I’ve always been an anxious person; from being a toddler, right up to being the 25 years of age that I am now.
It’s always been a thing I have had to deal with, even though I didn’t really understand what it was up until I was about 15. I just thought that everyone felt the same way I did – they just simply had more practice at being in certain situations. However, since I learned what it meant to have actual anxiety as opposed to simply feeling a little nervous in a completely natural way, I knew it was more serious than I thought.
I’ve always had issues with speaking to people. Even the thought of answering the phone or the door to people I know send my stomach in knots and sets my brain into overdrive – even though I know full well who I will be presented with. It could be my best friend and my brain would still be coming up with “what if’s”.
Why Anxiety Sucks
Rather than being completely rational, I find that I’m often in a negative mood – even if everything is going great. This can often make me seem grumpy or annoyed at people. I’m not. I can’t explain why I’m looking or reacting in that way… it’s just how I am.
This is a problem that I’ve found, especially when trying to make (or keep) friends – some people see me as a “psycho” or just simply “unfriendly”, especially if they’ve caught me on a bad day and all I want to do is sit in the safety of my room and look at the four walls. However, I really want people to understand that when I’m in a mood like that, it’s nothing anyone has done (unless I specifically tell you that it is). More often than not, it will be my mind making up a completely ridiculous situation that might happen and repeating it in my head over and over.
Let me tell you, that’s pretty annoying.
Anxiety isn’t just a nagging feeling that you get before a big show or presentation. It can completely overwhelm you and make you feel like the world is closing in fast around you, and more often than not, it will be something that you have to deal with every single day to some extent.
It’s not just the mental symptoms, either; the physical symptoms can be completely debilitating. I’m lucky to experience panic attacks which just require me to sit and breathe for a while and which make my limbs tremble out of my control, but there are people out there with more severe anxiety which can completely shut them down and essentially debilitate them, whether they are having a panic attack or not.
How Can You Help?
As someone who doesn’t have anxiety, how can you help?
Understand the Situation
First off, never underestimate the power that anxiety can have over a person. Don’t sit by and watch them have a meltdown and tell them that they are being irrational – most of the time, we know we are! Believe it or not, we’d rather not be feeling like utter crap and that we’ve screwed our lives up, so don’t belittle us by telling us “you’re being silly”.
Give Support Where You Can
Secondly, give support when you can. Anxious people often feel like they aren’t good enough because of their anxiety, so make an effort to let the person with anxiety know that you think they’re fab and just give them a boost every now and then. You don’t need a psychology degree to make a person feel better, so start thinking of ways to encourage a person with anxiety to be happy about themselves – even a simple “Hope you have a great day” text will do!
Figure Out Their Triggers
Anxiety stems from a lot of different places, and there are certain situations that can trigger a person to have an axiety attack. Try and work with them on figuring these out, and avoid them if possible. If not, make sure that you have a coping plan in place if you do have to be in that situation – trust me, it will help!
For example, if walking through a crowded area is a trigger (being super simplistic here) there will be times that this can’t be avoided. Instead, keep hold of your loved one’s hand (if they allow you to touch them when they are in a panic… some people hate it so please check with them first) and start playing a game where you count back from 100 together. It will help them focus on something other than their anxiety and it will be a lot easier to make it through the crowd without them feeling like all eyes are on them!
Recognise Attack Precursors
There will often be an indicator that someone is about to have an anxiety attack, so try and recognise the signs and help them move to a calmer state of mind before it escalates. Signs are different for each person, but some of the indicators I’ve experienced are:
- clenching of teeth
- eyes widening
- increased rate of breathing
- lip/finger/general biting of the skin that is incessant
Living with anxiety isn’t something that I enjoy, it’s just something that I have to deal with. I usually have pretty good control over my emotions, but there are moments where that control slips and I feel completely exposed and vulnerable.
I’m lucky to have an amazing boyfriend who understands what to do when I’m in a state of panic, and my family already know that I’m a anxious person anyway! If you feel like you need to talk to someone about your feelings of anxiety and it’s affecting your daily life, please seek the advice and help of a medical professional, or contact Mind – the mental health charity. Alternatively, if you have any questions or you’d like to talk to me about your anxiety, let me know! Drop me a private message over on my Facebook or Twitter pages!