Sweaty palms, butterflies in your stomach or insomnia? Anxiety is your body’s warning system to tell you that something isn’t right. When we recognise anxiety, it is a useful feeling. It enables us to asses our situation, scan our environment for threats and make the changes necessary to keep us safe.
If only it was always that simple. Quite often anxiety is subtle, sometimes we don’t even notice it creep upon us until it becomes debilitating. Sufferers can be bed-ridden or house-bound, unable to communicate with loved ones and unsure how they even got into the state they are in.
Others learnt at a young age to ignore the early warning signs of anxiety, and as adults do not consciously acknowledge anxiety’s presence. Our bodies need to express our discomfort but rather than doing it overtly we create maladaptive behaviours like comfort eating or hair pulling, these later become habits.
Staying up till the early hours watching Netflix and ruining a good day ahead, being grumpy with your spouse or furiously hoovering; everyone has different symptoms. Acknowledging and sharing them can often help us not to continue down that self-destructive path.
Once you’ve identified your signals, you will notice they can happen before you have consciously recognised that you’re anxious about something. I have a friend who finds himself worrying about death. When he recognises this he then knows there is something wrong, something he is not addressing or acknowledging. Fear of his own death is his signal and comes from an early childhood trauma. He has now learnt to confront what is causing his anxiety as soon as the question of death pops into his mind, stopping many unnecessary exhausting hours of worry.
If you are having trouble coping with anxiety and it is hindering your life, reach out to friends or family. Often just sharing your symptoms can help you figure out where the issue lies. If you need more help, hypnotherapy can assist you in finding the cause, in creating new habits and behaviours, and offers many techniques so that anxiety doesn’t overwhelm you.
Remember that anxiety has protected us, it has kept us safe and has catalysed our growth.