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Dr Mani Pavuluri Blog

Let’s be Kind

Overwhelming Anxiety: Finding Stability and Loving Life

From youth to adults, problems of anxiety seem to be similar with the dimension of normal to pathological. When it is overwhelming and agitating to the point of severe bodily arousal, not being able to sit still, opening and closing the lips, being agitated, it is a problem. There are various varieties of presentation. Worst-case scenario is when folk cannot pinpoint what is causing such paralyzing anxiety. They seem to suffer from fear and unspecified anxiety. They are overwhelmed with things to do, go out, or cope with people around them. And then, some have fragmented thoughts of what went wrong in their life such as mistakes, failures, perfectionism, trauma or painful relationships. Feelings of inadequacy and inability to solve problems arising from the nameless anxiety or anxiety from current or past events and thoughts can be crippling.

Medications aside, what can you do? What is therapeutic? How can you help yourself? There are many names of treatment tools like cognitive behavioral therapy, compassion therapy, emotion processing therapy, relaxation therapy, and mindfulness. But some things are common and practical to do when you are hurting with anxiety. It all works out to move forward step by step, inch by inch. Start with basics and simple things are important.

  1. Sleep well. It erases tireless cycles of rumination, gives you a break and fresh start the next day.
  2. Think from the top of the tree, what you need for yourself. ? Healthy food, water, minimal alcohol (no alcohol if self medicating), an hour of exercise that you choose (deliberately choose) with some associated entertainment and build a routine. This eliminates decision fatigue.
  3. Surround yourself with those you love and like, just one or two family members or friends to create safe zone, like a comfort blanket around you. I know you can trust those who are nonjudgmental and kind folk who “get you” and “have your back”.
  4. When overwhelmed with painful anxiety, you don’t have to think hard. Thinking hurts as a chore if tired amidst anxiety. You don’t need to do anything other than “look and listen” to everything around you and what you are thinking as well if possible. If it is hard to look and getting restless, concentrate on your own breathing, or focus on one object, or your feet touching the ground. Stay put! That is all you need to do till you gather yourself. Nothing else is demanded of you. Do this anytime you can stop to look and listen. Slowly the turbulence of anxiety settles down as you objectively watch what is happening to you too.
  5. Slowly let your body be a rag doll, let your body loosen up to be floppy. Deliberately try to gently relax each part of your body. If you cannot, it is alright! When you are ready, you will be able to relax.
  6. Talk to therapist or someone who is smart adult who gets you, and listens. Sometimes you tend to be chiding yourself thinking you areĀ  not good enough- whipping yourself like in horse race. You need to live with yourself. Imagine living with someone who is so harsh (It seems to be you being harsh to yourself)! Stop whipping, start being compassionate to that lovely person within you. Cheer yourself to execute the next best thing to do in small steps, by writing down what you need to do. Like facing small fears. No more than that. This avoids avoidance fatigue or second guessing.
  7. If you are afraid that things went wrong and you made a mistake, remember that we are all human. One hundred percent of us make mistakes. Some take moral high ground and act supercilious. Do not be bothered by such folk who seem to threaten you. It is good to have rules and internal compass to do the right thing, but sometimes things happen to 100% of us for reasons we cannot always control. What good is it to sit and kick your self to black and blue? You can rise above, yes!
  8. If you are the reactive type, you may be judgmental. You may even take pride in being perceptive. You may analyze, but let go short of judging. Be easy on others. The way it works is- You are kind to yourself if you are kind to others and vice versa. It works in exact proportions, in my theory! This reduction in reactivity may help you more than helping others.
  9. Make sense of your hardships when you are ready by story telling that bring meaning to your troubles, link events and feelings to find solutions with your listening buddies, parents, caregivers or therapist. If nothing else, talk of what you like, love, prefer, hate, accept, enjoy and so on! Communicate, express, connect! You cannot be isolating yourself all the time. Some alone times are good to recuperate, but too much of that creates a habit of not coping, and generates more anxiety.
  10. More life tools: Patient stories that you can tune in from credible sources, pets, friends, fun movies, TV shows, immersing in work, positive music tracks that motivate and/or sooth you, good walks or group exercises are all good tools in proportions that work for you.


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