Amar Ali is a former substance misuse practitioner with years of experience working with drug users in London, UK. His article below offers an explanation of what anxiety is and what we can do to cope better during periods of suffering and how we can prevent relapse. There is also valuable advise for carers and loved-ones of those with anxiety-related symptoms.
Understanding Anxiety and How to Manage it
In this article, we will explore behavioural definitions for anxiety, the impact it can cause on individuals, how you can manage your symptoms, and a number of coping skills which may help you to reduce symptoms. All advice must be treated as such, if you have concerns about your welfare or that of others, it is important to seek professional medical advice. Just because you can relate to certain symptoms, does not necessitate you are suffering from a disorder, medical advice must always be sought.
Behavioural definitions for anxiety include
1 Excessive and unrealistic worry that are difficult to control the caring more days than not about a number of events or activities which may include
2 Excess tension e.g. restlessness, tiredness shakiness, and muscle tension.
3 Excessive hyperactivity e.g. palpitations, shortness of breath, dry mouth, trouble swallowing, nausea, diarrhea
4 Hyper-vigilance e.g. feeling constantly on edge, experiencing concentration difficulties, having trouble falling or staying asleep, exhibiting a general state of irritability.
The overall aims of reducing anxiety symptoms should be so that daily functioning is not impaired and importantly resolving the core conflicts which are at the source of the anxiety. Learning to effectively cope with the worries and anxieties and lastly learn to implement coping skills which may result in reduction of worry.
In order to achieve a reduction of symptoms it is important to identify situations, thoughts, feelings and actions, which are associated with anxiety and worries. Furthermore by identifying thoughts feelings and actions, you will be able to assess the impact on functioning in order to resolve them. It is important to understand behavioural and emotional attitudes and how they impact on your anxiety therefore accessing professional medical advice to initiate treatment or self-help is of utmost important. The importance of motivation in changing behaviour is highlighted in many scientific studies and in clinical assessments because demonstrating ambivalence regarding the problem and reluctance to address the issue, may lead to unnecessary pro longing of symptoms.
If anxiety symptoms are caused by distress and trauma which are outside of your control i.e. cultural issues, marital issues and family problems, it is important to seek professional advice. If this is not possible, you can confide in people you trust. If anxiety symptoms are related to someone close to you, i.e. a partner, child or parent, it is important to understand that symptoms result in behavioural manifestations are underlined by mild, moderate severe, very severe impairments, therefore for your own well-being and the well-being of the concerned, it is important to speak to someone to access support.
Learning calming skills to reduce anxiety is another option which may help in managing your symptoms. Learning or calming skills may involve progressive muscle relaxation, mindful breathing and learning how to apply the skills to your daily life can provide relief. Understanding the role of cognitive biases which amplify excessive and irrational worry are important to understand. Cognitions, in simple terms, describe how we think about things therefore if excessive and unrealistic worry is making the problem worse, then we need to identify our unhealthy cognitions in order to minimise the impact on our behaviour.
Excessive worry can also lead to avoidance of a problem and can have an impact on physical health and lead to chronic tension. By identifying and highlighting fearful self-talk and negative thinking, you can replace it with positive, realistic and empowering self-talk, which is important as it increases confidence in coping with irrational fears.
Scientific studies have shown that gradual and repeated imaging exposure can help to reduce symptoms therefore by praying Salah and taking time to reflect can also be used as a coping mechanism. It is important to note that by praying and reflecting we do not associate a negative thinking patterns by unhealthy self-talk such as ‘I’m praying so why doesn’t God help me’, ‘if God loved me he wouldn’t put me through this’. These types of negative statements only perpetuate negative schemas and therefore avoidance of these is highly recommended and focusing on a positive mind-set no matter how hard it may be, would be more beneficial.
Finally learning to implement problem solving strategies for realistically addressing worries is a key element in reducing anxiety and stress. Problem solve by strategizing to specifically define the problem, generating options for addressing it, evaluate the pros and cons of each of those options, selecting and implementing an optional action, and re-evaluating and refining the action can provide empowerment as it helps to become proactive as opposed to reactive. These techniques and interventions which have been highlighted here are some options available to anyone suffering or supporting people who may be suffering. However it is important to stress that by seeking support by those you can trust and professionals will help to begin your journey into a healthy life for yourself and your families and those around you.