To Living With Anxiety
Anxiety, noun, a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. May also be known as the "Oh shit" moments of panic that wake you from a dead sleep, induce stress sweat (the super smelly kind), unleash intense IBS, give the feeling that everyone is watching, and/or, talking about you, etc.
It's not uncommon for twenty-somethings to talk about their "anxiety" —especially if you live in Los Angeles. LA is a mystical place where shrinks are like traffic — common AF and often times, completely unnecessary.
Anxiety has become a catch-all term to describe any feeling in regards to a particular worrisome situation. For example, I've overheard people discussing their anxiety about the lack of Wi-Fi. Which, now that I think about it, that could be something to panic about. Regardless, it's important to note that while the word "anxiety" can be used in a situation like this, the psychiatric definition of anxiety is described as, "a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks".
With the terrifying transition from teens, to early twenties and then to bye-bye Mom's insurance I thought anxiety would be the perfect start to Mental Health Week. I surveyed a group of 29 individuals that belong to different age groups, backgrounds and cultures. These are some of my findings:
How long have you had anxiety?
When I was initially creating this survey, I wanted people from multiple backgrounds and age groups to be able to provide insight into their battle with anxiety. The anonymous survey was meant to provide both those living with and without anxiety another perspective. I found it interesting that many people noted dealing with anxiety for most of their lives, while another significant portion of the group has "picked it up" along the way in life.
For me, I think my anxiety has been with me since day one. My mom feels that it’s her fault for keeping me in a “bubble” when I was young — a complete 180 from her upbringing. I should mention that my mom has tattoos, can give Tony Hawk a run for his money on a board and has probably climbed more trees than I could count in her lifetime. I’m a worrier, it’s just who I am. I overanalyze situations, and plan for outcomes to problems and secondary scenarios — I like to call it being prepared.
Were you diagnosed by a doctor or self-diagnosed?
How often do you have anxiety?
I found it extremely interesting that most of the people that completed the survey experienced anxiety on (at least) a weekly basis. For me personally, I know how crippling anxiety can be — both physically and mentally. While I knew that other people dealt with issues similar to mine, I wasn't expecting so many anxiety sufferers to face the maddening beast on such a regular basis.
I don't know about you, but I deal with anxiety on a daily basis. It's a little voice inside my head that is constantly worried; and I mean constantly. I worry about events that haven't taken place, formulate an assortment of scenarios and corresponding outcomes for everything. What if I wake up late tomorrow? The traffic will be horrible. It'll take over an hour to get to the office. What will the team think? What if Boss Man wants to have a meeting and I'm not there? Will he fire me and promote someone else? This is literally a string of thoughts that I think about as I try to force myself to sleep every night.
What do you feel contributes to your anxiety?
Have you sought treatment for your anxiety?
How does your anxiety present itself?
This is where the survey got a little tricky — comment box responses. By far, the most common symptoms of anxiety were rapid heart rate, increased body temperature, confusion, irritability and trouble focusing. These are the other 55 that the group came up with:
Pit in the stomach, nausea, migraine headaches, dizzy spells, lightheadedness, accelerated heart rate, increased body temperature, confusion, panic attacks, racing thoughts, insomnia, decreased interest in socializing, fight or flight response, sad, anxious, stressed, nervous, upset stomach, flooded with worry, shakiness, trouble breathing, racing thoughts, tingling in hands or feet, crying or emotional release, sweating, tunnel vision, overthinking every conversation, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, spacing out, obsessive, paranoia, restlessness, muscle tension, difficulty concentrating, trouble staying asleep, irrational thoughts feeling like something bad is going to happen, nervousness, repetitive speech, unable to follow conversation, forgetfulness, bad mood, fatigue, lack of focus, wanting to stay inside, chest pain, grinding teeth, heart palpitations, confusion, clammy hands, dizziness, claustrophobia, irritability, difficulty breathing, feeling of doom, forgetting to breathe, blurry vision,tightness in throat, can't talk, frantic looking for reassurance that everything is okay.
