Symptoms of anxiety can present in many different ways in both the mind and the body. Often when clients come to see me, what they describe in their first session can be feelings of dread, worry, feeling like they are losing their mind, feeling shaky or nauseous. Although these symptoms may sound like a common stress or nervous response that we all experience from time to time, it is when these symptoms are persistent and ongoing, appear without any particular reason or cause, and when they make it hard for us to cope with day to day living that these could be symptoms of anxiety and seeking professional support with managing these symptoms may be a step worth considering. Consider whether you experience any of the following:
Symptoms you may experience in your body
- Changes in breathing such as shortness of breath
- Increase in heart rate
- Tightness or discomfort in the chest region
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Feeling nauseous
- Sinking feeling, butterflies or a heaving feeling in your tummy
- Tingling or shaking in your body, especially the limbs
- Hot or cold flushes/sensations
- Needing to use the bathroom
Symptoms you may experience in your mind
- Feeling jumpy or frightened
- Feeling afraid for your life/that you may die/someone will get you
- Rumination and worry
- Anticipating the worst
- Feeling stifled, trapped or vulnerable
- A fear of losing control or that you may be crazy
- Difficulty relaxing
- Difficulty concentrating
3 Tips to help you manage symptoms in the moment:
1. Focus on the breath:
Our thoughts and the physical sensations that we can experience tie together in a cycle that impacts on how we feel.
Through using Mindfulness exercises ‘How to Understand and Manage Stress’ , whether you notice thoughts first, or uncomfortable physical sensations first, we can learn to breathe through the discomfort and focus on the present.
One Minute Breathing Exercise
This exercise can be done standing up, or sitting down, inside or outside, anywhere you like really.
Begin by breathing in and out slowly, feeling your tummy move out as your diaphragm fills with air, and feeling it fall as you exhale. Try to breathe in deeply for three seconds, and then out slowly for three seconds, releasing the air effortlessly from your body.
Naturally as we slow our breathing and focus on this, our mind will begin to wander, and that is ok. If you notice your mind wandering, acknowledge that yes you are having those thoughts, but you do not need to engage in them right now, simply let them go and bring your attention back to your breathing.
Focus on the whole experience that breathing has on your body. The temperature of the air, warm or cool as it enters, how your body moves, the pleasant experience breathing deeply results in, notice the energy. Repeat this process for one minute, or even more if you have time
….how do you feel?
2. Get creative
Engaging in a creative process allows your mind to sit safely with, process and express confused or distressing emotions such as thoughts focussed on anxiety and worries. These cathartic activities encourage healing and allow us to gain greater clarity through the expression of emotions. You may like to consider journaling, painting, using adult colouring in books, listening to or playing music, dancing, drawing, pottery work… the possibilities are endless. Importantly, don’t let the idea that you have to end up with a piece of artwork worthy of displaying, hold you back. This creative process is about providing your mind with a vehicle of expression for your emotions, thoughts and ideas.
3. Keep a journal
Keep a worry or thoughts journal: Do you find that just as you start to relax, your mind suddenly switches on, seemingly thinking of anything and everything all at once. This can happen when we are doing mundane or automatic tasks that do not require a huge amount of focus, such as driving, hanging out the washing or when we are trying to wind down and relax before going to sleep. Writing down our worries, important thoughts or brilliant ideas means our brain can relax and doesn’t have to hold onto these ideas and keep them swirling around in your mind for fear of forgetting them. So write these thoughts down, and make a point of saying to yourself, “thank you mind for that thought, but it is time to … (sleep, get onto the next task, focus) now and I will think about that later.” Chances are, if it is important you can refer back to it in your journal, and if it isn’t an important thought or worry, your mind will let it go
If you can relate to any of the above symptoms, take some time out to stop and try these tips. At Attuned Psychology we have many practitioners who are skilled and will be able to help you learn ways of responding to anxiety effectively so you can get on with living your life fully.
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