Anxiety – part 1

Conquer anxiety header

WHAT IS ANXIETY?

Well, this is a question we are all asking ourselves at the moment.  COVID-19 is testing us all whether we are one of the many NHS and frontline workers or one of the people having to be confined to our homes – anxiety is real to so many right now.

anxiety

The answer as to what anxiety is will change with whoever is answering the question. Anxiety feels different to everyone and each person experiencing anxiety will have different symptoms. To some, anxiety will be felt when left alone and not speaking to another human being for days on end but to someone else, anxiety may be experienced when walking into a crowded shop – anxiety is triggered by a variety of things and will be different for many people.

Anxiety isn’t just one symptom or worry – it’s a diagnosable mental health condition that affects millions of people across the world.

There are lots of theories about the purpose of anxiety and why modern living might make it worse and discussions continue as to whether medication or talking therapies are the best treatment for treating anxiety.

What we do know is that anxiety, particularly during the current time is high and can make us feel incredibly isolated, but remember, if you are feeling anxious right now, you are definitely not alone.

MIND defines anxiety as:

“Anxiety is what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid – particularly about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future. Anxiety is a natural human response when we perceive that we are under threat. It can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.”  (https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/anxiety-and-panic-attacks/about-anxiety/)

ANXIETY – A NATURAL HUMAN RESPONSE

Dangers & threats – way, way back, a long time before smartphones, computers and Deliveroo, before cities, skyscrapers and office jobs, in a time when humans lived in tribes in the wild, our early brains had to equip themselves with strategies for surviving in an extremely risky world. We had to be on guard for all sorts of predators, dangers and threats. We’d be on guard for tigers and other wild animals as we foraged in the forests for food, making sure we chose to harvest the good nuts and berries that wouldn’t poison us.

Survival of the fittestwe knew that there was strength in numbers and fitting in with the rest of the tribe was so, so important and so, being socially outcast from our tribe meant our chances of survival would be less.

Fight, Flight, Freeze, Flop – our brains are biologically programmed to respond to these types of threats in certain ways, and this is where our Fight/Flight/Freeze/Flop response comes in. When our brain perceives danger of any kind, it sends chemicals around our body to help prepare us in the best possible way to cope with what is ahead for us.

So, faced with a perceived danger our bodies could react on a primal level:-

  • Fight – stand our ground and face the threat head-on and take our chances that we are bigger, stronger, fitter and more able to beat our opponent.
  • Flight – run away from the threat.  Having made the decision that the other guy is bigger, stronger etc the best course of action to stay safe is run as fast as you can to get out of imminent danger.
  • Freeze – stay as still as possible and there may be a chance that the danger may not see you or consider you a threat.  Think about the saying ‘like a deer/rabbit caught in headlights’
  • Flop – play dead. This is just what the possum does and, in fact, ‘playing possum’ has also become a common saying in our vocabulary. This response is particularly useful if you’re caught in the jaws of a predator who, if we play dead, might just leave us alone.

 

ANXIETY –  IT’S NOT ALL BAD NEWS

However, as humans in the 21st century, the threats of being chased by a wild animal or being trapped in the jaws of a preditor are few and far between but the brain hasn’t evolved enough to cope with these changes and therefore our basic instincts of the fight/flight/freeze/flop response still work in exactly the same way when we perceive a threat looming.

In the world we live now, we certainly need to be able to run quickly to get out the way of a speeding car and respond if we become under attack. Anxiety can get us out of a sticky situation or imminent danger.

You may respond in the fight response when reaching for the last pack toilet rolls and someone got there just before you, or in flight when in sitting near someone who is clearly unwell, freeze when we hear difficult or upsetting news about friends and family or flop when you’re in an abusive relationship and feel in danger.

You may have come across the term fight or flight before and it’s often used to describe the sensations anxiety might provoke in us.

  • Increased heart rate – this helps you prepare to fight or run
  • Sensory overload – where you may have increased sensitivity to noise, colours or light
  • Nausea, stomach cramping, excessive sweating – where your body is trying to lighten its load so you can run away faster
  • Hyperventilating – so you’re taking short breaths and getting ready to run

ANXIETY IN THE MODERN WORLD

As the primal threats that previously required the fight/flight response don’t really exist anymore, our brains latch onto modern versions of things that might scare us instead.

  • persistent worries or fears of the future – we all worry from time to time but it’s the persistent, constant worries about family, work, health etc and how it is going to affect us and the people we care about in the future that may affect our levels of anxiety.
  • intense reaction to a specific situation – in today’s pandemic crisis, this could be learning that a family member or friend has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and possibly hospitalised. A totally scary time and bound to make even the level headed of us anxious.

