Anxiety is often described as a feeling of nervousness, worry or fear that can range in its severity. It has physical, behavioural and psychological symptoms associated with it.
Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety at some point in life. It is a common human reaction to stressful events or changes such as going into hospital, moving house, getting married or divorced or sitting exams and usually, after a short time the feelings of anxiety will pass.
Anxiety is experienced in different ways by different people. The following are examples of how anxiety might manifest:
- Feeling apprehensive, tense, edgy and irritable
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Having difficulty sleeping
- Physical sensations such as butterflies or cramps in the stomach, trembling, a fast heart rate and sweating
- Feeling out of control
- Worrying that you are having a heart attack, stroke or other serious illness
- Wanting to withdraw from family and friends
- Having a fear of being judged unfairly, which can increase feelings of low self-esteem
- Panicking and avoiding situations which cause panic
- Wanting to avoid public spaces (this is known as agoraphobia)
- Being tearful and unable to express feelings
Anxiety follows me around a lot, some days more than others. It seems to lurk in the background, randomly rearing its head at times throughout my day. I used to think that it benefitted me to worry so much, helping me to see the things that I need to worry about or to ‘solve’ and to be more productive. However, over time the things that I ‘needed’ to worry about have increased, so much so that I find myself worrying about things a lot that often don’t need to be worried about.
Real Life Experience
My experience of anxiety
I have experienced anxiety in different forms for a long time now. For me, it’s there most of the time like a parrot talking on your shoulder or a radio in the background as you go about daily tasks. It makes me second guess myself a lot and often convinces me that the worst-case scenario is more likely to happen than it is. It fuels my self-doubt and often stops me from pushing myself out of my comfort zone or doing things that I enjoy. It can also make me feel like I am disconnected from my life at times and can result in me struggling to live in the present, especially when I am very anxious.
Anxiety can make small things seem larger and it can be difficult to make decisions or rationalise worries. Even though I know all these things it’s often difficult to stop it in its tracks, and it can be very frustrating.
However, I didn’t want this post to just focus on these negatives, so I wanted to share some of the good things that has come out of my experience because there have been some.
Five lessons my experience has given me:
- The ability to empathise with other people and their struggles and this has fuelled my desire to help other people.
- The chance to meet lots of amazing people who have also struggled with their mental health in groups that I have attended previously.
- More of an awareness of the struggles that other people may be going through and reasons for their behaviour.
- It has shown me the good in other people who have supported me when I have been struggling. Examples include previous teachers, work colleagues, friends, family, and professionals.
- It has helped to form my purpose and given my life a sense of meaning and empowered me to make changes not only in my life but in society too.
I also wanted to highlight that anxiety is different for different people. This is my own experience, and it may be similar or different to yours. I also wanted to add that I still struggle with anxiety and on many days the positive lessons that I have experienced above are clouded by frustration, doubt, and fear. In these times it is almost impossible for me to see any benefits to my anxiety, and it feels very consuming and is not all beneficial. On these days I try to practise self-compassion, but I admit this can be difficult and I am not always good at this.