Friday, 27 March 2015

Dealing with Fear and Anxiety

Don't let fear and anxiety rule your life



Many people experience nervousness, fear and anxiety to a degree that impacts on their day to day life at some point or other. For some this will be a transitory issue, for others it's something that they have to cope with for a period of time and it may recur and for a few it's something they have to constantly live with.

We all get nervous from time to time, that is completely natural and is usually associated with doing something new or something important, e.g. getting nervous before giving a talk to a group of people or before taking an exam. Sometimes these simple nerves can become something deeper and more intrusive, giving rise to a more intense feeling of anxiety or fear and sometimes can develop into a full on panic attack. There are very real physical symptoms associated with this that can have a varying impact, from that 'butterflies in the stomach' feeling that almost all of us will have experienced to a complete inability to move, talk or even breathe. 

To anyone who has never experienced a full on panic attack, when they see someone having a 'panic attack' even though they may be well meaning, advice such as 'pull yourself together' just isn't going to help and often makes things worse. 'Hidden' conditions such as panic, fear and anxiety can be difficult to understand for those not used to them and difficult to explain for those who suffer from them.

Lots of people attend cons, so it is only natural that there will be a good few for who this can be a problem. There are some though who would love to go to a con but simply get too nervous/anxious to do so.

I suffer from General Anxiety Disorder. I have always been a 'worrier' for as long as I can remember, worrying about anything and everything. It didn't particularly impact on my childhood in any way, I generally enjoyed life and had fun but looking back, it may have prevented me from doing things that otherwise I might have tried. It didn't really have any effect at University either, but I was very aware that I always got very nervous before travelling anywhere, before exams, before talking in public/giving a presentation and when approaching/talking to strangers, including on the phone. This didn't make it particularly easy to ask a girl out, though I managed. So I guess you could say I was aware that my nervousness was something of an issue, but not something that stopped me from living or getting on with life.

As the years went on though, it was something that, at times, became much more intrusive - There were times when I couldn't sleep due to worry. I was fully aware that my fears were completely irrational, I was worrying about things that would almost certainly never happen or worrying about things that just didn't matter, but even though I knew that, I couldn't make the feelings go away. At the same time my nerves could be a problem, I would often be so nervous before going on an evening out for instance that I would spend a good hour or so being sick. I always enjoyed myself once I got somewhere, but it was the fear of who knows what that was the issue. I would even know that if I went out I would have a good time, but sometimes the nerves and anxiety were so much that I would end up staying in, and then I'd feel awful because I knew I was missing out on a good time.

At work I would often have to give presentations to high ranking officials which would usually involve travel as well. This would lead to sleepless nights as I'd just lie awake worrying about both the travel and the presentation. I started having to go abroad with work and whilst I had no problem with flying, general anxiety about the journey, finding the hotel, would they have my booking etc. etc. caused no end of stress and began to impact somewhat on my health.

In general though, day to day life wasn't any problem and I was still able to enjoy most things, it was mainly only when I had to do something new that caused worry and stress, I even sort of got used to giving presentations but a general, background, level of anxiety would always be present when ever I had to travel anywhere.

Occasionally things would get worse, I would go through periods where I really would worry about stupid things that would never happen, or about which I had absolutely no control over so such worry was pointless. I went to the Doctors a few times, which didn't really help at all, but I started to read up on things on the web. I found that such general anxiety is fairly common, and that the easiest way to combat it is to simply not think about the things that are worrying you - easier said than done of course, but over time I have found that I am better able to 'cut off' worrying thoughts before they enter that exhausting spiral. I still get nervous and still worry, but it no longer has anywhere near the impact it has done in the past. Six years ago I did something I'd never have been able to do earlier, I decided to go self employed as a photographer, even though the lack of a 'steady' pay packet would be something that would have driven me mad in the past. I found myself doing things that I used to hate, going out meeting new people and networking with strangers, visiting new places and doing new things, and enjoying it.

I absolutely love going to cons and get a real buzz, even though I might still worry about things before I get there, is the train going to be late etc. etc. fairly normal stuff that no longer stops me from enjoying myself.

You can't always control your feelings and thoughts, but try and concentrate on thinking about how much of a good time you are going to have and try and just let any thoughts about problems or worrying thoughts just slip out of your mind. Sometimes planning things out before hand can reduce some worry, e.g. knowing what time train you need to get, and allowing extra time just in case, though you have to be careful that doing so doesn't lead to a negative spiral of worry.

In short, nerves, anxiety and panic can be something that impact on everyone at some point, some of course much worse than others, never ever be ashamed of having such thoughts and worries or by how that impacts on you, talk to people about it if you find that helps, don't shut yourself away. Set small 'achievable' goals, don't try and do everything at once, and gradually you should find that things improve as you can concentrate on how much fun you have rather than spending time and effort on worrying. DO get out and try new things, DO go out and have fun but understand that not everything is always going to be perfect, there will be times things don't work out, but don't worry about it, just let it go and start planning your next fun day out. Understand that worry and nerves are part of everyday life, but don't let them rule your life, you ARE in control, even if it feels that you aren't.

Stuart x







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