Do you ever wake up with a tight chest feeling like you can't quite catch your breath? Have you found yourself immobilized in a busy street while the world rushes on around you? Are there days when you notice that you can't seem to calm your mind, like it's jumped on a runaway train that's going around in circles, incessantly honking, asking you to take notice but you've no idea how to address the thoughts, or even where exactly they're coming from?
Do you use the words overwhelmed, busy, tired, or stressed on a daily basis?
Perhaps you're a highly sensitive person, an introverted individual, or genetically predisposed to anxiety. Perhaps you're just overdosing on caffeine.
I'm sure you notice people around you that somehow seem to have twice as many hours to achieve things in their day, despite having three kids, two dogs, a full-time job and an online course they're taking? Somehow they still find time for a morning yoga class, an evening hike and dinner with a loved one. Perhaps you find yourself in a job that isn't fueling you creatively, you might have money worries, health issues, or family trouble. You feel unable to cope, alone and fearful of the future.
As Rob Galloway mentioned in last Fridays edition of the Tribune, 1 in 5 adults in America experience a mental illness, whether it be depression, addiction, anxiety or something more easily diagnosed and labelled.
We want to help bring awareness to the issue of mental health, as part of Mental Health Awareness Month. We all know someone who seems low, might not want to communicate about it, someone who fell off the radar several months back and who you suddenly realize you haven't seen in a while. Maybe it's time to check in. Maybe you just want to be able to acknowledge your own confused thoughts on the matter, find some answers as to why you might be feeling this way, learn some coping techniques and start compiling your own anxiety toolbox to make it through the tougher days.
Ryan Reynolds is just one celebrity who's recently come forward to talk openly about his struggles with mental health. Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson is another. It goes to show that no matter your status, position in life or tax bracket, no one is immune to mental health issues.
The first step in managing anxiety, because honestly, it might never truly go away, is recognizing the triggers. Letting the feelings swoop over you and trying to pinpoint where exactly they're coming from, why at this particular moment, and then considering the way in which you might be able to transform their negative impact by looking at it as your body's way of relaying an important message.
We create stories around these events to justify the feelings — my life is falling apart! I'm not good enough! I can't manage things! — when more often than not, there is a lesson or two that we can learn.
What different types of anxiety might you be experiencing? Heres a few that we've recognized:
Catastrophic Thinking: Worrying about the future is one of the biggest issues we're all faced with, especially at this current time of uncertainty and limited positive output in the news. Try to limit the amount of time you spend tapping into it, it'll only make you more obsessive. We all have the power to change the world. Start small. Do what you can with what you have. Switch on all five of your senses to acknowledge what's happening in the present, and your immediate surroundings. Exercise is a huge anxiety reliever: move your body! Go into the woods, smell the fresh grass and the pine, look at the world, hear the birds … as cheesy as it sounds, you'll find it easier to get out of your head and into your body by tuning in to all of your senses.
Guilt: Who wants to walk down this path? Shame, regret and guilt are hard to deal with, especially if it's built up over years of time. Learning to walk in the other direction is even harder, but looking for even the smallest opportunities to grow and learn from your mistakes will tip the scales in your favor each time you manage a step or two. Self improvement is an ongoing masterpiece that only you have the brush to complete. Life is a long journey and each mistake, or lesson, is just one part of the bigger picture that led you to where you are today. You are a work in progress!
Fear of Missing Out: Social media has upped the FOMO ante and we're living through smoke and mirrors, convinced that everyone is doing more, having more, living more, being more, when in all reality we've constructed our own narrative based on a few carefully edited photos. Is it healthy to spend two hours a day scrolling through pictures of the lives of people we may or may not know to be true? Yes, there are times when such images can be inspiring. Perhaps we need help with healthy eating tips, a boost to get us out exercising more, the inspiration we need to achieve our dreams, but a lot of the time, these images serve to make us feel like we're not living up to the standards set by these people. I challenge you to go through your social media "friends" or "following" list and erase people who you no longer know, or are not even sure you knew in the first place! You'll feel relieved when you are no longer bombarded with pictures of "perfect" houses / food / people that make you feel inadequate. Stick to those that make you feel good about yourself.
Overwhelm: Ahh, the overriding emotion of the current generation. There's too much to do / achieve / see / create / go / learn. We're stuck in a permanent fight or flight response. The danger of this is that chronic stress can lead to chronic illness pretty swiftly. Your senses are on full alert. ALL. THE. TIME. To deconstruct this feeling, let's consider that maybe your body needs to unplug, disconnect, rest. If you're introverted, honor that need within yourself to take time out to be alone, or in nature. Just being quiet, gathering your thoughts, and grounding yourself. Set some healthy boundaries to diminish sensory overload, and know when the time is right to tune out and switch off.
Tune in next week for part 2 of this series where we'll be discussing everyday practices you can develop to counteract anxiety. If you feel you need some professional help, we offer Acupuncture and Somatic Experiencing sessions that can address and alleviate signs of anxiety.
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