Worrying about being a worrier?

Kate Ellison 1 June 2015

We all know that one friend who is the special type of worrier; the type who, even when there is nothing to worry about, is worried about the absence of worry and spends time worrying about the amount of time dedicated to worrying. They have convinced themselves that they haven’t done anything with their lives yet they wrestle with cutting down their CV every time they review it. They are the perfectionist personified. I’m not necessarily saying (admitting) that I am that friend (other side of me), I’m just saying that I happen to experience this particular phenomenon regularly.

It’s a pet hate of mine when people either trivialise anxiety (‘oh, everyone gets nervous, it’s natural’) or equally when they jump to extreme conclusions (‘if someone is anxious, they could be a danger to others and seriously hurt them’). So as a lover of lists, here are just a few of the psychological and physical symptoms which you can check against and hopefully seek some comfort in, knowing that you’re not the only one experiencing any of them…

 

Some psychological symptoms:

– Concentration difficulties

– Difficulties organising thoughts

– Hearing negative self-talk

– Experiencing feelings of dread and imminent danger

– Ruminating over things that have happened even though you can’t change or control them

– Narrowing of perspective

 

Some physical symptoms:

– Feeling faint or a bit dizzy

– Feeling very thirsty or like you have a lump in your throat

– Needing the toilet more than usual

– Feeling tearful or crying

– Rapid heartbeat (feeling you are having a heart attack)

 

Anxiety is on a spectrum and can be debilitating for a person irrespective of the amount of time it was experienced and the number of times it has occurred. The average anxiety attack lasts for approximately 10 minutes and people can be diagnosed with anxiety disorders which occur only in a year or they can re-occur in a person’s life if triggered by other circumstances. We all have our own triggers, our own outlook on how we want things to be and importantly, our own coping strategies. Here are some of mine, but take time to consider your own:

Exercise – Being anxious is physically tiring so try wearing yourself out in a positive way. It will help you get a better night’s sleep and naturally makes you hungry to replace the energy expended. It doesn’t have to be too rigorous, even just 15-20 minutes of walking around your college garden can help you refresh and get ready for another round of revision.

Reading travel and Features articles – A lot of degrees require a lot of reading so maybe you feel too guilty to read entire novels when you should be quoting Shakespeare or learning how to keep planes in the air which is fair enough, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still read about things that make you happy.

Looking at holiday photos – Anxiety can often produce a spiral of thoughts, and if negative, this can be debilitating in terms of work. So if you can get in there and try to interrupt these thoughts with intense, positive memories, then you can switch the spiral’s direction to up.

The Comfort Zone – Friend or Foe?

Friend: Sometimes to reduce feelings of anxiety, you need to do things that might not seem terribly exciting or are really different to usual but that you know are guaranteed to make you feel happy and warm. Buy the special tea you saw in Whittard’s as a little treat, plan in time to go on Skype and speak to your family, plan in time to go out for a quick lunch with your friend, watch TV so bad that it’s good for a bit of light entertainment.

Foe: Getting comfortable with being outside of your comfort zone – There’s something hugely liberating about overcoming something or doing something that wasn’t as bad as you dreamed it would be. After all, people do multiple degrees, watch crime dramas to relax and engage in adventurous sports to help them feel alive. So once in a while, do something that is a milestone. Maybe work up to it, maybe only go with someone you wholly trust, but do it for yourself to show yourself what you’re capable of.

 

Some of my most anxious friends (and I mean my actual friends, not aforementioned ‘friend’) are literally the most thoughtful, kind, protective people I have ever met. They’re other-oriented, always trying to keep people happy and they are reliable because they hate uncertainty and letting others down. Anxiety is fascinating because it’s something we all are predisposed to just by being human and having foresight and a sympathetic nervous system yet is something we can have control over, it can be managed and more often than not, anxiety itself can be a redemptive and life-saving trait.