What is Generalised Anxiety and How Can You Deal With It?
By Kathryn Mellon – iNSPIRE Psychologist
You’re lying in bed, you feel sick, your chest feels tight and now you are stressing that you’re getting sick. You can’t get sick, there’s training tomorrow and then competition on the weekend. You can’t get sick. This cycle might repeat every night or every couple of nights. Now, occasionally it may be the case that you are getting sick. Or it could be generalised anxiety.
The clinical definition of generalised anxiety is:
“Excessive anxiety and worry, occurring more days than not about a number of events or activities, and the individual finds it difficult to control the worry.”
In simple terms, you will find yourself worrying about anything and everything that you have going on in your life. Then you begin to worry about why you feel so stressed out or anxious causing more stress and anxiety. More often than not you will experience physical symptoms (stomach aches, headaches, chest tightness), you think you are getting sick and you will have trouble sleeping.
iNSPIRE CEO and Founder Annie Flamsteed knows all about generalised anxiety. As she puts it, on paper she has everything you need to be a happy and confident young person. She runs her own business, has a great partner, lives in an area she loves, drives the car she always dreamed of and has endless amounts of support from her family and friends. Yet she struggles with generalised anxiety. It can affect anyone.
How do we manage something like this? Here are my 4 steps:
It is important to accept the anxiety for what it is. There will come a point when you understand that what you are feeling is not a stomach-ache or sickness but anxiety you are experiencing. Instead of trying to suppress or distract yourself from it, accept it. Understand that, that is what it is and that by accepting it you begin to learn to get through it. It is a normal feeling and reaction, not something to be afraid of. Once you accept anxiety for what it is and what you are experiencing, you can begin to move past it.
The thing with anxiety is our minds are often racing a hundred miles a minute. We have so much to think about but are unable to focus our minds on any one thing we are worried about, this is where journaling can help. Write down your thoughts as they come to you. When you catch them in your mind, write them down as soon as you can. Writing them down means you don’t have to try and remember them all in your head. Doing this can also help you to problem solve what is causing you stress.
When we get anxious our heart starts racing and we start to panic. Slowing down and taking conscious control over your breathing can help reduce some of the physical feelings of anxiety and stress going through your body. Breathe in deeply through your nose, extending your diaphragm and exhale slowly through your mouth. As you exhale say the word “RELAX” and picture the tension leaving your body.
4. Let go
You can only control what you can control. You can’t control what other people do in their lives, or even what they think of you. So, when we stress about these things, we are expending energy on things we ourselves are unable to solve. Similarly, when we worry about what might happen in the future. You can’t predict the future, so don’t try to. You can plan and work towards it, but plans change, and it is important to be able to adapt with this. Focus on and enjoy where you are in the present moment. This could mean turning your phone off after dinner and giving yourself some “me time” or focusing on what you need to do to feel good and live well.
Remember anxiety is not the enemy, it is a normal emotion designed to help keep the body safe and motivate us to get things done. It’s only when that anxiety gets in the way and starts affecting how we live our everyday lives that it becomes a problem. Having generalised anxiety doesn’t mean you have to be anxious forever. Making some small lifestyle changes and implementing several techniques can ensure that you have control over your anxiety rather than it controlling you.
A message from the author – Kathryn Mellon:
“This one hits home for me, as I’ve been in that situation where anxiety takes over far too many times. I’ve put some tips here for those seeking some sort of advice but I really can’t stress how important number 1 is. Acceptance is the most important step in your journey to handling your mental health, just talk to someone about it and don’t be afraid to say how you actually feel.”