I recently listened to an interesting interview with Dr Tim Cantopher, a leading psychiatrist who has written a new book called “Overcoming anxiety without fighting it”. Acceptance is the central premise to his book; acceptance of your anxiety, accepting it is a part of you and accepting you need to find ways to manage it. Tim says “You have to face your anxiety head on and shake it by the hand”.
During my time working in Mental Health, I have supported clients in line with the recovery model. The common misconception of this model is that you recover from a mental health problem, in the same way you might recover from a physical health problem. Recovery will mean different things to different people but essentially it’s about accepting that whilst you may always have a mental health problem, you can still lead a fulfilling life. You can achieve goals, have meaningful relationships and posses the skills required to have a positive life alongside managing your mental health. And what Tim saying fits exactly within that line of thought. Tim says “With anxiety, if you try to fight it it’s like trying to fight fog. It just doesn’t work”.
What is anxiety? Anxiety is a normal response and instinctively we will either fight, flight or freeze. It is crucial in helping us avoid dangerous situations and can motivate us to stay focused on the perceived threat or issue and resolve it. Anxiety can vary in severity from feeling uneasy to worrying about everyday things such as money, through to panic attacks. Anxiety is classed as a problem when it is more severe, long lasting and interferes with the person’s ability to go about their everyday life.
Anxiety can manifest itself in a variety of ways. On a physical level it can cause:
· Palpitations, chest pain, rapid heartbeat
· Shortness of breath, hyperventilation
· Dizziness, headaches, sweating
· Muscle aches and pain
· Gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
The psychological effects can manifest themselves as:
· Excessive fear and worry
· Unpleasant, recurrent thoughts
· Mind racing or going blank leading to poor concentration and memory
· Unable to make decisions
· Poor sleep
As a consequence, its leads a person to:
· Avoid certain situations or feel the urge to escape them
· Engage in compulsive behaviour such as excessive checking
· Experiencing distress in social situations
Dr Tim Cantopher is careful to state that by accepting your anxiety does not mean you are weak or powerless to do anything about it. In fact there are many things you can do such as talking therapies, mindfulness, relaxation and in some cases medication can help.
He states that first of all you have to accept yourself. You accept the physical reactions which happen and learn techniques to control it. He strongly advocates the use of relaxation techniques to use when you start to think “oh no I’m going to have to run to the loo” or “I can feel palpations coming on”. We can all learn relaxation techniques e.g. using apps such as Headspace, but as Tim states, you the key is that you do it every day and be prepared for is to take 1-3 months for it to really start making an impact.
So as Tim suggests, take anxiety by the hand and do your best to look after it. You would think nothing of taking care of a physical wound and this really is no different. Self care is so vitally important and sometimes you have to put your health over and above everything else.
If you are suffering from anxiety and would like some support, please do not hesitate to contact me via my website www.gemmaantcliffe-counselling.co.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 07432 835468.