BY: Janine Mitchell
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Mental health issues are very prevalent right now, more than ever for several reasons.
Not only are we dealing with something that continues to create uncertainty, fear and worry, many have been affected both directly and indirectly. While some are coping well, experts warn our emotional resilience will continue to fray and decline as this continues to drag on.
As we are living in a place of constant fear, we remain in a heightened state of arousal, which evokes a traumatic response in many.
The problem is, our sympathetic nervous system can only remain in a state of overwhelm for a period of time. We are not built to be in a state of high alert, or ‘chronic response’ permanently.
It really is important to recognise the signs related to the onset of anxiety with this issue. Why? So we can be more proactive in our approach, rather than reactive. This will provide you the opportunity to work through this and create a strategy in order to move forward.
Here are some signs of a decline in ability to cope with an increase anxiety, leading to potentially destructive and negative behaviour.
If you regularly experience difficulties with sleep, whether that’s falling to sleep, or being awake for long periods of time in the night, this can be an effect of anxiety and be one of the first things to suffer with. Especially if you are unable to get to sleep due to having things on your mind, which you can’t seem to shake, leading to overthinking in the middle of the night when you should be sleeping. This can be a double edged sword, as depression and anxiety can cause lack of sleep. Or anxiety connected to worry and stress, can then cause poor sleep. To minimise these issues consider what you can do differently with your sleep hygiene routine or see how you can incorporate more exercise into your day and avoid all stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol before bed.
Chronic anxiety or panic attacks
You can experience crippling anxiety when you are overwhelmed mentally and physically with constant dread, fear and worry of what may or may not happen. It can lead to panic, the severe end of this scale can result in panic attacks. This is when you experience a complete feeling of disorientation with sudden and intense anxiety. Physical symptoms associated with this can include shaking, irregular heartbeat, dizziness and breathlessness. We can only be in survival mode for a certain amount of time. When you are in this regularly and consistently by suffering with anxiety, it is important to get seek and receive the necessary support. Anxiety can be helped, otherwise it can become a crippling cycle which feels difficult to recover from or remove yourself from.
An overwhelming sense of helplessness can transpire when our life circumstances change in a dramatic way, such as a loss of a job. Or if we experience a very negative life event. This takes us to a place of feeling totally out of control. A loss of identity or sense of purpose can also occur when you have been furloughed. Or are working from home for long hours and periods of time, with very little in the way of human interaction. Due to the absence of roles and relationships which give our lives meaning, we can be at risk of feeling isolated, vulnerable and experience helplessness.
Ensure you talk to others about how you are feeling. A good relationship with your direct line manager helps and with friends and family who can support you if you are experiencing difficulty in this area.
Irritability / lack of concentration
Excessive stress, anxiety or worry can lead to irritability and takes us to a place where we are unable to focus or concentrate for any period of time. Our body and mind is impacted, and lack of decent nutrients can also negatively impact this further. Ensure you are taking time to promote self care, and time out for you. However this looks. Read a book, take a relaxing bubble bath, watch your favourite comedy film. Ensure you take regular breaks from work and get daily exercise and your daily dose of vitamin D intake which will give you the regular, necessary boosts you need.
Too much focus on bad news
You will find every time you switch on the news, it’s negative. It’s full of fear and is going to do very little to put you in a good place. There is nothing positive reported, especially at the moment. The focus is on all the negatives in relation to the current situation. Too much exposure will very likely lead to anxiety, or related feelings. It is being consumed at every angle, if you let it. Constant notifications on your phone or device, TV reports around the clock, every newspaper and news article flooded with negativity.
The more you can restrict your access to the news, the better. Is it really helpful to consume it all the time? Turn all notifications off, avoid consuming it first thing, the moment you wake up, as you are in a very suggestible state at this time and any negativity you ingest will not set you up in the best way for the day. Don’t listen to it in the car, put some nice uplifting music on instead. If you do have to watch any, commit to 10-15 minutes maximum of the main points, that are relevant to you, each day.
If you get to a place where you feel a complete sense of hopelessness and anxiety and feel there is no way out, consult immediate professional advise. An appointment with your GP is the first port of call. They may then refer you to a relevant service or will suggest support or options to help such as talking therapy. You can also contact the Samaritans or there are numerous mental health support charities or local professional therapists, who work both face to face and online.
If you are feeling this way, ensure you speak to someone. Too many don’t want to either burden others or open up for fear of shame or stigma. It is okay to be open about how you are feeling. It can take strength and courage, but once you do, I can guarantee you will feel lighter, as if a burden were lifted. We are in extremely tough times. We all have mental health, like we have physical health. So if you are feeling helpless, low and unsure where to turn, always remember, there is support there. This can be via family or friends or with consolation though a professional.
Janine is the founder of Change for Success
She specialises in transforming mental health and mindset.
Janine helps people create calm, clarity and focus, banishing stress, anxiety, worry and negative thinking.
She also works with companies and organisations by helping them improve their performance and productivity by reducing stress in the workplace.
She has a Masters’ degrees in Psychology, is a published researcher and a hypnotherapist, NLP and EFT practitioner.