Dr Nahid Dave, psychiatrist at Insight Clinic, says, “It is normal and quite natural for all of us to feel concerned and to worry, from time to time. These emotions generate positive stress or eustress, which, in turn, makes us alert and motivated.”
Anxiety on the other hand is excessive worry causing considerable distress.It interferes with task completion , social and occupational life. Anxiety disorder comes with various labels. Under its umbrella are Panic , Social Anxiety, Generalized Anxiety.
Dr Dave says, can present themselves in three ways:
■ Physical symptoms including numbness in the fingertips, clammy hands, palpitations, heaviness in the chest, sweating on the forehead, and extreme unease or restlessness
■ Cognitive symptoms such as uncontrollable negative thoughts and self-talk such as ‘something bad is going to happen’, ‘this will not work out’, ‘I will fail and people will judge me’, or ‘I will never be the best’.
■ Emotional symptoms in which you experience fear without any palpable underlying reason.
When all or some of these symptoms are experienced in a brief span of time and if they are of a high intensity, the episode is termed as a ‘panic attack’. “One of the hallmarks of a panic attack is an impending sense of doom. You may worry that you are getting a stroke or a heart attack, or that you are going to die,” says Dr Dave. People who suffer from panic attacks also often experience ‘anticipatory anxiety’, which involves agonising about future panic attacks. “In fact, these fears may be so all encompassing that people end up spending most of their time worrying about being worried,” she adds.
1) Procrastinate your worrying: Instead of constantly worrying about what can go wrong and how, Dr Dave suggests arresting these thoughts and procrastinating the worrying. “Set aside a time of the day when you will consciously worry about everything that has been bothering you through the day. By the time you reach your ‘worry hour’, you may find that all of these worries were, in fact, quite trivial. This is because the act of worrying is very instantaneous and the thoughts running through your mind are impermanent. If you don’t act on them right then, they will pass,” she says.
2) Think about what you think: Most people who suffer from anxiety are in the habit of subconsciously bogging themselves down with too many negative self-instructions, says Dr Dave. A good way to prevent this is to actively think about what you think — a practice known as metathinking. “Recognize this negative self-chatter that overtakes your mind whenever you feel anxious or nervous. If necessary, talk to a therapist to identify this chatter. This will eventually help you to curb these thoughts,” she says.
3) Breathe: Anxiety is often accompanied by hyperventilation or short, shallow breaths. This deprives the body and mind of much-needed oxygen and worsens the symptoms of the panic attack, says Dr Dave. Mindful breathing or pranayama exercises can teach you to channel your breathing and to help you calm down and bring your mind back to the present. To practice mindful breathing, sit down in a quiet space and close your eyes. Take 5-6 deep breaths and think about all the distractions in the environment — acknowledge every sound and every sensation around you. Now, focus your mind on your breathing. Notice how your chest and abdomen move as you breathe in and out. Every few seconds, you will get distracted by a sound or a thought — but invite your mind to go back to the present, to your breathing. This simple exercise can help you to disassociate from a negative thought process or cycle.
4) Maintain a gratitude journal: Make a habit of writing down two things that make you happy every day. These can be as trivial as your cab arriving on time, or your not having to wait for the lift, says Dr Dave. When you feel low, look back at this list and you’ll realise that you have much to be grateful for. In the long term, this can also put you into the habit of actively looking for positives, she says.
5) Exercise regularly: Getting into the habit of exercising for at least 45 minutes a day can also enhance your sense of wellbeing, given that most people are chronically unhappy about the time they dedicate to their health, says Dr Dave.
6) Get enough sleep: “Disrupted sleep cycles are, in fact, the red flag for underlying psychiatric disorders”, says Dr Dave. She recommends following simple principles of sleep hygiene to ensure you wake up well-rested every day — go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Expose yourself to sunshine early in the morning. Ensure that the temperature and lighting in your bedroom is optimal and that it is free of distractions. Use your bed and the bedroom only for sleeping and sex. Avoid consuming coffee or alcohol before bedtime and restrict your afternoon naps to 30 minutes.
Quoted in Mumbai Mirror, Bangalore, Pune, Ahmedabad Mirror on 12/2/19
'Ways to cope with Anxiety'