Anxiety: Let’s Talk about it!
October 10, 2019
Let’s talk about anxiety. Anxiety is the #1 mental health issue and is something that all of us can relate to. Studies have shown that 50% of Millenials and 75% of Gen Zers have left roles in the past due to mental health reasons. Our college students are vulnerable with 60% reporting they had experienced “overwhelming anxiety” in the past year. (2018 report by the American College Health Association) I have family members and friends who have struggled with anxiety in significant ways throughout their lives. Those I know who tackle mental health issues head-on and get help are the ones who have taken control of their disorder and are the healthiest to this day. (*See both articles referenced in links below)
Whether we have anxiety that occurs while waiting in traffic or suffer from full-blown panic attacks, we can take control by learning the tools and cultivate resilience on how we respond to anxiety at any time. It is really time for us to recognize that we all have mental health ups and downs, and to share our stories so that we can support each other in the journey of life.
Anxiety can be exhibited in many different ways; excessive worrying, irrational fears, obsessive thinking, agitation, irritability, restlessness, insomnia, and concentration. Many though, experience symptoms that can be confused with physical problems, such as; heart racing, migraine headaches, sight issues (blind spots), chronic fatigue, and muscular issues.
Today’s blog is to create discussion and momentum to work together to raise consciousness and learn skills to enhance our mental wellness! I have a breathing technique for you to use anytime you feel anxious or would like to bring more clarity and calm. I have also included a few resources for you to read and listen to so that you can gain knowledge and support for yourself or others who experience anxiety at any level.
In Yoga philosophy and teachings, anxiety is seen as excessive mental energy and an unstable, scattered movement of the mind. The goal of this breathing technique is to settle and calm this mental energy. It is also a great way to bring oneself to a more focused and concentrated state of mind. This breath uses a downward movement of energy to calm the nervous system and shift the mind out of the stress response. I have used this many times when I have had difficulty falling back to sleep in the middle of the night or before a talk that I am presenting.
Ideally, we want to send the excessive energy downward, away from the unstable mind, to ground ourselves. Seated in a comfortable, cross-legged, position is a nice way to do this breathing exercise.
- Sit comfortably and begin to breathe naturally. Close the eyes or have a soft gaze a few feet in front of you. Relax shoulders and feel the sit-bones underneath you. Really feel the ground supporting you as you sit. (You can also do this standing, with feet firmly rooted on the floor while arms draped by your side.)
- Begin to breathe into the belly, sending the breath downward as you inhale. Let go of the stomach muscles to allow full expansion of breath into the belly. Ease into the feel of this deep diaphragmic breathing.
- Inhale to the count of 4, slowly.
- Exhale for 6 counts. Pause at the end of the exhale.
- Repeat the Inhale for 4 counts, exhale for 6, and pause at end of exhale for approximately 10 rounds.
- You may even increase the exhale count to 8, with a pause at the end.
- Breathing should be as relaxed as possible without strain. If you find you are struggling, then begin with lowering the counting of the inhales/exhales.
- Imagine the movement of prana or energy downward, and being supported by the ground underneath you.
- As you complete your rounds of breathing, notice how the mental energy has shifted and settled.
- Use this anytime, anywhere! And share with those who you feel may benefit!
Podcast on Anxiety:
I recently listened to a podcast on Dan Harris’s, 10% Happier, with Andrea Peterson. It is an excellent study in what the definition of what anxiety is, the symptoms, predisposition factors and what can help people with this disorder. She recently wrote a book, “On Edge: A Journey through Anxiety”, which was inspired after interviewing college students on their struggle with anxiety. Andrea was diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder at the age of 20, and it became so debilitating that she struggled with day-to-day activities. One of the more interesting parts of the podcast was the discussion of how necessary it is to take care of themselves with basic “boring adult behaviors” such as; eating healthy, exercise, and sleep. If allowed, anxiety will take hold and will feed upon itself and the world can physically shrink due to the avoidance of being involved with Life. Sleep, or lack thereof, is like throwing kerosene on the fire and exacerbates anxiety symptoms. Whereas exercise alleviates anxiety symptoms. So much good information here!
Click on photo to link to the podcast:
Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris_ #128_ Andrea Petersen, Untangling from Anxiety
TEDx Talks on Anxiety:
Olivia Remes of the University of Cambridge gives a nice description of what it is like to live with anxiety. She introduces results from studies on coping resources that help lower anxiety. She stresses that the things that we do to take charge are extremely important. Control over self and symptoms is key to the success of overcoming anxiety. She also says, having a purpose and meaning in life is crucial to coping. Sharing with others and having others depend on us provides us with this higher meaning.
In Angela Ceberano’s TEDx talk, “Be The Warrior Not The Worrier – Fighting Anxiety & Fear,” she addresses her anxiety head-on by establishing a Fear Project! What I have learned from those who suffer from anxiety is that they improve when they face their fears. Anxiety is fear of the unknown and thoughts are future thinking and worry based, not based in real-time. When we face our fears we systematically train ourselves that our thoughts do not have control over us. Thoughts are just thoughts…
Harvard Business Review – Research: People Want Their Employers to Talk About Mental Health.
The New York Times – As Student Struggle With Stress and Depressions, Colleges Act as Counselors.
Skills to help with Anxiety Symptoms:
I have worked with NAMI (National Association for Mental Illness) as an advocate and they have wonderful resources for those who are seeking assistance for themselves of others who are struggling with any mental health concern. They offer one-on-one support for individuals and family members, support groups, educational classes, and an emergency hotline. If you are in the Waukesha area, link here: NAMI Waukesha.
It is a national organization, so to find out more about NAMI in your area, link here:
Please reach out to me if you have any concerns or questions and I can help assess and refer as needed.