Hereditary Anxiety and the 4 Ways I Stop it
When are you most likely to experience high anxiety?
Hand Me Down Genes
I might have been around 15 or so when I noticed my mother was quite an anxious women.
She always seemed to be organizing, cleaning, arranging, rarely liked to stay seated, and if she was, there was always that noticeable posture; legs crossed with one foot incessantly moving up and down, permanently pensive visage, looking as if it took every bit of willpower not to jump out of her seat and get started on something.
A bit older still, I became a barometer for it. The sick sense of when mom's motor was running hot. The key indicator was always her speech; voice elevated despite being right next to you, speaking so quick you never knew who she was talking to, movements sharp and quick, attitude sharper still. The situational triggers became clear too. She didn't like down time between set events, something about not having anything on the docket unsettled her. Unfamiliar situations troubled her too, if she was unacquainted and didn't know what she could expect, it needled her internally. Impending events: holidays, birthdays, family parties, beginning of school(she was a teacher), end of school, Dr.s appt., vacations, travel; all of these things loomed over her like an ominous tidal wave.
Right around the same time, I began to notice some of my own proclivities. I didn't like down time in between big events. What would I do from the time I left school at 3 to 9 o' clock when I went to bed? The walk or bus ride home would be filled with feelings of dread. Large crowds, not because of space or proximity, but how could I account for all the personalities, how would I control my surroundings? Checking and rechecking if I had done certain things. Did I turn the water off? Did I close my locker? Did I lock the front door?
Along with anxiety and OCD, I developed inexplicable bouts of hives. Although tested for every allergy under the sun, I came out with a clean bill of health. Finally, Dr.'s chalked it up to nerves. For a whole year as a teenager I suffered from random flairs of hives which would cover any part of my body including the most sensitive: lips, eyes, genitals, buttocks. I eventually noticed after a few months that most occurrences were precipitated by stressful events or when I was upset, but sometimes they happened out of no where.
My mother and I weren't the only ones. My brothers suffered from OCD and anxiety issues, albeit differently. My older suffered from auditory and spacial hallucinations during what I can only describe as panic episodes. Later, in his 20's, he would pass out randomly during these fits. My younger brother experienced social phobia and found it hard to express himself in front of groups(oddly enough, my older brother and I are quite extroverted and never had such a dilemma). He also became quite germ phobic; washing his hands, changing his toothbrush once a month, showering before and after any event.
Without breaking into my entire family's mental history, my mother, brothers and I aren't the only ones. My grandmother, aunt and my 3 cousins all experience some sort of nervous energy: anxiety, nervousness, being high strung, OCD, etc. I've come to accept it as a family trait.
Options and Solutions
If you contend with anxiety, panic, OCD or any other nervous tendencies, I'm sure you've tried a great many things to help ease them. The catalogs of pills. Psychotherapy. Breathing techniques. Situational aversion tactics, and a few others I'm probably forgetting.
Honestly, I tried pills as a teenager. I thought they made me an emotional zombie. I saw a psychologist for a while too, he just taught me to be analytical about my problems. I've tried avoiding certain environmental triggers, but you can't always predict when and where those may come into play.
After a time, I began to seek methods to combat my anxieties which were A) Holistic(not involving pharmaceuticals) B) Put me in control(not needing the assistance/opinions of others) and C) Didn't involve restrictions(not putting restrictive parameters of my lifestyle).
These precepts allowed me to contend with my issues by finding productive outlets for what would otherwise be nervous energy; activities that released tension, allowed for creative concentration, slowed down time or just filled it up with personally constructive pursuits.
If you get anxiety when you have a lot going on...
Exercise- It may seem counter intuitive to try to fit in a workout if your schedule is already full to the point where your about to have an anxiety attack. But it's important to focus on what a workout can do for your mind (and body), and how that will allow you to more appropriately overcome anxious feelings that arise during periods of high stress.
Not only does exercise release endorphin, chemicals that give us feelings of accomplishment and ease, but it also rids the body of stored up nervous energy. After workouts we are more levelheaded, less fettered and thereby more easily able to pragmatize a lengthy list of obligations.
The key is to not just utilize exercise during periods of high stress. If you workout consistently, you'll notice it eliminates much of the negative energy buildup that occurs in those prone to anxiety issues as a whole. Working out an average of 4 days a week, will not only be great for your body, but aid in sustaining a constant feeling of physical and mental calm, some of which can persist for days after the initial exuberance of a workout has ended.
