Feeling stressed and anxious seems to be fairly common these days. If we are too stressed and anxious, we become rather paralysed with fear and unable to function very well. That feeling can become overpowering in many ways. I notice that often people use the terms ‘stressed’ and ‘anxious’ interchangeably and they speak of one when perhaps they mean the other. Both can be useful and/or destructive.
If we are stressed because we are doing a lot of something we love, that can be fine for short periods of time as long as we find balance. If we are stressed trying to achieve targets or deadlines that seem relentless and unending, we may find ourselves burning out without the balance of relaxation and recreation. Stress is often about what we feel we have to accomplish or do. Anxiety may be a more subtle thing because it may result from stress and our fear that we won’t be able to do what we feel we should or it may be something internal that we cannot easily identify, so we may feel anxious but not clearly know why.
Very often we are stressed or anxious about something that may never happen but it is more to do with some thought or feeling that is pressing upon us, so there are things we can do to soothe the part of ourselves who feels this way:
If you are having an anxiety attack:
Say aloud or to yourself: ”I am feeling very scared here.”
Then put your attention into your body and name what you may be feeling – a body sensation like: My heart is racing or my chest feels tight, or my legs don’t feel like they want to move, or I feel butterflies in my stomach.
Then look around where you are and describe to yourself either out loud or internally what you see. You may be waiting for a bus so you see traffic around and pedestrians walking by. You may notice trees in a nearby garden or someone walking a dog across the street.
When you have identified clearly what is happening in the here and now, say to yourself, (IF IT IS TRUE) and I AM NOT IN ANY DANGER RIGHT NOW.
When you have talked yourself into a calmer state, then look at what might have been giving you a sense of anxiety, like I have to talk with my boss today about feeling overwhelmed at work. Then look at the evidence, which means look at times when you have talked to your boss in the past and see if those times had been satisfactory. If they have been difficult, perhaps you need to speak to someone in Human Resources to ask for help in this kind of situation. If you are able to see what has happened in the past and know that it is likely to be all right, you may feel calmer, and if it has not been all right and you identify an action you can take to get support and help, you might also feel calmer.
If you have a performance or presentation to give, you may indeed feel anxious and that anxiety may be a good thing, if you acknowledge it and don’t try to push it away and deny it. Sometimes an appropriate level of anxiety can actually enhance our performance or presentation.
If you are suffering from an excess of inappropriate stress or anxiety, there are things you can do to help yourself. You can read books on the subject to gain a greater understanding of them. You can look into EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) learning tapping can be extremely helpful with stress and anxiety. You might start seeing a psychotherapist and having regular weekly psychotherapy because that fifty minute weekly session would give you a place where you can freely express your feelings and thoughts safely with your therapist without being judged or criticised. Feeling free to say what you are thinking and feeling regularly can be extremely rewarding and helpful. You might consider meditation or listening to relaxing music or doing a sport that you enjoy or just going out for a walk and being in nature. You can speak with your doctor and explain your feelings and perhaps get anti-anxiety medication.
Anxiety may be more difficult to manage if you don’t know its source and are simply ‘feeling anxious’. In that case, psychotherapy might be the best option to try.
We may be complex creatures, but we can make significant improvements in our lives if we pay attention and listen to what our feelings are telling us and then take action to seek help.