HELLO ANXIETY !!!! Imagine this, you are standing in a friend’s kitchen peeling potatoes when all of a sudden you feel clammy and find it hard to breathe, like someone is standing on your chest. The overwhelming sensation consumes you and you find yourself frozen in time. You breathe slowly as you work to overcome the bodies’ natural response of being attacked. This was ME a few months ago!!!! I was having a minor anxiety attack.
Anxiety is becoming a huge part of our lives and it is increasing on a rapid basis. This means 15.4% of Australians aged 16 to 24 have experienced an anxiety disorder in the last 12 months. This is equivalent to 440,000 young people today. Anxiety disorders affect 9.7% or 1.3 million adult Australians (12% women and 7.1% men) during a 12-month period. Australian bureau of statistics
That’s 15.4% of Australians aged 16 to 24 have experienced an anxiety disorder in the last 12 months.
The world we live in is moving at such a rapid pace that we find ourselves being absorbed into a vortex. We work longer hours, we have less time to spend with people we care about and we are becoming less and less community focused. We spend more time with devices then we do in conversation.
We are becoming less connected and more separated from each other as humans.
This lack of community connection is believed to be a link to many problems within society. I watched a video online that stated studies are being conducted where they are changing the way we look at addiction. A study was conducted with rats where they gave the rats two sources of water; one laced with Heroin the other just water. The rats that shared a cage with other rats still drank the contaminated water however they never became addicted to the drug. The rat that was isolated became addicted to the drug and drank only from the water that was contaminated. If this study is true then it really does show that the lack of community we experience is leading to some serious issues. Chasing the Scream.
When a person is isolated it is more common for that person to get caught up within his or her own thoughts. When a person is feeling vulnerable then these thoughts can be perceived by the mind as an attack, which then leads to the anxious episode occurring.
With the current expectations and pressures placed on us within our society it’s no wonder we feel alone and overwhelmed.The stress of our working environment and the need to produce more with less people can be a contributor. So how can we overcome this or take control of how we are feeling and live a healthy, wholesome life?
When we look at anxiety and all it encompasses it is really an irrational form of fear. The fear you perceive tells you that it is a flight or fight moment. Which in our society is not a common day occurrence however anxiety manifests as if it is. This fear we feel is not real, there is nothing attacking us, however the body perceives it in that way.
When it comes to overcoming anxiety and depression there is a emerging practice that is getting amazing outcomes. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a mindfulness based practice. Mindfulness- and acceptance-based interventions
In acceptance and commitment therapy you learn that thoughts are just thoughts. The brain will think regardless of what you do. You can’t stop a thought from occurring however you can choose how this thought will be processed.Will you acknowledge that a thought is just a thought or will you take it on as a fact and react based on that thought? Imagine if we could just close off these thoughts and be thoughtless. I guess this is what happens sometimes when someone feels his or her thoughts are consuming them and taking over. Unfortunately it can lead to a devastating outcome for all involved. So how do we move forward from this and actually start moving towards freedom from our own thoughts. We really have two issues here: the lack of community and the overwhelming pressure that society places on us which contributes to our constant thinking.
There is a technique in acceptance and commitment therapy which teaches you to re-programme your thinking around what is a thought. A thought is just an electric message based on information that the brain has filtered and it is replayed as a thought in the mind. A thought has no power, it is just a thought. Imagine next time you hear yourself say “You’re an idiot” you could acknowledge the thought and just know that it is just a thought. You notice when you do this the feelings that are present are less painful as when you do listen to that thought.Try next time you have a thought like this to acknowledge it by saying “I am having the thought that I am an idiot”. You will notice the difference around the emotion and the thought. To separate your thoughts from true reality is a powerful way to have freedom over them.This technique is only one of many within the ACT framework.
Let’s look at some great exercises that can be used to settle your anxiety and take back control of your thoughts.
- Get at least 8 hours of deep sleep per night – deep sleep is the sleep without dreams. This can be achieved through regulating heat in the bedroom, no electronics 30 mins before bed, waking up in the morning and exercising first thing, don’t lay in bed trying to snooze between alarms
- Practise yoga
- Meditation / Deep breathing
- Mindfulness exercise – Acceptance and commitment therapy read the “The happiness trap” by Russ Harris
- Cardio exercise in the mornings, no exercise after 6pm as this can keep you awake
- Balanced diet of a range of vegetables
- Reduce the amount of stress in your day
- Consult your doctor and make sure your blood levels are healthy
Anxiety can affect everyone and anyone at any point of life. It is important to understand it and know no one is immune.
There are help groups that can assist you – Beyond Blue
If you feel your anxiety is starting to overtake your life and control you, please seek advice from a qualified professional.