Stress is something we all feel. It can actually be a positive thing, if it motivates us and helps us to get things done in a productive and supportive way.
But when there's too much stress, and we become overwhelmed, stress can become unhealthy and harmful and we may start to feel anxiety.
Anxiety is different to stress. If you've never felt anxiety before, it can feel quite frightening, and can come up in some similar but different ways, for us all. If you've had anxiety in the past, you'll know how it feels for you and perhaps some of the triggers and warning signs, to know how to start managing things for yourself.
It can be very common for anxiety to heighten during certain times in our lives. When we feel overwhelmed, for all kinds of reasons, within ourselves, or with so much going on around us. Feelings and emotions can build up, and we may start to feel very unwell.
Anxiety can make us feel that we are not in control of things as we usually might be. I've had clients describe anxiety as suffocating. I can really relate to that, having known this feeling within myself. Through a traumatic time in my own life, anxiety felt so heightened that I had quite debilitating panic attacks.
I couldn't think clearly, I couldn't make decisions, I couldn't see out of the haze, and at times I felt as if I couldn't even move freely, or breathe. It felt terrible.
Fortunately, I found ways to support myself through that time, and I no longer have panic attacks. But I do still feel anxiety at times, when things in my own life or around me feel loud and noisy, or uncertain Or I'm just trying to do too much and not being honest with myself about what my body and my heart are actually asking of me.
I know when I'm anxious. My body starts to feel it, tension and pain heightens, I start to react to things far more easily than I usually would, I don't sleep well, I get headaches and even migraines, I find it hard to make clear decisions when usually this comes naturally to me, and I just have a feeling of not being in control, as well an overall feeling of exhaustion.
Do you know some of your own triggers or signs of feeling anxiety within yourself?
Or are you feeling anxiety for the first time, perhaps?
Please know that you are not alone. There are people, just like me, who understand and are here for you, and others you can reach out to as well. Whoever and in whatever ways feels most supportive and right for you.
I wanted to mention here, just a few things and ways that come to my mind, to manage anxiety in a way that may help. Knowing this isn't extensive, and we are all unique individuals and what supports one person may be diferent to another. Like anything, anxiety asks for and needs a truly holistic and personalised approach, as part of wellbeing.
Acknowledging how you're feeling is a really empowering and compassionate place to start. To simply acknowledge that you're feeling this way, that it's okay to feel this way, and to allow yourself to be aware of all the ways you're feeling it.
Then, understanding why you're feeling the way you do. What is it in your life, or around you, or within yourself, that's creating these feelings for you. What's at the heart of it, or the core of it all for you.
You might already know this, or it might be supportive to talk things through with someone. When we can become aware of our feelings and emotions, and why, it allows us to also understand what's irrational and what's actually rational and true. When we can stop that cycle of irrational thoughts, which encourages self compassion, it's from this space, we can feel into what's possible for moving forward.
Writing things down can help. Journalling around some of the feelings and emotions, can be a way to just let things out. Not needing a structure, just a free flow practice of thought streams and a way to release, through our own personal self expression. It doens't have to make sense, that whole idea is that we allow things to flow from our subconscious minds, and to express whatever it is we need to express, and let it all unravel and flow.
Be honest with how you're feeling with those closest to you. Tell them how they can best support you or just be there for you. And be honest with yourself about what you can and can't do, what feels too much and waht feels mangaeable.
It's a time to really focus on self care and self compassion and this includes saying no to things, and really just doing what's necessary, what's a priority and letting the rest go. And to those closest to you, explaining why. As no one is a mind reader. Most people close to us will notice when we're not ourselves. But unless we tell them, they wont know what to do or how to help. And a lot of anxiety can actually be eased through open and honest conversation.
Sometimes saying no might be to a colleague or a work deadline with something, and I find that when we are honest about things, we can be surprised at the supportive responses and understanding we receive.
Be kind to yourself. Hold yourself with self compassion. Anxiety is not something to be berated in any way. It's a horrible way to feel, but to feel angry about how we feel only encourages resistance to it all, and even more anxiety. Intsead, focus on accepting that it's there, and on the ways you can manage it, to move foward. Gift yourself grace, compassion and time. Those beautiful words 'this too shall pass'.
Prioritise putting yourself first and nurturing yourself. There are so many ways we can do this. With anything and everything that is possible, and soothes the nervous system. Start with simple things and take things day by day.
Things like healthy, nourishing food. It can be easy to reach for the takeways and alcohol during times of stress, when this only increases anxiety. Choose things like Oats for breakfast (oats are such a beautiful anti anxiety food), protein rich foods, mainly plant based, lots of green leafy vegetables and all the colours of the rainbow on our plates. And if you're feeling too anxious to cook yourself, this might be something you can ask someone else to do for you.
Going to bed early at a set time and having a routine to wind down at night and to wake in the morning. Make rest and sleep a priority.
As well as any exercise you're able to do, even if it's just a gentle walk around the block.
Making time for relaxation or meditation, and really making this a necessity. There are so many different ways we can meditate and some people love guided meditations, others like practices like vedic meditation which is my preferred choice - 20 minutes twice a day and it really supports me in every way. But find what works for you, and ask questions about different practices so you can find something that you can stick with and make part of your every day routine.
Breathe. Take deep breaths in and out throughout the day. Start with counting to 3, and then longer. Gently, slowly, and allow the breath to flow effortlessly and notice the sensations of ease aand release of tension ... and each time you feel a little more anxious ... step back, or step away from something, and just take this time to breathe. In and out. Until the feeling dissipates and fades.
Find things you enjoy doing, whatever that is for you. Nature. Spending time with loved ones. Patting your pets. Watering your plants. Reading books. Music. Art. Anything that you are able to do, wtih no pressure or expectation, that brings you joy and ease within your body, heart and mind.
There are so many ways that will personally support you with anxiety. If you'd like any suggestions, or have your own to add, I'd love to know. And I'm here to support you if that feels right for you too.
There is absolutely no shame around feeling anxious, or managing and living with anxiety. Sometimes it might feel lonely and we think we have to just cope with it all alone, when we don't. It starts with aknowledgement and compassion. And finding all the ways that feel right for you, to then be able to support yourself and your wellbeing.
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Katie Jane is a Life Coach, Health Coach, Counsellor, Nutritionist, Naturopath, Holistic Psychologist, Mentor, Writer, Meditation teacher. She has been working in the wellness industry for over 15 years and brings all of these qualifications and skills, along with her own lived experiences through challenges, changes and transitions. Katie works with clients in private practice in Melbourne, as well as online and over skype to other parts of the globe. Her approach to life and wellbeing is truly holistic and unique for each individual. She supports and coaches clients to make powerful changes in their hearts and in their lives.