This goes to show that not everyone's anxiety presents itself in the same way. Furthermore, the intensity for certain symptoms may be much stronger in one person than another.
How do you calm your mind to get through high-anxiety situations?
"Take a walk outside, deep breathing, telling myself 'this is just a feeling, it will go away,' sometimes isolating myself until it passes helps."
"Grounding: focusing on sights, smells, sounds and feelings. Acceptance: allowing my self to be anxious but telling myself that I will get through and be ok."
"[Journaling] a quick note about why I'm feeling anxious lets me 'get it out of my head' and move on. In the past I used alcohol and other unhealthy escape methods. Fortunately the past few years I have found healthier alternatives to relieving stress."
What can others do to help you with your anxiety?
First and foremost, nearly all respondents asked that those around them do the following:
— Listen —
Interestingly enough, beyond listening to us during an attack, the group was divided on how others can help. On one side, people feel that having the distraction of someone around to either engage in conversation and talk through it, or focus on something else entirely would be beneficial. On the other side, respondents felt that people asking questions, offering advice, conversation or company would be too much — and they’d prefer to work through it alone.
My best advice would be to communicate. If you’re feeling a wave of anxiety coming over you let the people nearby how they can help. If you want to talk it through with them, ask them. If you want to spend some time alone, kindly let them know what’s up. If you’re a poor schmuck that gets to put up with us and our anxiety (kidding), and you notice a change coming over us, it’s one-hundred percent okay to ask how you can help. Some people get instantly panicky or experience intense mood changes quickly — so try not to take it to heart if someone snaps at you or gets emotional. It’s not in our control, or yours — and will likely pass soon.
What’s one thing you wish people could understand about living with anxiety?
People with anxiety, myself included, hope that you understand that:
- It’s not a choice, nor something that can be quickly resolved
- An attack can have many triggers and appear out of virtually nowhere
- We may need your help, or just some time on our own — it's ok to ask if it’s unclear
- These attacks, or even waves of anxiety, can be both debilitating and draining
I think these five people say it perfectly
"[It's] not simple to answer 'what's wrong' during an attack. No matter how minor or extreme the anxiety may be, it's something that we can't control. It's a feeling and yes there are triggers but sometimes it seems like it just comes out of nowhere."
"I can't control my body's response even if I know the reason I'm having anxiety isn't logical or rational. I don't need you to agree with the reason I'm having anxiety, I just need you to show you understand and care. You don't have to 'fix' anything."
"I don't chose this, I can't always explain it, it doesn't even make sense to me. Sometimes it is the small simple things that are the hardest to deal with. Be patient and give me space and time to deal with this my own way but don't give up on me."
"It's not something you can just 'get over, and each attack can be different. Patience helps and understanding that some days are going to be bad days."
"Any one can have it. Even people who seem calm can silently suffocate in it. That it's an obstacle that we over come, every day, and it isn't a burden we chose."
Now, my fellow millennials (and friends of millennials) we move forward with a fresh perspective on anxiety. I hope that you better understand the disorder and realize that it's bigger than the naked eye can see. I hope this post has enlightened you into new ways to dealing with your anxiety (or at the very least shown you that you're not alone in this.) We'll talk a lot more about it in another post this week, but keep a three letter chant in the back of your mind for when things start to feel awry: PMA
Do me a favor! Share your favorite method in getting through an anxiety attack on the OMG social pages. Have you found that something works to keep attacks at bay all-together? I'm in need — let me know!
You know that trifecta feeling of jealousy, depression and rage you feel every time you see someone's engagement announcement on Facebook? Yeah, we'll be talking about that and other twenty-something panic moments on the blog tomorrow as Mental Health Week continues — stay tuned!
I just heard this for the first time tonight and I'm hooked. The music video is pretty cool too. 😙