ANXIETY/PANIC ATTACKS – HOW YOU MIGHT FEEL

Anxiety or panic can cause almost instantaneous reactions, feelings in your body change out of your control and you may feel:

  • light-headedFIGHT OR FLIGHT RESPONSE
  • hot or cold shivers
  • like you may faint
  • heart beating fast
  • thumping head
  • a reaction to noise or bright lights
  • sick or nauseous
  • that you need the toilet…now!

Panic attacks can occur for all kinds of reasons. They can be triggered by just one thought that you can’t get out of your head, maybe by past experiences or even come at you completely out of the blue for no apparent reason.  They happen in places you have felt safe in the past, in the company of people you’re used to or when you’re alone. They can be extremely distressing and may feel like you’re are having a heart attack or even like you’re dying. These feelings can feel awful and should definitely not be ignored.

Don’t make a fuss – get a grip, just get over it!!

Panic attacks and persistent anxiety are not symptoms that you should just brush off or ‘get over’. Being teased, mimicked or told jokes to be ‘cheered up’ are just plain irritating, and being told ‘there’s nothing to worry about, you’re safe’ does not help when high anxiety has taken over and the feelings of threat, dread and panic are all too real.

Know what works for you

If you suffer from any or all of these symptoms, please know that there are ways and means to help manage them and by seeking help you can find the ways that work best for you.

It can feel incredibly daunting to seek help for anxiety, as quite a number of us are programmed to just get on with things and not make a fuss. But anxiety can be seriously debilitating and you do not have to suffer it alone.

Talking to friends and family can really help but when you don’t want to share your personal thoughts and feelings with people close to you, a counsellor can really help too.

Even in such a crisis as we are in at the moment, you can still talk to your GP to discuss what treatment is best to reduce your anxiety whether that is medication or talking therapy.

Do whatever you need to do to cope in the best way you can.

HOW CAN I HELP YOU?

Anxiety is so debilitating at the best of times but now Coronavirus is so high in our thoughts,  news, social media and newspapers. We are constantly reminded how many people have contracted or died during the epidemic, and that alone can make us all feel highly anxious and fearful as we become more concerned for ourselves, family and friends.

I work with people experiencing anxiety helping them find ways to feel calmer, less anxious and less stressed, which is particularly helpful during these challenging times.

If you are feeling anxious and fearful, for any reason at all, talking to someone about your fears might just help.  For details of how I can help you click here Home 

Or contact me now by clicking Contact

CORONAVIRUS: BEATING SELF-ISOLATION

The coronavirus has well and truly taken hold and is affecting us all with more and more people in self-isolation and social distancing. We don’t know how long the crisis will last and the situation is very uncertain.

As the virus spreads, the importance of self-isolating for our physical health is pretty obvious but it’s important to remember that looking after our mental health should be high up on the list too.

FEELING OUT OF CONTROL

Human beings tend to worry about things we cannot control and feeling out of control is not a nice feeling. So, establishing ways of how we can remain in control of our lives can be amazing for our mental health and lift our mood.

The announcement that schools were to close to the majority of children, added another layer of worry for parents and families concerned with how they are going to cope with having children home for an unknown length of time.

Cafe’s, pubs and restaurants are also now closed which means that we will no longer have the ability to group together and be sociable – so we have to find another way.

And now we know that all non-essential movement outside of the home is banned and we have to make do with just one walk/run/exercise a day. Life for everyone has just got harder.

We hear daily that the NHS is inundated and the doctors and nurses working throughout the crisis are struggling to cope.

This period of self-isolation is likely to be incredibly stressful if you let it, so find ways to make it as stress-free and painless as possible.

But remember…..

THIS CRISIS WILL END

It’s so important to realise that this crisis will end at some point and things will get back to, what we recognise as normal. During this completely unprecedented time we have to make some difficult and challenging decisions to reduce contact with family, friends and loved one, and being a social bunch, most human beings find it a very unnatural thing to do.

At first, having a few days at home by yourself may seem a really attractive proposition, like having a long weekend, but when reality strikes and you realise you can’t go out to meet your friends, you can’t speak to people face-to-face and all of your freedoms outside of the house are taken away from you, it may become a different story and your mental health may suffer.

ISOLATION AND MENTAL HEALTH

Being in isolation can make your mental health take a tumble in quite a short time, so it’s important that during your time of social-isolation you make sure that you do as much as you can to reduce the impact on your mental health.

