common trigger, that is not discussed as much, is helplessness.
Helplessness, or a sense of being unable to act or react to a negative situation, may be experienced by anyone, especially during illness or when affected by a traumatic event. A persistent feeling of helplessness, however, can last long after a person’s actual helplessness disappears. Working on controlling things in the present may help people feel less distressed and more satisfied with life. Mindfulness, a process that involves becoming more aware of the present without lingering on the past or worrying about the future, may work to reduce feelings of helplessness.
The Covid-19 Pandemic is a nightmare for this very reason. It has triggered an unprecedented amount of helplessness. You can’t even help those who are sick, lest you contract the disease. You can’t attend the last rites. You can’t go out of the house. You can’t meet your friends and family. Everyone has lost someone. Everyone has lost something. The world seems to be drowning and there is no respite in sight. Makes you question everything you know. But how to cope with such debilitating feelings?
Here are some techniques I use that might help you too:
Being aware helps me. When I am experiencing anxiety, the knowledge that it is going to pass and I will be okay again helps me feel better. There are various ways to do it. Breathing exercises help me center my thoughts.
I find true relaxation when I visualize my happy place. Your happy place can be a real place in your comfort zone where you have a lot of happy memories or where you often go to find peace. Or you can make up a happy place like me. My happy place is a shack on white beach sand, with clear blue water. I am the only one there and I find peace by rocking in the hammock, reading a book, or humming a song to myself with the only sounds being the steady rhythm of the waves. Where each wave sounds the same and yet leaves different patterns on the sand every time. Just talking about it brings a smile to my place. It takes time to cultivate a happy place. But trust me, it’s worth it!
2. Stress Management
Stress aggravates anxiety. I have a habit of taking on too much work on my plate and a perfectionist attitude doesn’t help my anxiety pattern. So now I make a conscious effort to reduce my workload by delegating or turning down projects I don’t believe in. It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.
3. Lifestyle Management
Anxiety, if not controlled and/or managed, can hamper your daily functioning. Making lasting change is important. Stress and anger management, Light but regular exercise, eating healthy. Some people even experience gastrointestinal problems like gas, constipation, bloating, and diarrhea due to anxiety. Others find comfort in food which can lead to secondary eating disorders. So, eating well is super important. Temporary distractions like watching TV, web series, playing video games, consuming alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, addictive drugs or smoking may give temporary relief but are devastating in the long run and will actually cause more anxiety later.
4. Getting it out of your system – Connecting with others
Living in the moment, practicing gratitude, and writing out your thoughts can help you slow down and relax. I personally recommend Journaling. I find it very calming to write out my thoughts. It gives me a way to express my emotions. It also helps me go back and figure out what triggers my anxiety so that I may manage the trigger and eliminate it. Another thing I find very helpful is to talk to my friends and family. It helps me get it out of my system, express my feelings, calm down, find the reason and get logical advice, help and support. Most of the time, just letting it out helps tremendously.
If you feel the need to be heard, reach out to us!