Anxiety, whilst technically being considered a mental condition, can have a lot of physical side effects. This can include, but is not limited to, sweaty or shaking hands, breathlessness, dizziness and feeling as though the room is spinning. I know I’ve experienced all of these things at one point or another. However, there can also be more internal effects such as butterflies in your stomach (though I would refer to them as wasps), headaches and brain fog.
Dealing with such symptoms on a day to day basis can be difficult. I would find myself becoming physically exhausted by them - both mentally and physically. My anxiety goes hand in hand with my OCD to create a monster of hyperfixation and intrusive thoughts. This can lead to a lack of sleep, a tired brain and, in general, it just makes the whole situation worse. It can be helped with medication - I was actually put on beta blockers for my migraines but they are also used commonly for anxiety. This was a happy coincidence; it took away some of my physical symptoms but the actual anxiety still manifested.
Sometimes, it might feel like there’s not much you can do. I’ve had days where fear has actually stopped me from living my life. I’ve sat at my computer for hours on end with no break, frantically googling and researching things, ranging from the chances of nuclear war to symptoms of brain tumours. It can be extremely stressful because it can lead to you forgetting to drink, eat and use the toilet, which can make the discomfort reach another level.
But is it manageable? Can you deal with it?
You can certainly try. I’ve found that some things work occasionally and sometimes, they’re useless. It’s really a hit and miss situation.
- One option is to visit a doctor. Certain criteria has to be reached before you’re put on any kind of medication but there are a lot of cases where medicine has worked. As aforementioned, my beta blockers weren’t prescribed for anxiety but reduction of physical symptoms has made it easier to deal with.
- The doctor may also refer you to a therapist or counsellor. Cognitive behavioural therapy has proven to be a popular method, especially within people who suffer OCD. It kind of takes the approach of resetting your mind and re-approaching how you think things. It’s often done over a series of weeks or sessions. It may take longer for others but patience is key, as is not comparing your own recovery to anyone else’s.
- I’ve found that meditation is also a very good short term relief. There are apps such as Headspace that can help you, as well as YouTube videos. It’s a good way to take a break from your mind and think about other things. It’s definitely helped me clear my head enough to start thinking straight and rationalise things.
- That brings me onto my next point - rationalisation. There is different ways for everyone; speaking out loud about why you shouldn’t be anxious can help get it through to you. Equally, so can writing it down. For example, when I’m panicking about a health problem that I know I don’t have, I’ll tell my sister every reason why. This seriously helps me accept that I don’t have a certain illness or ailment and I can move on.
- It’s also super important to avoid anything that can make it worse. You’d think that researching something might help but when you google your symptoms and end up on a website for a fatal illness that you’ve never even heard of, it can make things so much worse. This particularly applies to those with health anxiety. I’ve ended up triggering panic attacks by spending hours on the NHS website.
Short term techniques can vary for everyone. Something that helps your friend may not help you. It’s important to explore lots of different ones and find that something suitable for your own personal experience.
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