Looking for a workout routine which will help subdue your pesky nerves? Try doing 45 minutes to 1 hour of fast paced HIIT.
If you get anxiety when you have nothing going on...
Craft a meal- While I recommend exercise to eliminate anxiety issues overall, its not an answer for everyone, nor every type of anxiety. The difficulty for people who suffer from anxiety when they have nothing going on is, they are left wondering why the lack of being occupied makes them nervous. Although no worse than any other anxiety causation it can require a decidedly different kind of remedy. Before and during these fits in particular, I've found ease in activities that require the complete use of our senses and involve personal creativity.
I cannot say enough about the catharsis generated by the preparation of a meal. Its not just the cooking aspect but the total creation start to finish: the planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, plating and serving of a meal. The thoroughness of the process should be viewed through a creative lens, the goal is to craft the meal, not just make it. Indulge your senses at each step; take time to look for quality ingredients, smell herbs and spices before application, use your hands(touch) when cooking and taste test dishes throughout. Making sure you're satisfied with each step helps satisfy some that OCD tendencies as well.
Utilizing all of your senses within an activity gives the mind and body stimulus to process. Keeping a brain which is nervous when idle, enamored through sensory excitement instead of scattered and worried, should help to alleviate anxiety derived from lack of occupation.
If you get anxiety from new situations...
Reading, Writing, Drawing- New events spark anxious feelings because they lack the familiar footholds people look to when they seek to find their locus of control. A feeling of reticence with an unfamiliar or infrequently occurring event happens as one fixates on the what ifs of an encounter they've never dealt with, or don't deal with often enough to develop comfortable expectations for. This type of anxiety occurs most frequently in people who need to feel in control at all times.
By the time one starts to feel anxiety arising from new or sporadic encounters it tends to be too late. Instead of spending time beforehand caught up with the looming feeling of dread about how the event will go, its better to occupy ones mind with a calming activity. I suggest reading, writing or drawing.
The solution seems very simplistic, and quite honestly it may not work for everyone. The creative activities of reading, writing and drawing requires one to settle in, and relax. These pursuits also give us a feeling of accomplishment upon completion, this feeling of accomplishment is confidence building, and this boost of confidence tends to bolster our ability to deal with whatever situations come our way.
Hours before your flight, interview, presentation, Dr.'s appt., date, etc. make a concerted effort to occupy your mind with a steady focused activity. If you have the foresight, you'll settle into a good read, find something your passionate to write about, or lose yourself in some artwork a few hours before the big event. This should keep you from fixating on what ifs, either putting your mind on to a different topic or helping you strategize your approach more coherently and less panicky.
If you get anxiety from repetitive situations...
Learning new things- I believe this type of anxiety occurs in many more people than one might think. In fact, I will venture to say that more people than not, feel a level of restlessness when they engage in the same activities over and over again with little variety. Whether it's a component to ones job, our commute, our leisure activities or our meals, everyone desires variety. But how can we achieve variety while maintaining an ever important routine?
The answer is by consistently making an effort to learn new things. Now this goes slightly beyond just learning a new recipe, reading an article with a couple new facts or getting into a new TV show. What I'm generally referring to is something more academic in nature. Something that takes more than a couple hours, a concept you know you'll need to devote at least a month to, a pursuit that will develop new layers over time. The reason lies in the sense of accomplishment one feels in dedicating themselves to something of depth. Accomplishment and progression kill anxiety that is created through feelings of stagnation.
A few months back I decided to take a computer programming course. I have fairly good computer fluency but knew nothing of programming; it required that I learn everything from the ground up. Watching daily lectures, looking over examples, taking time to write code, running it, debugging it, and at the end of the week trying to pull in the next level of information. It took a daily commitment really understand it. I would program for a half hour before work each day, work the routine of my job, get out, program for a little while at night, eat my dinner, watch my shows and go to sleep. While the rest of my routine maintained its linearity, I had the variety of being able to learn new information daily. It kept me feeling progressive while maintaining the necessary routine needed to work and make money.
There is wealth of free information out there, if your looking for something more academic and guided with lectures and class materials, check out the FREE online university Coursera.org.