I am sure many of you have seen and read multiple articles on anxiety. Perhaps you or someone you know struggles with anxiety. Or maybe you or someone you know has had an anxiety attack in front of you. Anxiety can cause significant barriers for many every day!
The DSM 5 writes that people with anxiety are unable to control the fear and worry most day and may show some of the following symptoms 1. Restlessness, feeling keyed up or on edge. 2. Being easily fatigued. 3. Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank. 4. Irritability. 5. Muscle tension. 6. Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep). D. The anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. 1
Anxiety attacks can come in all shapes and sizes and can vary for each person and each situation. Some individuals may have an anxiety attack that looks like they are hyperventilating (picture breathing into a brown bag ), others have the sensation of wanting to faint and feeling sweaty or nauseous. When I had my first panic attack I was approximately 17 years old. I passed out. To say I was scared is an understatement!
Anxiety can also look very different than the above; it can be invisible. Then how do you know that it looks like if it is invisible? In can look like the person withdrawing from friends or family. They are unable to engage in conversation or interact in their day to day because the anxiety is all encompassing and the mind is not able to engage as normal for that person.
Whatever form the anxiety takes, they are equally alarming and the person cannot just switch them off.
I have experienced both of the above types as well as times where the two have been mixed. Although I know the majority of my triggers, they do not always occur in that situation and sometimes they can spring from nowhere unexpectedly.
In my practice I teach mindfulness also known as being present in the moment and breathing.
You would be surprised to find out how many people stop breathing or breathe shallow when feeling overcome by the emotion of anxiety. Those deep belly breaths are key!
One of the central pillars of mindfulness is that "you can only change that which you are aware of". Mindfulness empowers you to make choices on how you think and behave in any given moment. That empowerment returns control to you. When we feel out of control our levels of anxiety, sadness and depression rise. 2
So let’s take a moment to look at your breath!
Do you breathe from your belly (long deep breaths) or from your chest (short and shallow)?
When you breathe from your chest you are taking short breath, but from the belly your lungs are getting 10x more air with each breath. 2
1. Sit in a chair, with an erect but comfortable posture
2. Place one palm on your chest and the other palm on your stomach (below the rib cage, above your navel)
3. Take some normal breaths. Which hand moves? If you're not sure look in the mirror.
4. If the top or both hands are moving you are a chest breather. If the bottom is moving you are a belly breather and getting a fuller breath. 2
When you belly breath how do you feel? Belly breathing has a number of different positive results. One of the positives is allowing more air to your lungs which in turn means more air to your brain! Win-Win! The air calms the nervous system and can bring your mind and body back into control!
Next time you begin to feel anxious take a moment and catch your breath. Feel your feet on the ground - barefoot or with shoes, the earth, the cement, the flooring; just notice for a few moments what it's like to have your feet firmly planted on the ground; take a deep cleaning breath.
After you have calmed your breath tell yourself – you are going to be okay! Sometimes things will get bad, but you handle it. One task, one piece, one moment at a time!
For more information on coping with Anxiety please see this article from a fellow colleague who also has a history of depression:
For more information on meditation which is a form of grounding please see this article:
Lastly, to book an appointment with me to discuss your anxiety please follow this link:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder 300.02 (F41.1). Reprinted from the DMS, Fifth Edition. Retrieved from http://images.pearsonclinical.com/images/assets/basc-3/basc3resources/DSM5_DiagnosticCriteria_GeneralizedAnxietyDisorder.pdf
Mindfulness workbook Altman, D (2014). The Mindfulness Toolbox: 50 Practical Tips, Tools & Handouts for Anxiety, Depression, Stress & Pain. Eau Claire, WI: PESI Publishing & Media