How To Cross The Anxiety Bridge

Golden Gate
Creative Commons License photo credit: NathanF

If you’re anything like me than you are anxious about something almost everyday.  This is a sometimes light but ever present feeling that something is wrong.  This is always compounded when something is, or at least perceived, to be wrong.  In both cases a good tip is to wait and see what happens before getting panicked.

A good analogy is a bridge crossing.  The bridge’s span in this case is representative of an anxiety symptom.  How do you cross it without veering off course?

Now trust me when I say that doing the above isn’t easy.  And that’s because nothing to do with living an anxious life is easy.  In particular, is the ever present panic (even inner panic) caused by anxiety symptoms, especially the weird ones that seemingly have no explanation.

Let me give you a real world example.  Today I was at work and sitting in front of the flickering lights of my PC when all of a sudden my scalp became numb.  Yea, seriously, my head was numb much like when an arm or leg goes numb.  Initially I was startled because my mind my anxiety told me that this was dangerous.

After a few quick rubs of the head I logically realized that this was not an urgent matter.  I was conscious, talking, able to see, breath, etc.  So I did what a lot of anxious people do, I called my safe person.  For those of you that don’t know, a safe person is a confidant that you lean on in times of high anxiety.

My safe person reminded me of what my logical mind had already established, namely that I was o.k.  After the call I went back to my desk and continued to work with no issue.  That’s not to say that my head wasn’t numb but only to point out that I had bought myself some time.

After about an hour I felt better and pretty much forgot about it.  And that’s the morale of this story – if you wait it out usually the anxiety symptom will fade.

I understand how hard it is to rationalize with anxiety because by definition the feelings and thoughts created by anxiety disorders are irrational.  Even so, staying calm long enough to let a symptom pass can help you avoid a protracted battle of mental anxiety about the symptom later on.

Moreover, anxiety has a way of creating psychosomatic sensations that are more based on fear and not physical ailment and realizing this is key. So when an anxiety symptom like twitching muscles, dizziness, numbness, or anything else strikes take an inventory of the following.

1. Can you walk without losing your balance?

2. Can you breath (and talk).

3. Can you see?

4. Are you in serious pain?

If you can do these three things and are not in serious pain then it is unlikely that you are in an emergency situation.  Obviously you know yourself best so use common sense.  If you ever feel really bad it never hurts to get checked out.

I think it’s important to ask yourself these questions because you need to know, on a logical level, if you’re o.k. What does your gut tell you?  If your gut says you’re o.k., but your anxiety says otherwise give it some time before you assume the worst.  Be patient with yourself and the symptoms you endure and you should see some reduction in your anxious reaction to anxiety symptoms.  Most of the time the issue is not our symptoms, it’s our reaction to them that counts for most of our grief.

As you try to cross that bridge don’t look down (i.e., over analyze) as it were.  Sit back and give yourself time to cross the span and 9 times out of 10 you will get across just fine.

Comments

  1. says

    This is something I have always talked about. After becoming aware of your anxiety symptoms and what it is you are dealing with, the next logical step is to understand your anxiety triggers, essentially what it is that can trigger your symptoms. It could be anything from stress, thoughts, poor diet ( alcohol, caffeine… etc.

    Once your triggers are identified. It is much easier to ask yourself logical type questions as they pertain to your symptoms. If for example you begin to feel shacky, you could look at your identified triggers and ask yourself — “what have I consumed today? Did I drink any coffee or any beverage high in caffeine or sugars?” If the answer is yes… than you can safely assume that these physical symptoms are a result of this.

    In the above case about your head feeling numb, that isn’t really an anxiety type symptom, however your negative thought process towards it is. In wasn’t your anxiety telling you that it was dangerous… you were telling yourself it was dangerous and thus heightened your anxiety to the fact. And because you suffer from heightened anxiety this negative thought process of thinking a numb head is dangerous simply added fuel to the fire.

    You make a good point on asking yourself logical questions upon the onset of anxiety, which I think is important. But the questions should be aligned with your already identified triggers. If you simply ask question that aren’t geared towards triggers that you have come to identify with being a source of your anxiety than these generic questions could be twisted by your thought process. For example… let’s say your head is numb and you immediately begin to think that this is dangerous….those thoughts will than produce more symptoms.. maybe a rapid heart as you begin to worry…than maybe you begin to feel like you cannot breathe. Asking yourself a question like “can I breathe” could easily be clouded and your min may try and fool you into thinking… “no… I can’t…I can feel my chest getting heavier…my heart racing… ” and before you know it your spiraling into panic.

    The idea is to understand your own anxiety triggers. Than when you feel an episode of heightened anxiety coming on, ask yourself questions that are geared towards those triggers and see if maybe this anxiety was indeed a product of something you have done or thought or if your symptoms are something real that may need to be checked out. In nearly all cases you’re fine… and it was more to do with your triggers than something dangerous or deadly.

