Have you ever been in a situation where you are so consumed with anxiety but you had to suppress it and suffer in silence? In an interview perhaps? Or meeting someone important for the first time? Or giving a presentation at work? Composed on the outside, an utter wreck on the inside!
Anxiety can often be mistaken for nervousness. Nerves are a good thing and remind us that we want to make a good first impression and when we are comfortable, the nerves subside. Anxiety doesn't. It rummages around in the costume department and emerges as a very convincing nervous feeling! Anxiety has this idea that it is so superior that it has to take the driving seat - controlling and goading and poking away at our inner core until it gets what it deems as a satisfying result.
Embarrassment. Shame. Feelings of unworthiness. Failure. Not good enough..
Nerves are different. Nerves are the innocent ones here! Nerves are your cheerleaders! They will protect you and step back once they know you've got this! Anxiety causes chaos. It whispers negative affirmations the whole time and we have to battle it - in silence.
What did you do to try to regain control in this type of environment?
I've found myself in this sitch too many times! The inner silent fight with anxiety has been so persistent that it has leaked out, like a weeping wound and embarrassed me!
An example was when I had to present (for work) in an adult classroom setting. I knew my subject inside out and I knew that I knew that. I could literally present this with my eyes closed! Often times I did (not actually with my eyes closed) and I got through those 45 minutes with ease and control and was usually content with the way I worked and the outcomes I created. I'd answer questions with confidence, be OK with being interrupted mid sentence and quip back sharply and playfully to those who liked to try and cause frisky disruption. I took it all in my stride.
During one presentation, I felt anxiety prickling away in the back of my mind. I tried to silently tell her [personified] to get stuffed and leave me to get my job done, but she refused. Instead she created physical sensations that were becoming too much to bear. The sweaty palms, the temperature increase, the shaky voice! This was not me! I was angry at her for doing this to me at such an important time and silently chastised her for not waiting until I am at least finished with being the centre of the classroom! All the while, trying to maintain composure on the exterior. It became apparent to all without me saying anything but the audience were sympathetic. Asking me easy questions to try and distract me from my internal battle, making jokes to make me laugh, offering to open the window because I looked flushed. I appreciated it but I was so embarrassed and anxiety kept on with her sadistic goading. I rushed through the presentation in order to escape my own burden and felt like although the fundamentals were covered, I did not perform to my best. It shook me.
It happened again. The next time.
The thing is, even when there are no apparent triggers, even when life seems happy and things are good, if you suffer with anxiety, the silence of the internal battles will always be anticipated. But there are things we can do in order to prepare us for these eventualities. There are practices that we can educate ourselves and those close to us on in an attempt to keep anxiety at arms length. It is all about the understanding of the chaos anxiety can cause inside. It's about learning to navigate those feelings to create a calmer more composed exterior persona. This leads to feelings of accomplishment and pride and anxiety is put back in her box with gusto!
Metaphorically: Anxiety is the tiger. She has her sights set on you. Your choice is to run, to create chaos and be chased or to remain still and calm and let it pass you by
Pardon me if there are any repeated practices from previous posts, but I want to help you to be the best, most empowered version of yourself.
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Advice for anxiety sufferers:
Remember that what other people think of you is their business, not yours. In the midst of anxiety, never be hard on yourself or worry what others think. This isn't you. And it will pass and you will regain control.
Learn the power of acceptance. Because the more you fear anxiety, the more it will surface.
Get help! I mean this in the best way. CBT is an exceptional tool and you could learn techniques that you didn't think of to manage anxiety. Try this book or contact your GP for referral or signposting
Summarise your day. Look back on the day in the evening and pick out all of your accomplishments, however small.
Reward yourself with a bit of self care. A bubble bath, a face mask, an aromatherapy shower, just a nice bedtime cuppa with a book - whatever makes you feel nice.
Advice for supporters:
Love your anxiety sufferer. With everything you have. Their anxiety is not a true representation of who they are.
Notice the signs. Fidgeting, lack of eye contact, shallow or heavy breathing, restlessness, to name a few. This can mean there is an amount of chaos going on internally. And then ask them if they are OK with sincerity and be available to talk if they need to. Tell them that they do not have to suffer in silence. This is comforting for anxiety sufferers.
Know they will not always be this way. Anxiety can be managed and even totally overcome.
Remind them how well they are doing with their efforts to regain control over their intrusive thoughts. Compliment them.
Always be there. I appreciate that loving someone with anxiety is sometimes challenging but look at them as a whole being. This is one small part of them that does not define them
Educate. If you don't understand anxiety or need clarity, read up on it. Knowledge is power. And it can help you to help them.
Never ever tell them they are being silly. This creates feelings of unworthiness and inferiority and can make anxiety worse.
These are only some things that we can all do to educate and help ourselves and each other understand the contrast between external silence and internal chaos.
Side note - Lockdown can invoke strong feelings of anxiety, even in people who have never suffered. It is more important than ever to make sure we are checking in on each other. We will never know what goes on behind the closed doors of everyone, but we can do our bit to make sure those we love are coping well enough.
Look after yourselves. Use this time to gain awareness to look after each other.
Always only a message away.
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