I am often asked by the young adults that I work with “why do I feel this way?” when I ask them to explain, they often can’t. They may report feeling angry, sad, lonely or just not themselves.
Further investigation will usually throw up an event or events either in their recent history or from longer ago that they have found traumatic. Alternatively, it may just be that they are more sensitive to life events such as managing friendships or exam pressure.
Imagine you are a mobile phone (not so hard for many young adults today) You may be viewing the home screen and using WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat etc. and that all works perfectly well. BUT… there are hidden apps running in the background. You can’t see them but they’re there and they drain the battery. Eventually, the phone will start to play up and we don’t know why.
Stress and Anxiety are reactions to these original events and how we learned to deal with them. When the brain thinks that it is under attack, it will start to react to keep itself and the body safe. I’ll tell you more about that in a moment.
The events that originally caused the worry, sadness or anger have been and gone. Unfortunately, their effects can last a lifetime if they are not dealt with. I tend to use this visualisation to help…
So, back to the mobile phone. Traumatic events are like taking a screenshot. They are then saved to the camera role where they are stored. When the camera (or in this case your brain) is confronted with something similar, it remembers the screenshot because it is embedded in its memory. This is when the anxiety reaction is likely to begin.
Sufferers will report one, some or all of the following symptoms. Dizziness, thumping headache, tenseness in the muscles, difficulty breathing or increased breathing / heart rate, butterflies in the tummy, pins and needles. There are many other reactions but these tend to be the most reported.
It’s important to remember that having an anxiety reaction WILL NOT KILL YOU! At it’s worst (a panic attack) the sufferer will either slowly return to normal or, in rare cases, will faint allowing the body to return to normal.
So, if this sounds like you…you’re normal! you’re brilliant! and your body works!
It sounds like a cliche but breathing really does help. Often, once people become aware of what is going on in their body, they can find it extremely helpful. I will cover more strategies in later blogs but for now.
- Learn how to breath. In for 3, hold for 3, out for 3 a few times.
- Ask a friend for help, tell them not to panic but to count with you through the breathing
- Tell yourself you’re ok! you work properly