Fight or FLIGHT
With the holiday season not far away, it seems a good time to talk about anxiety, as there are some who are already struggling with it, and this time of year can be quite a stressful time.
Let me start by reassuring you that anxiety is a normal, human feeling of fear or panic. However, there are times when feelings and reactions get out of control.
Anxious feelings happen when we are facing a stressful situation, like waiting for an exam result. Once over, we usually calm down and feel better. But there are times when we don’t calm down, in fact, the feelings get worse.
I hear so many people getting really distressed because they continually experience the symptoms of anxiety. I’m not surprised, considering what has been happening in the world, especially in recent times.
When we feel anxious we can experience some pretty unpleasant and upsetting symptoms, made worse when we don’t understand what is going on in our bodies.
You may experience –
• Increased heart rate, blood pressure
• Sweaty palms
• Trouble focusing
• Overthinking or obsessing
• Physical agitation
Our brain’s internal alarm system has been set off.
This is referred to as our Fight or Flight response. It’s a very important function because, without it, we could be in danger of doing something harmful like walking off a cliff! It keeps us safe from danger. Unfortunately, that tiny part of our brain responsible for that isn’t intelligent. It can’t distinguish between real danger and something that is worrisome, but not life-threatening. So, we are likely to experience the same level of reaction.
It’s like the brain’s alarm system has a fault and keeps going off, leaving you in a constant state of anxiety.
Just like a fire alarm. You aren’t sure whether it’s a real fire, a practice or if the alarm is faulty. You can’t ignore it, just in case.
Let’s face it we have all had enough of this wretched pandemic. What we first envisaged as something that would blow over in a few weeks has proved to be much more troublesome, affecting our lives in so many ways. The fear surrounding the COVID virus itself has caused many to be in a constant state of anxiety for different reasons, and there has understandably been an increase in the number of people who are in a constant state of anxiety or struggling with mental health issues.
The pandemic has had far-reaching effects, which has caused anxiety and stress, including money worries, work concerns, loss of loved ones, as well as the effect it has had on some relationships. If that wasn’t enough, there have been concerns about the COVID vaccines. Just when you thought you were just about coping with that, we then get bombarded by sensational stories from the media of fuel shortages, HGV driver shortages, food shortages, the list goes on. A day doesn’t seem to go by without the media headlining something that creates panic or fear.
It creates a sense of having to be hypervigilant, ready for the next unsettling event You begin to see negative things around you, which adds to the pile of worries.
Result – Chronic Anxiety.
This is another way of saying that you are feeling generally anxious all the time. No surprise when your fears have been fed with more and more things to worry about, leading to a sense of dread of what might happen next. No wonder if you are constantly on edge and unable to relax. You may find that even those things that didn’t used to be a problem, create feelings of anxiety, and you don’t feel able to deal with them.
Human beings are social creatures. Our interaction with others is important as it provides us with information necessary to carry out daily activities, and we need communication and physical touch to flourish and feel connected.
Instead, we have been cut off from friends and family for a long time, not able to see them in the flesh, and spend time over a cuppa or a beer just idling away the time, not talking about anything, in particular, having a good old belly laugh. Because we haven’t interacted with others so much, it has led some people to feel anxious about interacting with others or even going out. So, you may be feeling anxious about gathering together with others, dinners and parties especially.
THE EFFECT ON RELATIONSHIPS
Whether couples have been forced together in a confined space 24/7, – often with children too, or forced apart, relationships have been tested, often with cracks that already existed becoming even more noticeable. These can be exacerbated at this time of year with all the hype around the festive season.
In extreme situations anxiety has become so severe that it has resulted in panic attacks, which can feel really frightening. Some of the symptoms can include –
• feeling nervous, on edge, or panicky all the time
• feeling overwhelmed or full of dread
• feeling out of control
• having trouble sleeping
• low appetite
• finding it difficult to concentrate
• feeling tired and grumpy
• heart beating really fast or thinking you’re having a heart attack
• having a dry mouth
• trembling, or having wobbly legs
• feeling faint
• stomach cramps and/or diarrhoea/needing to pee more than usual
• sweating more than usual
• getting very hot
SOME TIPS ON HOW TO COPE WITH ANXIETY
Firstly, stop watching and reading the news. Most of it is negative and won’t make any difference to your daily life. I can’t stress enough the power of breathing. When we are anxious we often breathe quite shallowly, meaning we aren’t getting enough oxygenated blood around our bodies. That in turn exacerbates the anxiety. There are lots of breathing exercises online, as well as many apps. Remember, your lungs are like bellows, and hunching up reduces their effectiveness.
When you feel an anxiety or panic attack coming on, remind yourself that it’s your body’s way of protecting you from what it perceives as danger. Instead of feeding your anxiety, be kind and compassionate to yourself.
Connect with friends and family, and wherever possible give each other a 20-second bear hug! This releases much needed ‘feel-good’ hormones.
Distract yourself, if you feel yourself becoming anxious. Play music, get outside – in nature wherever possible. Dance, draw, colour, pick up the phone to a friend and have a giggle.
Let go of the little things. Walk away from meaningless arguments, and pick your fights wisely.
Talk calmly with your partner, shouting at each other solves nothing. Walk away if things become heated, and then talk about it, when you are both calmer. Instead of finding fault with the other, notice their good qualities. The reasons why you fell in love with them.
A really good tip – if you feel an argument brewing, lie down, or walk outside, both are less aggressive.
Choose the programmes you watch on TV. Some are likely to create more fear and anxiety.
Don’t take your worries into your sleep. Instead, take three positive thoughts with you to help calm you for a good night’s sleep.
Resist the urge to get caught up in other people’s dramas. That doesn’t mean you can’t be concerned or caring.
Stop comparing yourself to others. Once you hear yourself thinking or saying ‘but everyone else…..’ Stop and ask yourself who all these others are!
Don’t get drawn into the persuasive TV ads, encouraging you to buy things that are going to get you into debt.
Resist the emotional blackmail by your youngster, who will manipulate you to get their own way.
If you really are struggling, speak to your GP. Please don’t get to crisis point.
Check out whether there are any food/clothing/toy banks in your area.
Wendy Capewell is a Psychotherapist, Relationship Specialist, Author and Podcaster.
Love~Listen~Talk~Repeat podcast – https://bit.ly/3f7NMAX