  2. Andy says

    Thanks Paul, some great advice. Man, I know exactly what you;re talking about though. I realy hate that nagging feeling that something might be up. Usually I get pains in my chest and even though I’m 90 per cent it’s nothing, that lingering 10 drives me crazy. Then it builds and gets out of control. But like you said, just ride it out and it usually passes. :)

  3. Kelly says

    Although I know I am not in an emergency situation, my symptoms never seem to “lift” or I can’t wait them out the way you describe. They are with me 24/7 which makes it very hard for me to even think about crossing a bridge.

  4. Kelly says

    In regards to Jason’s comment- good advice, but what you if your symptoms have no triggers? That is my case and it’s pretty hard to crack.

  5. says

    @Kelly An important thing to understand is that all symptoms are simply that – symptoms! They are symptoms of a deeper root cause.

    Identifying the triggers that cause your anxiety symptoms aren’t as black and white I have made them seem. Because anxiety is a mixture of both the disorder of the psycho and physio it’s can be much more complex than simply identifying a certain stimulant like caffeine and concluding it is the be all end all of your mismanaged anxiety.

    In order to get the right answer you must ask yourself the right questions. You really need to start at the very beginning and work your way to the present moment to find what may be causing this heightened and mismanaged anxiety.

    How was the environment you grow up in? Was there constant chaos in your household as a child? What beliefs have you gained through your upbringing…beliefs about money, status, and self? What about elementary school? How was that for you? And high school? Did you have many friends? How were those relationships? If some relationship broke down, why did they? What may have caused them to do so and how did that make you feel? Did you parent express some of the symptoms you are currently experiencing? How was the over all mood in your household? What major events may have happened throughout your lifetime that may have left you feeling different?

    These questions are the tip of the iceberg, but they should give you an idea as to how in depth you really need to look in order to pin point the root cause of your symptoms. Other great questions can be….

    What do you think about most often? Are you getting proper amounts of sleep and do you have a set sleep schedule? Do you work night shifts? What about your diet… what do you eat most of the time? Is it simple sugars, processed foods, foods with lot of chemical fillers like like aspartame and modified corn syrops? Are you overweight for your size and age? If you are how does that make you feel? Do you exercise regularly? Are you consuming enough water for your body to properly function or are you mostly dehydrated ( if your pee is yellow… even a little you need more water, contrary to the belief that pee is suppose to be yellow…what garbage information!).

    How is your social life? Do you have a circle of friends? If so what do they think about most? What are their beliefs or values? How was their upbringings? Are they mostly positive or negative and depressing, what do they talk about most often?

    Another area to explore is something know as “status anxiety”. Is what you want to be doing with your life inline with what you are currently doing for work? Are you trying to impress others by trying to be successful but haven’t been able to make it? Do you tend to look at others and use them as a measure of judging yourself? If so how does that make you feel? Are you happy with the place you live at, the car you drive, the things you have or do you desire more or something ewer or better, but can’t seem to get it?

    How are you financially? Do you struggle month to month or is money plentiful and easy for you. If it isn’t how does that make you feel?

    I could go on and on…. but as you can tell the process of identifying your triggers is a long, intense process… in which you must go through your life with a fine tooth comb and ask yourself the right questions to find the right answers.

    remember… your symptoms are simply symptoms not the cause themselves. Therefore there is something that is out of order )disorder) that is causing them. Finding your triggers may be the hardest thing you ever do, but once you do… everything else falls into place.

    Jason

  6. Kelly says

    Jason,
    Thanks for your response. My “triggers” would be childhood separation anxiety issues that follow me today, inability to become independent of my family (i.e. grow up), not having a purpose in life (i.e. no career path), fear of death and intense health issues that have plagued my family since I was young.

    I’m not exactly sure how you can work through these triggers as I have spent most of my life with various therapists and come up with nothing.

    Now I am in a fully disabled state as a result- no friends, no life. Can’t eat food cause I can’t afford it! Nor can I get treatment (although treatment has done nothing for me in the past).

  7. Andy says

    Hey Kelly, you just need to keep positive. I know that sounds silly but it’s the first (and hardest!) thing you need to do…which I know is easier said than done. Set yourself some small goals and start from there. And trust me, you’ll be okay!

  8. Kelly says

    Thanks Andy. After years of being debilitated, my attitude has gone from bad to worse. I can even figure out how to get positive again and I have lost all hope in regards to being ok.

  9. Andy says

    Hey Kelly, just start simple. Write a list of all the good things in your life, or of all your positive memories and then visualise them. This is actually a really good trick, though takes practise. You’d be amazed how much good stuff there is there. It can really start to lift your mood. It’s liek Paul always says – do something, even if it’s something small. Which I’m sure you are!

  10. Julie says

    Kelly,

    Aside from all the awesome advice, for me meditating on a daily basis and finding an amazing Naturopath got me off 12 yrs of meds and feeling better than ever. And when you find what works for you, this will feel like a dream. Good Luck

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