A couple of Thursdays ago, there was an online chat – preceded by a twitter conversation the evening before – about managing and treating anxiety. As something many of us suffer, I was interested in participating in both events. The twitter conversation was linked to the hashtag #AXAPPPCHAT, so we could all observe it and participate. Dozens were involved and shared their tips, conflicts and feelings; all in a safe environment where a few of us got to meet each other further and ended up following each other in our regular timeline. The online chat, on the AXA website, was a tad more professional. Dr Mark Winwood responded to a few of our concerns in the chatroom and selected queries from the twitter chat. Here is the transcript of the chat. You can consult it and see if you find any good advices that apply to your lifestyle and conditions.
Dr Winwood answered two of my questions; and here I copypaste them partly as notes to self, partly as a way of sharing to others who might be in similar circumstances.
The first question is a shared one. A lady was asking how to deal with anxiety before starting a new job, and I asked how to deal with it while looking for one. Here’s his reply:
Firstly it is normal to experience some anxiety before starting a new job. Many of the tips I have already posted will also help you to understand your anxiety process and how best to deal with it. Prevention of anxiety essentially involves an awareness of life’s stresses and your own ability to cope with them. This can often be a difficult task in our busy and hectic 21st century. In essence, you might develop coping mechanisms for all of life’s stresses which may have been taught or explored with you when you had your last series of counselling sessions. Strategies might include these:
- Relaxation exercises including deep breathing
- Interpersonal skills in dealing with difficult people in your new work situation
Prevention also includes diet, regular exercise, rest, and the basics in terms of preventive health care maintenance. Diet is a large factor. Caffeine, stimulants, lack of rest, and lack of exercise all are factors that influence anxiety.
I’m intravenously connected to my cafetière, so I have no idea how to deal with this. Any substitutes or something? Death before decaf, by the way. DEATH BEFORE DECAF.
The second question is about my fear of going out to certain places where I have been a victim of sexist or racist attacks. In the worst days, it can be a fear of leaving the house at all.
Fear of leaving the house is sometimes known as agoraphobia – People develop anxiety when thinking about being in a situation out of their comfort zone. They fear feeling trapped in a situation where they judge it would be difficult or embarrassing for them to leave the situation. People avoid those situations which bring them anxiety or panic. It is the fear of the anxiety that leads to the agoraphobia. There are a number of treatments for people with agoraphobia the most common being Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. There are other things that can be helpful. When it is time to go out think of the following statements:
- I’m going to be all right. My feelings are not always rational. I’m just going to relax, calm down, and everything will be all right.
- Anxiety is not dangerous — it’s just uncomfortable. I am fine; I’ll just continue with what I’m doing or find something more active to do.
- Right now I have some feelings I don’t like. They are really just feelings, however, because they are disappearing. I will be fine.
- Right now I have feelings I don’t like. They will be over with soon and I’ll be fine. For now, I am going to focus on doing something else around me.
- That picture (image) in my head is not a healthy or rational picture. Instead, I’m going to focus on something healthy like _________________________.
- I’ve stopped my negative thoughts before and I’m going to do it again now.
- So I feel a little anxiety now, SO WHAT? It’s not like it’s the first time. I am going to take some nice deep breaths and keep on going. This will help me continue to get better.”
But what do I do when the thing happens? Like that time a drunkard called me a fat whore?
These things might happen, this things might not. Stepping outside is like a Schroedinger’s cat. Might get attacked, might not, who knows. At least trying to incorporate CBT more into my life might help not to worry in vain if I go and come and nothing happened. But what if it does? I wanted to ask that, but it was a public chat for many more people and I didn’t feel like absorbing all the Q&A.
I might not follow any of these advices step by step. I will try tho. Nevertheless, it’s good to know people care, and it’s good to know there is a way to feel a microgram better.