Formerly, only film stars knew what it was like to be on a billboard looking marvellous while feeling broken inside. Now that experience is available to anyone with social mediaby Cathy Rentzenbrink / May 9, 2019 / Leave a comment
As I understand the causes of anxiety, we think that there is a threat, so our fight or flight response is activated and our bodies flood with adrenaline and cortisol. That system worked well when we needed to run away from tigers but now means we go haywire in the modern world where there are multiple stressors but no need to physically move. In body chemistry terms, we are all dressed up with nowhere to go.
I’ve been thinking about this because a friend has been signed off work with a stress-related illness. She’s been referred for therapy and asks for tips on managing anxiety in the meantime. With the caveat that everyone is different, I consider myself a veteran of the anxiety trenches, and am happy to share my protocol.
Exercise is good because literally running away from that tiger helps us to regulate. Mindfulness and meditation, once we learn to sit still for long enough, train us to have some control over our thoughts so we can be less hyper-vigilant. We need time off from news and phones and to be careful with booze and coffee, as they add into the unhappy cocktail sloshing around inside. Indeed, caffeine is so pertinent that to describe anxiety to a non-sufferer, I’d suggest they drink six espressos on a hangover and then get on a rollercoaster.
For me, anxiety manifests as a thudding heart, tightness in the chest or feelings of nausea. In the past, I’d often not clock it as anxiety but think I was succumbing to asthma or had caught a bug and would go to the doctors to be told there was nothing wrong with me. I’m not alone in this. Another friend has been to A&E three times in the last two years convinced that he is having a heart attack.
These days, therapy and abstinence from alcohol help me manage. I don’t hyperventilate any more but still it grumbles on, mainly as nausea. I feel well when I’m surrounded by people and exceptionally well when I am teaching or on stage. It is when I’m alone that it bites, and looking at social media can tumble…