THREE GRANDMOTHERS FROM SALFORD

You may have seen the story on the news about the 3 grandmothers who don’t want to self-isolate alone so they plan to self-isolating together.  They admit to being anxious about becoming ill with the virus so they have decided to take positive action and support each other through the isolation period. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-51951583/coronavirus-three-grandmothers-self-isolating-together

HOW CAN YOU HELP YOURSELF?

There are many, many ways to help yourselves through this crisis.  Maybe be like the Italians and start signing with your neighbours or helping others with shopping and chores. It’s hopeful that our communities will come together and create an amazingly positive vibe during what is a stressful and anxious time for most of us.

Below are just 5 tips to help you get through your period of self-isolation:

PLAN FOR YOUR DAY

  • Keep your routine – as far as you can keep to your same routine. Get up at the same time, shower and plan to have all meals at the same time as you do now, so you punctuate your day with normal and routine things.
  • Set time aside during your day – for the things you enjoy. Gardening, cooking, reading a book, listening to music, watching a movie, listening to the radio, playing a game, doing some exercise or crafting. Whatever activity you choose will take your mind off being isolated.
  • News bulletins – if watching the news increases your stress and anxiety, limit the time you spend watching it. Plan to catch up with news bulletins a few times a day maybe in the morning, lunchtime and again in the evening. Also, turn off the news bulletin notifications on your mobile phone and smartwatch if receiving them increases your stress and anxiety levels.

USE OUTSIDE SPACE

  • Spend time outside – remember, at the moment self-isolating doesn’t mean you can’t go outside. As long as you make sure you adhere to the guidelines of keeping an appropriate distance between you and others, there is still the opportunity to be outside, maybe a walk in the park or along the beach. Or how about spending time in your garden, if you have one, on a balcony or even by an open window can really lift your mood.

POSITIVE SPIN

  • Isolation is not a punishment – it’s for your and other’s safety so like the ladies from Salford, try to put a positive spin on being isolated at home rather than thinking it’s a punishment.
  • Declutter – spend some time each day getting through those jobs that you never have time to do. Clear out drawers and cupboards or declutter your wardrobe.
  • Be kind to yourself – you have been given some time to catch up with yourself so, do whatever you fancy doing, do it, with no guilt.

DE-STRESS

  • Exercise – take some time each day to exercise, this will be good for your mental health, lift your mood and help you maintain or increase your general fitness. Maybe look online for a suitable exercise routine or for something a little gentler, try yoga or mindfulness instead.

FIND WAYS TO KEEP IN CONTACT

  • Technology – one of the great things about these days is, despite being isolated in our homes, we are still able to speak to friends, family, and loved ones through platforms such as Skype, FaceTime, texting, and phone calls.
  • WhatsApp – why not set up a WhatsApp group so that you can chat regularly and keep up-to-date with what’s going on with friends, family, colleagues, and neighbours.
  • Book Club – there is no need to miss out on your fix of book clue, just switch to an online platform and carry on discussing your books.
  • A virtual afternoon tea – being isolated means you can’t have tea with your parents every Sunday afternoon or catch up with friends on a Friday night. But why not keep up those events by doing them virtually, via the technology available to you.
  • Social media – like or loathe social media, it can be a lifeline during this time to keep in contact with people across the world. Please remember though to keep yourself safe online and follow all the recommendations and advice about keeping safe on social media.

Until this crisis has passed, it’s so important to take care of yourselves and others.

Remember to keep washing your hands, keep your distance but above all keep safe.

If coronavirus is making you feel anxious and fearful, talking to someone about your fears might just help.  For details of how I can help you click here Home 

Or contact me now by clicking Contact

Coronavirus – update

At the time of writing I am feeling fit and healthy. However, I am all too aware that this could change at any time.

It’s my aim is to make my counselling room a safe and secure place for you to explore your thoughts and feelings, as well as a place that you can feel physically safe.

Coronavirus is challenging all of us at this time and I want you to feel safe to come to counselling.

Advice about managing the virus is changing very fast and to ensure we don’t put ourselves or others in danger it’s important we follow the NHS Guidelines https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Your safety is important to me and coming to counselling should not add to your anxiety. Whilst this epidemic continues and to ensure that I and all my clients keep as safe as possible, please note the following:

Feeling unwell

  • If I begin to feel unwell or become contagious I will contact all clients immediately to manage future sessions (please see online/phone counselling below).
  • If you begin to feel unwell please do not come to your appointment – please phone, text or email to cancel your session as soon as you begin to feel unwell.

Online or phone counselling

  • To ensure continuity and support throughout this challenging time, I am offering all clients the option to change to online or phone counselling. Please don’t hesitate to ask me for details if this is something you would be interested in doing.

