Anxiety: it’s all in your head… yeah right, just like Cancer!

Yep, this is one of the most common phrases I’ve often heard people telling me, or others, when we show our anxiety or talk about it.

“It’s all in your head. Get over it!”

“You just have to stop thinking so much!”

“It can go away if you fight it!”

“You’re just have to be positive!”

What these (many) people don’t know (or don’t even care to know) is that mental health is just like physical health. This isn’t my opinion, go and do some Googling and you’ll be astounded at how much modern-day research is uncovering about mental health. In just the last decade or so, significant evidence shows how there is absolutely no difference between physical illness and mental illness. So that means you can have a mental illness or conditions just like you can have cancer. And you cannot cure yourself of cancer just by ‘getting over it!’ now, can you?

Unfortunately, a lot of people still don’t get this. And this is why they throw comments like the above whenever and wherever they please. I’ve heard them at the workplace, in the family, at restaurants, weddings and/or other social events, you name it.

So in this series of blogs, and as someone who does suffer from anxiety disorder (though not in the extreme), I’ll be going over some of the anxiety symptoms I’ve experienced and still experience on several occasions. I am not doing this to attract any form of sympathy or pity. I am doing it for two main very important reasons:

  • As stated above, to shed light on the ignorance out there who believe anxiety is nothing to take seriously.
  • Even more so to those who, like me in some way or another, have experienced these – or other symptoms. You’re understood. You’re not alone.

> Episode One: Panic Attacks

This comes in many forms or fashion. I’ve heard it can also happen to you in your sleep. In my case, it is most of the time a sense of my environment, wherever I am, suddenly closing in on me. It feels like the whole world has suddenly decided to wrap itself around me and, yep, even breathing becomes difficult. Not just difficult, it really feels like I am not breathing. And it feels like there is cougar just behind me and ready to pounce. So yes, my body reacts and guess what: I feel all the symptoms of ‘flight to survive’ and, yes, I enter the panic state. I have to get up, I have to walk away from my desk if I’m at work and go to the bathroom or somewhere alone where I can breathe.

Yes, breathing is one of the best methods I recommend during a panic attack. I just close my eyes, or focus on myself in the mirror, or on my own hands or something very close by. And I breathe, as slowly as I can. And I focus solely on that breathing. It’s much harder than it sounds because while I’m trying to do this my body is urging me to do completely the opposite. It is telling me to run, to escape before I collapse or my heart stops or I lose consciousness.

In this case, yes, it is in my head. It’s the fear caused by human imagination of what might go wrong during a state of panic – whether you’re in a bathroom having a panic attack or in the middle of the jungle chased by a tiger. And the only way to tell my body that it is lying and that everything will be okay – somehow, I don’t know why but it slowly does work – is to breathe slowly and focus all my senses and all that I am solely on that breathing. In, and out. In and out. Till my body starts to calm down, slowly, and come out of the panic state. This sometimes takes seconds, sometimes minutes.

Hope that helps!

John

(read the next episode)

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