As the year 2016 gradually comes to an end, the cities light up with decorations. Shopping malls bustle with people buying presents and gifts for loved ones. At this period, despite all natural and man-made turbulences and political uncertainties, allow yourself to remember and believe that ‘all things work together for good’. As William Shakespeare put it, ‘Come what come may, time and the hour run through the roughest day!’ Things always have a way of working out – perhaps not the way we envisioned them, but they do work out all the same! You should thank the past for all the lessons it has taught you and apply these positively to the future.
Several months ago, I had a panic attack as I learnt of something that was happening with some members of my family. I imagined all the worst outcomes. I developed pain in my chest. My head was pounding. I could hear the thudding of my heart beats. I could hardly breathe. The more I thought it over, the more I feared for the worst. Sleep was out of the question. I would lie and ruminate over and over all that could go wrong. By the end of 3 days, I was miserable with anxiety fatigue. My blood pressure had gone up. Then, I realized I had to begin to practise what I preached. Believe it or not, all things did work out fine!
Worry and Anxiety
Everyone worries sometimes but some people worry all the time. Worry is an adaptive function developed in humans for dealing with, and resolving problems. It allows us to think or imagine things over and over in our minds in order to come to a solution. Worrying is a function of the imagination. Without imagination, there would be no worry! If worry does not solve a problem or has the potential of solving a problem, then, learn to let go of it.Worrying can become habitual and chronic and in that case may negatively affect your mood and your health. Note that most things you worry about never happen! Worry involves the thinking part of the brain – the Cortex.
Anxiety on the other hand, is a form of excessive worry with a very uncomfortable feeling of fear, apprehension, or dread. It is a feeling in your gut that something bad is going to happen. The root cause of anxiety is fear. The mind examines the issue at hand and negatively projects the future with the worse-case scenarios and gets terrified by these projections as if they must happen! These then trigger anxious feelings that flood the body with stress hormones resulting in any of the following physical symptoms – rapid heart beat, shortness of breathe, tightening of, and pain in the chest, tommy ache, headaches, migraines, sweating and diarrhea… Anxiety can be chronic and therefore becomes a psychological disorder – Anxiety Disorder, requiring professional help. Anxiety arises from the mid-brain, the limbic area responsible for emotions in humans. Lots of issues can create anxiety – your job, money, family and health issues.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; And the Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and mind …” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Anxiety is your body reflecting the thoughts that you are thinking- usually thoughts of worse case scenarios! To transform anxiety or any negative emotion, you must learn to admit what you are feeling and how your body is reacting to it. Taking medications to calm anxiety is not a good idea since this can become addictive. Your body could rely on the medications instead of your brain producing the chemicals that ease out the problem.
- Anxiety is fired by emotions and the effective way to transform anxiety is to take the emotions to a neutral phase by finding something to feel positive about so you can gain new perspectives about the issue at hand. Positive emotions neutralize the hold that negative emotions have on the brain. Think of things that make or made you happy, things that make or made you laugh or smile. Think of some issues you worried about in the past that eventually worked out right.
- Avoid people who encourage negative emotions and project fearful scenarios. When unavoidably in the company of such people, change the subject or excuse yourself.
- Breathe slowly and deeply to help neutralize emotional charges and reduce stress hormones.
- Exercise – Simply taking long walks, cycling, swimming or dancing for 20 – 30 minutes can produce endorphins, the ‘feel good’ hormones that reduce stress and anxiety.
- Listen to music that you love.
- Go to somewhere that makes you feel calm and secure – a quiet park, a church, mosque or temple to breathe or meditate.
- Eat well to stabilize your blood sugar and drink lots of water.
- Most importantly, practise gratitude. Be thankful for all you’ve been blessed with. Thinking about the good things in your life helps neutralize negative emotions.
As you watch and experience the decorations and festivities associated with the ‘passing‘ of the year 2016, no matter what is happening in your life, whisper softly to yourself, “This too shall pass!”
Merry Christmas and Happy, ‘Anxiety-free’ New Year in advance!