Hygiene

  • I will continue to wash my hands very frequently, particularly before and after seeing each client.
  • Anti-bacterial hand gel will be provided for clients use.
  • Used tissues will be disposed of after each session.
  • Hard surfaces in my counselling room will be wiped with an antibacterial cloth between sessions.
  • Fresh water will continue to be provided in clean glasses but please feel free to bring your own drink if you prefer.

Your physical and emotional health are important to me – keep safe everyone.

HOW CAN I HELP YOU?

Coronavirus is everywhere on the news, social media and newspapers. Constantly hearing how many people have contracted or died during the epidemic can make us all feel highly anxious and fearful as we become more concerned for ourselves, family and friends.

I work with people experiencing anxiety and help them to find ways to manage their anxiety, particulalry during these challenging times.

If coronavirus is making you feel anxious and fearful, talking to someone about your fears might just help.  For details of how I can help you click here Home 

Or contact me now by clicking Contact

 

No guilt – look after yourself first!!

 

‘Before you help other passengers, put your own oxygen mask on first’

 

Oxygen mask

How many times have you heard that instruction during the in-flight safety demonstration when you’ve been flying off on a well-deserved holiday?

Does it make sense to you? Isn’t putting yourself first selfish?

Are you someone who says ‘I should be helping others first’?

Well, if you are, here’s something to think about.

SINK OR SWIM

You jump into the sea trying to save a struggling swimmer, you’re not the best swimmer, you’re not very fit and your energy and strength starts to wane after a few minutes. The voice in your head says, I should help, it’s selfish not to.

surfer rescue training
Photo by Guy Kawasaki on Pexels.com

So, what happens then? There are now 2 struggling swimmers in the sea and other people, fitter and more able to help will have to risk their lives to save you too.

KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS

It makes sense that if you dive in to help someone with anything, big or small, to make sure you are fit enough to cope with whatever they are going through.

After all, helping others is a nice thing to do isn’t it, but helping others can take a lot out of you and if it takes more energy out of you than you already have, you will end up needing help too.

HAVE YOU GOT THE RESILIENCE TO HELP OTHERS?

It’s all about self-awareness and self-care and knowing the difference between ‘should‘ and ‘could’.

Are you thinking I ‘should’ help, or I ‘could’ help?

If you are thinking I ‘should’ help,you may be feeling under pressure or feel it’s your duty to help. Don’t forget you have choices.

Be aware of how you’re feeling, how much energy, time and resilience do you have.

By identifying how you feel, knowing what your energy levels are and by understanding your own resilience you can then make an informed choice whether its right for you to help on that occasion. Whether you have what it takes to help someone else or whether it’s time to ask for help yourself.

I get it, it can often be really hard not to respond when our family, friends and colleagues need help. You may feel you don’t have much of a choice at all but by making some small adjustments there are things you can do to help yourself.

  • If you’re a carer looking after a loved one, make sure at least some of your needs are met first so you are able to meet their needs as best you can. Ring fence some time, even if it’s just a few moments that are yours to do with what you want.
  • If you are a parent struggling to make sure that your kids are happy and healthy, by making sure your batteries are as fully charged as possible will make it easier for you to cope with day to day living. Discover what gives you energy, sleep, a decent meal, quiet time, time with friends, telephone conversation with a mate, time on social media, walking the dog – it doesn’t matter what you do but find something that gives to you rather than takes away.
  • If you have a friend in need, try just being there and listening without offering solutions. Don’t assume they want your help or you know what they need, wait until asked and then just listen. It’s sometimes enough just to know you’re being heard.

Are you helping someone go through a tough time? Remember, you are going to be more helpful to them if you are feeling resilient, strong and capable.

Practising self-care can help you build up your own strength and resilience, so you don’t end up feeling depleted and unable to help yourself or others.

WHAT IS SELF CARE?

There’s a lot being said about self-care at the moment but it’s not necessarily a warm bath with scented candles or a holiday in the Bahamas. Self-care is the normal things in life that gives to us rather than taking away.

  • Sleep – by having a regular sleep pattern you will feel more awake and rested.
  • Exercise – by increasing your exercise your energy will increase.
  • Healthy diet – by introducing a healthy diet your body will be stronger.
  • Hobby – taking up a hobby will help your mental health and reduce stress
  • Relaxation – making time for relaxation will help reduce stress and build resilience
  • Supportive relationships – developing supportive relationships will give you a place to seek help should you need it.
  • Yoga, Pilates or meditation – taking up any of these will help reduce stress, increase energy levels and quieten your mind.
  • Talking – having a trusted, non-judgemental person to talk to is liberating and can reduce anxiety and depression and help you with the worries and issues that affect you.

