My dear friend Anxiety:
Part 1 – common signs/symptoms of anxiety, how to track them and what to do when they show up
Magdalena Bak-Maier, PhD
It came out of nowhere, sudden shaking, lack of sleep or distorted vision, nightmares, racing heart, digestion problems and a sense that control is slipping away. Yes, life with anxiety wasn’t fun for me but dealing with it myself has thought me that the unpleasantness is there for a reason: to help us wake up! In my case, initially the symptoms appeared random and sporadic. I could easily explain their presence by an odd night out or some upsetting event. But when they mounted and became more frequent, the symptoms became hard to dismiss or explain away. Waking up in a cold sweat or shaking became more than a niggle. Sort of like when your good friend tells you laud and clear: we need to talk! It’s a clear sign for action. This is why after many years of coping with anxiety I’ve come to believe that anxiety is indeed a good friend. To me, anxiety and the symptoms it brings is our body’s natural way to say that our lifestyle is toxic. The good news is that in my case, once I pinned down my symptoms to anxiety, I at least began to get a handle on how to work with myself to tackle the root causes.
There are many official sites that will list anxiety symptoms and I’d like to refer you to them. As you will see the list of symptoms will range from 15-100. The more of them you experience at any one time and for longer, the more anxiety is controlling your life. Here are three of the ones I would recommend you check.
General Anxiety NHS http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Anxiety/Pages/Symptoms.aspx
National Panic and Anxiety Disorder News
I personally used the NPAD site. I printed out their symptoms pages and ticked all those I was experiencing. At my worst, I had about 21 whereas generally I have 5-6. The key point here is to be really honest with yourself and mark things you notice in your body that keep popping up more than once or twice. The more symptoms you have the more you need to get to work on yourself to make things better. The good news is that it is possible.
What you may want to do.
Print off the list or save it to your computer so you can create your own record. You may want to use specific software like Microsoft Excel that allows you to have columns and makes tracking progress easy.
Go through the list of symptoms and mark all those that you experience more than 3 times in the last 3 months. In my case, I simply marked them with a dot on my printout and indicated a date for the dot. When I went through the list again 3 months later, I marked each in a different colour pen and indicated the date again to help me track.
This will give you clarity about your existing symptoms and a benchmark. Now, it’s time to get started with handling the symptoms.
The key to handling anxiety is eliminating the fundamental causes of it and we will look at this in another blog, but a big key part of managing anxiety is dealing with symptoms many of which will be unpleasant especially panic attacks. A panic attack is simply a sudden appearance of physical symptoms – often multiple ones – combined with anxiety and fear about them.
Here is a list of links that will help you. They offer practical tips that are easy to do. Practicing them will help you avoid building up fears of having potential panic attacks and anxiety, which is how things go from bad to worse. This can happen when you don’t like having panic attacks (who does?!) but you also lack the coping skills.
NHS practical advice
The Daily Mind
As above, create a tracking list for your panic attacks. Things you may want to keep track of are: date, location, time, symptoms, and your skills/confidence in handling it. Put the tips included in the links above into practice and see how your ability to handle panic begins to improve. Breathe! Breath is life and being able to breathe through your symptoms will go a long way towards withstanding them and lowering and eliminating panic.
In Part 2 we will examine some of the deeper causes that may contribute towards anxiety and a few methods for tackling them.
I hope you will join in and share your stories and views. As I said in my intro, what I’m sharing with you is based on my own experience and learning. I am not a doctor. You may wish to see one. What you learn and do here will indeed provide your GP with useful information.
Coach, mind guide and personal development facilitator
Magdalena’s first book Get Productive, published by Wiley Capstone is available at £12.99 through Amazon and bookshops.
Magdalena is running an evening workshop Get productive! in London on November 19 focused on having more fun and learning how to smooth sail through work. Don’t miss these insightful events and learn to look after yourself. Book at www.eventbrite.co.uk (https://t.co/gmEyFYq7Yq)
Here is the link to the introduction to this series http://www.kctherapy.co.uk/my-dear-friend-anxiety-2/