Everybody gets nervous. It could be before doing a presentation at work, writing an exam or getting back the results of a medical test. Nervousness is a reaction to a situation that might be scary. It makes sense.
Anxiety doesn’t make sense. Even if you could say what brought it on, you might struggle to rationalise your way out. Meanwhile your body can go into full panic mode with symptoms like sweating, sleeplessness and heart palpitations.
BSA reader Sandra Botha writes: When I feel low, I am usually thinking too much. My mind becomes racy and goes into overdrive. How can I stop thinking so much? Why am I feeling down and defeated? How do I cope with my anxiety? Please give me some tips to help me deal with it.
We asked Dr Maricia Duvenage, our expert from Health Renewal for some insight.
Anxiety can cause a great deal of physical stress. If left untreated for too long it can exhaust your stress glands, called adrenals.
You need to take a step back and analyse what is the cause of your anxiety, or it will continue to torment you. Perhaps the cause cannot be removed from your life. Then you must find a way to manage it.
Getting control over anxiety can be a long process, but there are things that can help right now.
Take a deep breath, people say when you’re distraught. That might make it worse and lead to hyperventilating, which is common with anxiety. Try to take even, slower, shallower breaths to help restore the CO2 balance in your body.
Three times three
Look around. Name three things you see, name three sounds you hear, move three parts of your body. This mental game helps you to refocus.
Stay in the present
Anxiety is about what lies ahead. Put worries about the future back where they belong and concentrate on where you are and what is going on now. Even if something serious is happening, this helps you cope with the situation.
Chores and running errands will give you some satisfaction – job done – and distract you.
When you are anxious, you’re likely to hunch – an instinctive way of protecting the upper body. Pull your shoulders back, uncross your legs and sit with feet apart. As your chest opens, your body starts to feel it’s in control again.
Talk about it
Phone or visit someone close and be open up about how you’re feeling. Said out loud, the issues will sound different and feedback can help you make sense of it all.
The crucial one. Instead of fighting or denying it, accept that anxiety is part of your reality for now. It could just make you more anxious to overthink. Accommodate it and prepare for it.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help
If anxiety hits you often, consult a professional therapist who can help you figure out what brings on attacks and how to cope with them. Medication might be part of the solution.
It is also important to support your adrenal glands during times of stress. Try herbs such as rhodiola or ashwaganda. They are adaptogens, which may improve the body’s ability to adapt to stress.
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