Putting yourself first is not selfish, it’s essential

NO GUILTNo GUILT

Helping others when your energy levels are low will drain you even more.

No’ is such a small word but can be so powerful. Coming to the aid of others when you don’t have the necessary energy will only deplete your own energy reserves more. Being able to say no at these times will give you more time and space in your life, more energy when you really need it, respect for yourself and confidence in knowing that you are looking after yourself the best way you can.

Putting yourself first and making sure you’re emotionally and physically well will give you the strength to help others.

Looking after yourself and putting yourself first is not selfish, it’s absolutely essential!!

HOW CAN I HELP YOU?

I work with people who love to help others but who also find it difficult to say no when they don’t have the energy to help. I help them to find ways to say no, without guilt so they can choose when and who to help.

If you would like to learn when and how to say no without guilt find out more by clicking Home

Or contact me now by clicking Contact

 

 

Happy New Year 2020 – a year for choices and change!!

Well, here we are are in 2020, not just at the start of a new year but a new decade too.

Fireworks

You have survived Christmas, the decorations are down and put away for another year, you’re back to work, the kids are back to school and ‘New Year, New You’ is being banded about constantly.

But I ask you this:

Do you want a new you or do you want to make the best of the you that you already are?

I am not a fortune teller and I can’t predict the future but there’s one thing I can guarantee – you next year, and decade for that matter, will be chock full of good and bad times, happy and sad times.  We will all experience a full range of emotions over the next 12 months, and there will be times that you will feel so positive that you believe nothing bad could ever happen and yet other times it will feel like it’s one bad thing after another with no sign of an ending.

There will be days that will drag and seem to last forever and some days that go past in a blink of an eye. There will be births and deaths, illness and cure, marriage and divorce, losses and wins, sunshine and rain.

I can also guarantee that a large chunk of what will happen will be out of your immediate control.

As I’m writing, the fires in Australia are wiping out vast areas of the countryside where people are dying and houses are being destroyed. It’s hard to know exactly how the people affected at this awful time feel being surrounded by such destruction and devastation.

Closer to home in the UK, we are a nation divided and wondering what’s best for the country. We have to put our faith in others to do their best to sort it, whether we like it or not.

You can’t escape from real life and the up’s and down’s of what it throws at you. From relationships to jobs, money to health, concerns about the future to concerns about the past, real life is out there.

CHOICES, CHOICES AND MORE CHOICES

ChoicesBut, and here’s where it’s so great being a human – you always have choices.

‘No I don’t’ I hear you cry!! OK, you may not have much choice if your bus doesn’t turn up or you have a flat tyre and you’re late for work – it’s annoying and isn’t a good start to your day but things like this can affect your mood and set the level for the whole day if not week.

So, by choosing to change the way you feel about yourself and your self worth, you then have a choice how you deal with, and feel about situations that are out of your control.

CHOOSE CHANGE AND FEEL BETTER

Remember, if you change nothing, nothing will change and the same things will continue to happen.Change nothing

Deliberately choosing to make good and positive changes in your life will make you and your life feel better. It’s a matter of identifying what changes you’d like to make and having the strength, confidence and belief in yourself to make the necessary changes for you.

Sound simple? Maybe you’ve tried many times to make that new start, each new year beginning a diet to lose the pesky 10lbs that’s holding you back from getting the job/partner/relationship of your dreams, which has not really worked.

Sound hard? It’s absolutely possible to learn ways to change the things that are not working for you right now. You can develop new strategies to help you feel more confident, positive and energetic, even without losing a single pound of weight!!

MAKE YOUR FIRST CHOICE

You can sit back and let life happen to you, sit on the side lines and stay in a place where you feel out of sync with little sign of growth, development or progress.

Or, you can use this time to take stock of your life. See what’s working for you and see what’s not.  Not trying to be someone you’re not, but utilising the best bits of you so you feel more in control, more positive about your future and able to deal with any hiccups that happen along the way.

By making some subtle changes it’s possible that you can kick start an optimistic future where a more confident you begins to take control.

What have you got to lose? Nothing at all!!

So, tell me:

What do you want to keep and what do you want to say goodbye to in 2020?

Leave a comment in the comments box below.

I work with people helping them make the necessary changes and focus on themselves,  life, work and relationship issues.  If you would like to have some help to get focussed on what you can achieve in 2020 and see how I can help you now please click this link –  Home

Or to contact me now – click here Contact