- In 2013: There were 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK
- Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety (2,3)
- Men on average, 191,000 men a year report stress, depression or anxiety caused or made worse by work – an average of 1.2% of men in work over a 12 month period. (Source: HSE/Labour Force Survey).
- 7.2% of 5-19-year olds experience an anxiety condition (4)
- In 2017: 3.9% of 5-10-year-old children had an anxiety disorder, as did 7.5% of 11-16 year olds and 13.1% of 17-19 year olds (4)
- In 2019: 1 in 4 people experienced a mental health problem of some kind each year in England .
- 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (like anxiety and depression) in any given week in England .
Shocking figures and everyone of these is a person, who is living with this and it affects not only their lives but also the lives of those they love.
I wanted to find answers to the following questions:
Q: What is Anxiety?
Q: What can be done to ease this feeling?
Q: Why does it arrive with Grief?
Here is what I found:
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotion not a physical condition. It is fear of an unknown future, or a perceived fear of what might happen. Excessive worry or unease can also be expressed as anxiety.
Some physical signs of anxiety (physiological responses in the body) include trembling, tense muscles, churning stomach, nausea, diarrhoea, pain, e.g. headache/backache, sweating, flushing, numbness, pins and needles, palpitations.
Psychological signs of anxiety (feelings come first. Thoughts are ways of dealing with feelings – ways of, as it were, thinking our way out of feelings – ways of finding solutions that meets the needs that lie behind the feelings) include overthinking, racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating, hyper vigilance, difficulty sleeping, disassociation, being hyper alert…wired but tired.
What can be done to ease this/these feeling?
- Firstly, rule out physical causes, we catastrophise, and our imagination runs riot when we are confronted with our own mortality or thought of ‘this could be something that they have missed’.
- Accept symptoms as natural – we all have up and down times emotionally so why not physically, remember if you put quality in you get quality out, you wouldn’t put standard petrol in a formula one car.
- Try to avoid avoidance – that’s right, burying our heads in the sand, or procrastinating are the backbone to supporting anxiety, it’s the fear of the unknown.
- Keep a mood diary to monitor symptoms, you may surprise yourself and find out that you do not feel awful 24/7.
- Relaxation exercises really do help, e.g. guided meditation, mindfully going about a task or just sitting listening to the birds out in nature all help to reduce adrenaline and boost serotonin.
- Talk about your fears or write them down – try journaling, chat to friends or find an online forum – just a cautionary note here, make sure that it is a supportive, proactive group and not one that only talks about the negative all the time – we find that there are people who get a secondary gain by staying in anxiety, i.e. what or who are you avoiding because of your anxiety?
- Physical exercise, getting out every day for 3 months has been proven to raise your good chemicals (Serotonin).
- Good nutrition, think formula one car, it’s about nourishment not diet.
- Be grateful. Don’t know what to be grateful about? Start simply – be glad you woke up today, got out of bed, have a roof over your head, someone or something made you smile today.
- Increase your self-care – make a kindness jar – fill it with notes on lovely things to do, people to see or speak to, places to go, bubble baths, splashing in puddles, swinging on the swing at the local playground, anything thats add joy into your life.
- Have a worry-free Wednesday!
- Get a good night’s sleep, turn off the Wi-Fi, limit screen time to finish at 7:30pm. Go to bed when you feel tired, read a book, have an Epsom salt bath before bedtime, don’t eat too late, journal about your day. Keep a cool room 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius).
Why Anxiety arrives with Grief – Pre Existing Factors
- Cultural/Familial and conditioning around mourning and emotions help to make up who we are, we are often unaware that we have adopted these beliefs.
- Anxiety/Fear/Symptoms of overwhelm – not feeling as if we have any say in decisions or an outcome, we feel that we are ‘done to’ or ‘it only happens to me’.
- When your certainty and safety have been shaken by loss – or a response to a perceived threat i.e. unknown health outcome.
- Self-blame as a protection against future disaster/ and magical thinking as in, if I behave this way, it won’t happen.
- Triggers and trauma where a threat to our safety inhibits the usual processing (The amygdala has a central role in anxiety responses to stressful and arousing situations).
An amygdala hijack refers to a personal, emotional response that is immediate, overwhelming, and out of measure with the actual stimulus because it has triggered a much more significant emotional threat. The term was coined by Daniel Goleman in his 1996 book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.
Is about fear of not having lived sufficiently, the dread of grief caused to loved ones. This often arises when we have had a trauma or bereavement or near-death experience. The problem with life is that undoubtedly at some stage we will come across this either in our own lives or someone we know will struggle with this. It’s the thought of ‘It happened to them; it can happen to me’. Ultimately, a fear of not having lived i.e. have I a legacy to leave – an existential crisis.
Existential crisis, also known as existential dread, are moments when individuals question whether their lives have meaning, purpose, or value, and are negatively impacted by the contemplation. It may be commonly, but not necessarily, tied to depression or inevitably negative speculations on purpose in life.
Certain life changes can rock you to your core, others leave you wondering what is the point of it all? When these feelings overtake you, you may be experiencing what they call an existential crisis. It is a normal transitional phase that people experience, when something happens in your life that makes you confront that you will die at some point, either death or an illness. Irvin Yalom in his book:
Staring At The Sun: Being at peace with your own mortality: Overcoming the Dread of Death Paperback – 3 Mar. 2011 by Irvin Yalom (Author) tackles this tough subject and finds it to be the root cause of many people’s ‘ fears, stresses and depression. It is one of the biggest unacknowledged and little talked about anxieties.
Tips To Cope
- Address your feelings.
- Accept that fear and anxiety are normal parts of everyday life.
- Conflicts in faith, afterlife and philosophy contribute to this anxiety, it can also help to express what your fears are.
- Fulfil your potential, don’t get to the end of your life and wonder what if? Or, if only? All great painters, scientists, explorers lived with anxiety too and fear of the future, but they learnt to control it and continue to strive until they could fly.
- Get meaning from your connections, it is better to have a few really good people in your life than a lot of people that are meaningless, you get out of relationships what you put into them, now more than ever making those connections are what keeps us going, gives us purpose.
Viktor Frankl a survivor of the Holocaust writes in his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’
“I believe man’s deepest desire is to search for meaning and purpose.”
- Practice mindfulness, it’s not about sitting around not thinking. Mindfulness is a way of being and doing.
Remember, we only have one life, find the right people/person, the right place, the right attitude, and we can go far.
If you have been affected by anything in this blog, please do get in touch to talk things through with one of our accredited practitioners. We have all struggled with trauma, chronic illness, bereavement, grief, adverse childhood’s; it is through these experiences and working with some of the above tools that we know that you can pull through and learn to live and love life again.