What Does Anxiety Feel Like?
Almost everyone experiences anxiety to some degree. This usually happens when we get wrapped up in our own thoughts and worries. For many of us, the current coronavirus pandemic brings up a lot of fear, worry and uncertainty. Feeling anxious is absolutely normal and it is very important that we stay kind and compassionate with ourselves and others while we all move through this uncertain time together.
I have written this article to help you identify and manage anxiety so you can feel more grounded and resilient during this time. Lets start with what anxiety feels like.
The most common signs of anxiety include:
- Racing thoughts about a future or current event
- Strong and fast heartbeat
- Shallow breathing
- Feeling sweaty and clammy
- Tense muscles, particularly in the neck and shoulder area
- Feeling dizzy or light-headed and unable to focus your attention
Anxiety symptoms usually have a sequential pattern. It is important to identify the early signs so you can stop it before it progresses.
Most people first experience worry or racing thoughts. You may start to feel more tension in your muscles and feel your heartbeat get faster and stronger. Your breathing may become shallow and you may start to feel dizzy and have a hard time focusing your attention.
How Can I Reduce Anxiety?
When you feel the first signs of anxiety begin, consider asking yourself the following questions . . .
What am I thinking about? Is it true?
Anxiety is often rooted in false beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. Pay close attention to the thoughts that are running through your mind. I suggest writing them down.
Once you’ve identified them, start to question them. Are they true? Do you know with 100% certainty that they are true? This practice can help lessen the negative affects thoughts can have over your mood and actions
Have I eaten?
Low blood sugar can be a big trigger for anxiety and can make you feeling dizzy, light-headed and clammy. To avoid this situation, make sure you are eating regularly and that you are eating whole food (whole grains and fresh vegetables) instead of refined or processed food (fries or potato chips).
Am I moving?
It is far too easy for an entire day to pass by with very little physical movement, especially if you have transitioned to working from home. Bringing your attention away from your thoughts, away from feeling anxious and into your body with yoga, walking, jogging, stretching or strength training is a fantastic way of reducing anxiety and physical tension.
There are currently many online yoga and fitness classes available to stream from home. You can also go for a daily walk, run or bike ride to get fresh air and reconnect with nature. Remember to be mindful and respectful of your proximity to others during this time.
Am I breathing?
Your breath is a communication link between your mind and body. When you start to feel your breathing become fast and shallow, try taking long deep belly breaths. This will tell your mind that your body is safe and there is no need for alarm. Try counting your breaths by inhaling for 4 seconds, holding for 5 seconds and exhaling for 6 seconds.
Am I safe?
Safety means more than avoiding physical harm. Feeling unsafe can also come from uncertainty and lack of control. As Eckhart Tolle says, there are three ways to handle this: “remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally”.
We cannot leave our current situation, but we can accept what is happening and take action to keep ourselves and others safe. I recommend following the health recommendations on trusted sites like www.bccdc.ca and connecting with friends and loved ones virtually.
Which Herbs Reduce Anxiety?
Herbal medicine is one of the most effective ways to facilitate peace and balance, especially when you’re feeling anxious. The top 3 herbs that I use for anxiety are:
- Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata): this beautiful plant relaxes tense muscles, slows a racing mind and calms a fast heartbeat. It has a calming action on the central nervous system which helps to lower blood pressure and reduce tense muscles associated with stress and anxiety.
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): this powerful root helps restore the nervous system and eases stress and anxiety. It is used as a tonic for mental and/or physical exhaustion and recovery from illness.
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): this aromatic flower relieves tension headaches, calms the nervous system and helps you drift into a blissful sleep. Lavender is also considered a nervous system tonic, which means that it strengthens the nervous system and makes you more resilient to stress.
I encourage you to put these suggestions into action and witness their transformative ability to turn anxiety into wisdom.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Dr. Fiona Smulders ND