Photo credit is not mine.
Anxiety is not something people just ‘get over’.
Anxiety may very well be a life long ‘illness’ that someone has to cope with.
Anxiety is not always obviously present – it can lay dormant for days, and then creep up when you least expect it.
Anxiety is normal – without it, we wouldn’t survive.
For some people anxiety goes beyond the normal levels of feeling uncertain and afraid, and it can be really helpful if you can know what signs to look out for (in yourself, and in others) so that it can be dealt with.
So here are some things you can look out for:
- Irritability. For me, this is the most important indicator because it can so easily be misconstrued with someone just being rude or annoying. When someone is feeling anxious – they feel so many negative feelings all at once – and often in the most intense way. This is so draining. Not only are they absolutely exhausted from their over working brain, it can mean they are more sensitive; they can be quick to be hurt and offended. It’s easy to take things personally when you’re feeling anxious, as everything already feels like a threat. This can lead to irritability. Whilst I’m not excusing this behaviour – it is one of the major symptoms of anxiety and deserves respect. Just as someone with hay fever may sneeze a lot – someone with anxiety may be finding it hard to control their temper or remain calm 24/7. They may lash out, or make stupid comments. This isn’t okay – but be mindful, that it may be a sign that something isn’t ok.
- Organising the crap out of life. I would organise my life 5 years in advance if I could. I like sorting our birthday presents months before the actual day, writing and completing ridiculous to do lists, and checking my calendar several times a day to make sure everything is in order. Whilst some people are very organised anyway, it is important to notice when this organisation is going a bit too far. If someone is feeling the need to organise everything, it could be because they feel like they have no control and they’re trying to get some order back in to their life. It’s important to not only watch out for negative behavioural patterns. Yes – it is great to be organised and on top of things, but this can lead to burn out, and the organising is often just a coping mechanism for trying to control deeper feelings.
- Going quiet. Obviously, if someone has a quieter personality anyway – this may not be the case. Chances are, when someone is wrapped up in their anxiety, and just spending all their energy on sorting out their mind, they aren’t going to have a lot of resources left to be the life and soul of the party. They might stop checking in as often, or they might just stop talking about themselves. Please don’t be offended – and if you’re the one doing this – don’t be hard on yourself. We live in a society where you’re expected to work at a million miles an house, exercise regularly, socialise, travel the world, always look great, be up to date with the latest trends etcetera etcetera. Life is bloody hard work sometimes. This can also be a symptom of depression – and depression and anxiety can quite often go hand in hand. You wear yourself out from over thinking, which leads to low moods and a lack of enthusiasm for life. Now, just because someone has gone quiet – doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a hermit and they’re in bed in their pjs not washing – but it might just mean they’re finding it hard at the moment to juggle all life has to offer. Sometimes it’s hard to give your all to a conversation when you literally have nothing to offer because you’re wiped out. This is totally normal and acceptable.
- Seeming a bit distant. I know this is similar to the last point, but anxiety can sometimes present itself as ‘the lights being on but no one’s home’. Again, this is so easily mis judged as someone just being rude. Sometimes, no matter how much someone wants to be present, and engaging, they’re just wiped out or thinking of all the other things they need to be doing.
- Difficulty focusing. I know I’m struggling with my anxiety when I literally can’t even sit down to watch the television without also checking all social media and doing the housework. Difficulty focusing is not just work related. Of course, anxiety can have an impact on someone’s work ethic and productivity – but it can also affect home life too. This is often where it can be more damaging. Anxiety can make it incredibly hard for someone to be able to just switch off, whether with friends or on their own. This can turn into a negative downward spiral – self care and down time can often be so healing, so being unable to just ‘turn off’ for a bit can be a major sign to look out for.
- Worrying. The obvious one! Anxiety is all about worrying. Anxiety is worrying on steroids. Anxiety can make you worry about everything and nothing all at the same time. Anxiety can make it difficult to stop worrying. If you notice that you/your friend is mulling the same thing over and over – don’t be annoyed. If someone feels the need to verbalise something repeatedly, chances are they’re experiencing high levels of anxiety. Whilst ruminating is not helpful, it is a symptom. Worrying is what this illness is all about – so try and listen out to your own/someone else’s worries with a kind heart. It can be hard to let things go, especially when something remains unsolved.
- Jumping to conclusions. I see so many meme’s on social media about women jumping to conclusions over what their boyfriend is up to – and whilst it is nice to have a little giggle, knowing that everyone else does the same thing – sometimes there’s a more serious issue at hand. Anxiety causes you to believe that every bad thing that could ever happen – will happen. It will tell you so at every given opportunity, and at every moment going. This often ties in with irritability. If you are 10 minutes late and don’t answer your phone, chances are, I will think that you’ve died, and then I’ll be mad at you for being so casual when you do show up – some might say psycho – I say it’s my anxiety.
It’s also important to remember, that anxiety also has many physical symptoms including:
- a noticeably strong, fast or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
- muscle aches and tension
- trembling or shaking
- dry mouth
- excessive sweating
- shortness of breath
- stomach ache
- feeling sick
- pins and needles
- difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia)
So please also be aware, that anxiety may not just be apparent in actions and feelings.
It’s important to realise that people with anxiety can not always tell that they’re going through an anxious cycle. Anxiety can make you feel that everything you are thinking is certain. That you do have to be angry over what someone said, that you do have to worry about this otherwise it won’t get better, that you do have to fix everything because it’s your job.
Whilst, only the person with anxiety can truly help themselves, it’s important for us all to be educated on how anxiety can manifest itself. Look after those close to you. Notice the little changes and see if there’s anything you can do to help. Don’t turn a blind eye and just label it as a ‘mood swing’ or a ‘bad day’. Don’t be fooled into thinking that someone appearing to be really in control of their life, has their shit together.
If you, yourself, have anxiety – take some time to really get to know yourself. What do you need to look out for? What are your signs that you need to check in with yourself?
Anxiety is your bodies way of telling you that something is not right. It won’t always be obvious – but it’s calling out to you for a reason. Listen to your body, and help it.
You are wonderful.