I need help with anxiety!

Everyone experiences anxiety. At what point does anxiety require professional help?

  1. Wrestling with intrusive and repetitive thoughts/worries that interfere with everyday life
  2. Excessively avoiding situations and places that trigger distressing thoughts and anxiety
  3. Experiencing heart palpitations, increased irritability, loss of sleep/appetite

Book a free 10-minute consultation with us today to find out more.

Credit: Straits Times

Does the picture above depict what your mind feels like? Many of us have to endure the frustration of traffic jams in our daily commute, but imagine what happens if our minds are so congested with unending thoughts over prolonged periods that we start to:

  • find it difficult concentrating
  • feel tense, irritable, and easily triggered
  • lose sleep
  • experience heart palpitations and shortness of breath

Are any of these symptoms familiar? If so, you may be experiencing heightened anxiety. This article provides tips to help you manage anxiety better.

When does anxiety become a problem?

Attending interviews, sitting for a major examination or making an important presentation are stressful situations that give rise to anxiety.  Feeling anxious or nervous about an important event or life change is normal. Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress, threat or danger.  Although uncomfortable, it isn’t always bad. It helps us stay focused and motivated towards our goals. Anxiety presents a problem when it becomes intrusive and interferes with everyday life.

Anxiety disorders, which is more intense than the occasional worry or fear, can range from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which is intense worrying that you can’t control, to panic disorder–sudden episodes of fear, along with heart palpitations, trembling, shaking, or sweating.  For those with an anxiety disorder, it is important to look into strategies that can help manage or reduce anxiety in the long term, like counselling or medication.  Book a free 10-minute consultation with us today to find out more.

In this highly stressful world we live in, we can reduce stress and anxiety by incorporating simple relaxation techniques and making changes to our lifestyles such as eating a well-balanced diet, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake, and carving out time for ourselves (aka me time). Read on to find out tips that you can incorporate to reduce stress and anxiety.

When does anxiety become an issue?

The short answer is when anxiety interferes with everyday life. When a person experiences high levels of distress that threatens to overwhelm, it is important to seek professional help. Seeking help from a counsellor or doctor is not a sign of weakness or character flaw.

In the second and more recent Singapore Mental Health Study conducted in 2016, it was observed that 1 in 7 people in Singapore has experienced a mental health issue or  alcohol use disorder in their lifetime. Over the six years between the first and second studies, the number of people experiencing mental illness registered an increase. The increase was significant for Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

GAD is very common today and is characterized by persistent, intrusive and excessive worry about one or more things. People with GAD may anticipate disaster and be overly concerned about day to day issues such as money, health, family and work. They often worry more than is warranted about actual events or may expect the worst even when there is no apparent reason for concern. Such thoughts may become very intrusive and difficult to control without feeling distressed and overwhelmed.  The desire to keep these uncomfortable sensations at bay gives rise to decisions to avoid certain situations or places.

GAD is diagnosed when a person finds it difficult to control worry on more days than not for at least six months and has three or more symptoms. This differentiates GAD from worry that may be specific to a set stressor or for a more limited period of time.

These are the common symptoms of GAD taken from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

  • Feeling nervous, irritable, or on edge
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation), sweating, and/or trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems

How does anxiety disorders affect me?

Left alone, GAD reduces a person’s quality of life and sense of wellbeing. The constant bombardment of intrusive thoughts keeps a person on edge and very highly strung. The distress also manifests in physical symptoms listed above.  As it intensifies, some may choose to retreat from situations or places that are associated with painful and intrusive thoughts. The avoidance of painful stimuli locks a person in a distressing vicious cycle of avoidance that gradually cripples daily activities such as work, school and even leisure activities.

How do I manage anxiety?

Anxiety is primarily a preoccupation with the future, and one that we assess to be beyond our ability to handle.  It blurs the boundaries between the real and the imaginary. This provides the mind fertile ground for torrential negative thoughts of things being, or going, wrong. The experience is nicely encapsulated in the Latin root for anxiety, anxietas, which means troubled in mind.

An important principle in managing anxiety is to change our relationship with our future-oriented thoughts by keeping ourselves grounded in the here and now. Instead of worrying about the future, bring our attention back to the present. Here are three simple but effective tools we can use to keep ourselves grounded in the present moment whenever we feel that anxiety threatens to take hold of our mind and whisk us into the unknown:

Deep Breathing

Breathing slowly and deeply activates the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). The PNS helps us calm down and reduces our feeling of stress. The PNS has a powerful influence on our physical and emotional well-being.

Activating the senses

Look at our surroundings and

  1. name three things we see
  2. name three sounds we hear
  3. name three things we smell
  4. name three things we taste (if applicable)
  5. name three sensations we feel (e.g. it could be the floor beneath your feet or the texture of the chair/cushion you’re sitting on)
  6. move three parts of our body slowly (e.g., your ankle, arm or neck)

This is a grounding technique that activates our sensory system and disengages our mind from thoughts about the future.

Challenging and reframing unhelpful thoughts

People wrestling with anxiety tend to fixate on worst-case scenarios. To combat these worries, consider how realistic those thoughts are. If we are feeling anxious about a big presentation, we often focus on the thought that “I’m going to fail”. This is very anxiety provoking. We could reframe it by saying, “I’m nervous, but I’m prepared. It is normal that some things may not go well.” Getting into a pattern of reframing your fears helps train your brain to come up with a rational way to deal with your anxious thoughts.

Try these effective techniques to relax and regain control of your thoughts. Whenever you feel your brain travelling at 100 km/hr, these grounding techniques help center your mind, bringing you back to the present moment.

If you are experiencing high levels of anxiety, we would like you to know that you do not have to go through it alone. At Ampelos, we are able to work with you to make sense of what you are experiencing and help you discover resources and skills to manage anxiety more effectively, and establish a sense of well-being. 

While anxiety and depression are separate issues, some people experience both. Changes to diet and sleeping habits, and incorporating meaningful activities to stay active and to recharge can bring about significant improvement and restore a sense of well-being. In addition, seeking professional counselling support is an extremely helpful and empowering step to take.

At Ampelos, we understand that everyone’s situation is unique. Our approach is tailored to suit your needs and the issues before us . Contact us to find out how we can support you.