The walls were closing in, and I could hear the blood pumping in my ears. My head spun in circles as I sat motionless, frozen. People walked by; laughing, talking, going about their day. But I had lost my flight or fight response, sitting as if paralysed. Slowly but surely, it got harder to breathe, each inhale sounding jagged and laborious.
This is what a typical anxiety attack does to me.
It starts with uneasiness and irrational fear. I lose track of my thoughts, and I feel as if I am trapped in a time freeze. The world continues to exist as I fail to move. The numbness, ringing in the ears; the dizziness and headaches are all too familiar.
I was 18 when I had my first anxiety attack. It was a nice summer day, and I had stepped into the salon to get a facial. I was excited to see the results, and longed for my tanned skin to turn into beautiful, glowing skin. Though my mother was a regular fan of facials, it was a new experience for me.
As I lay on the table, my hair secured, ready to be pampered, I felt a tinge of restlessness. I brushed it aside as excitement. But as soon as the salon lady started with the procedure, I could feel my palms getting sweaty. She asked me to close my eyes, and something went off in my brain.
I felt as if the room was getting smaller and uncomfortably warm. I tried to make sense of what was happening, but I had zero control over my body. I lay there, frozen, clutching the sheet underneath. I googled what had happened as soon as I went home, and after thorough research, realized that I had anxiety.
This founding both baffled and irritated me. I had never experienced something like that, and the knowledge that I have anxiety did not soothe me. Instead, I tried burying it deep down while I went back to my “normal life”.
But soon enough, I had another anxiety episode, and that’s when I decided to seek help. A friend of mine, a Psychologist by profession, was more than happy to help. I relayed the details, and she confirmed my belief that I did have anxiety.
She politely explained what anxiety is. In layman’s terms, anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. Anxiety disorders form a category of mental health diagnoses that lead to excessive nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worry. These disorders alter how a person processes emotions and behave, also causing physical symptoms. Mild anxiety might be vague and unsettling, while severe anxiety may seriously affect day-to-day living.
People of all ages can develop Generalized Anxiety Disorder, even children. It tends to appear slowly, with the first symptoms most likely to occur between childhood and middle age. Anxiety activates the body’s stress response. Almost all the cells, tissues, and organs in your body go on high alert. This stress response can impair your body over time.
I best describe it as, ‘an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.’ Fear, muscle tension, a fast heartbeat, insomnia, restlessness, feeling on edge, irritability, and tingling are a few of the many symptoms of anxiety. Identifying anxiety is often challenging because the symptoms become familiar over time.
Since then I have identified my triggers and learned to deal with anxiety.
It has introduced permanent changes in my behaviour such as overthinking. With the help of my therapists, family and friends, I have made a list of my triggers. My loved ones share their feedback and observations, and I study them to better understand my anxiety.
For example, when I was worried about a work project, my anxiety went through the roof. The pressure of performing well while maintaining my integrity as a writer caused a massive anxiety attack. That night, I wrote down the whole experience. Then I eased myself back into being optimistic by watching a comedy and gorging on my favourite ice cream.
I have learned that anxiety is now a part of my existence. I have accepted it, and I try new methods to cope with it. For me, what works best, is talking about my fears with someone I trust. This provides an outlet and diminishes the power those fears have over me.
Another saviour is exercise. I try to fit a workout session into my busy schedule. Days when I cannot make it to the gym, I dance to peppy numbers and get my daily dose of cardio. Breathing exercises help calm down the nerves and relax the body. Meditation is a very popular and effective method to combat anxiety.
To lead an anxiety-free life, I recommend therapy. Most people who seek treatment experience significant improvement and enjoy an improved quality of life. This will help you deal with anxiety at the very root of it. It is vital to recognise your triggers and navigate life accordingly.
Some medications can cause anxiety and can be considered as a trigger. Talk with your doctor about how these drugs make you feel and look for an alternative that doesn’t trigger your anxiety or worsen your symptoms.
Excessive intake of caffeine, skipping meals, social gatherings, conflict, stress and public events are the most common triggers. Personal triggers remind you, either consciously or unconsciously, of bad memory or traumatic event in your life. These may begin with a smell, a place, or even a song. Distinguishing personal triggers may take time, but it’s essential, so, you can learn to overcome them.
To sum it up, anxiety doesn’t have to dominate your life. With a proactive method, you can certainly avoid triggers and anxiety attacks. By generating healthy coping skills, you have a genuine prospect of restricting future anxiety attacks.
Anxiety is not a weakness. Though it is silent and can be overwhelming; there is a way around it. Everything can and will change. You can do intentional things that will impact tomorrow for the better.
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