For one week each May, we campaign around a specific theme for Mental Health Awareness Week
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is anxiety, one of the leading causes of mental ill-health in the world
ANXIETY is the start of (negative) stress that creates problems at work and home; and the first step to depression if it isn’t managed, maybe even more consistent psychological problems in life.
Anxiety – do you know what it feels like? In your body, the physical self as well as thoughts and feelings – because these will all affect each other and influence your actions (behaviour).
Butterflies in your stomach area, sickness, increased heart rate, holding your breath without realising, tension in your neck or back, hands, arms and legs. Yes, it sounds like stress but is less acute and less intense, initially.
Stress can be positive too, with an optimum level that motivates and inspires and allows us to ‘flow’ in life for a period. Anxiety is negative – it is limiting, and it is distracting; you know it’s there and happening when you find you forget things, don’t hear people talking to you or cannot digest and process what is happening around you. (A positive ‘anxiety’ would really be positive stress that motivates you to action and attention.) Distraction is one aspect of this state.
Another is tiredness because your body and mind never stop reacting to the stimulus – worry, thinking about a situation and trying to resolve it or manage it.
Worry is another perspective of anxiety – the underlying issue that creates the ‘dissonance‘ * in your life at this point – feelings, thoughts and behaviours that don’t match and cause you distress (anxiety).
Anxiety could be from someone important to you telling you to do something (behaviour) that you don’t feel is right (for you, socially, morally etc), and yet you continue to do the action; or believing something but not admitting it, or feeling something that is not acceptable (generally or by someone). These are examples of what the underlying issues might be. Trying to please too many people – often at your own expense – is the real issue perhaps.
So the earlier you identify it, acknowledge it and find help to resolve it the better for you, and for those around you too!
Anxiety is simply dissonance (in your mind)* – finding out what your values and beliefs are and the reasons, learning to accept this about yourself so you feel comfortable standing up for your beliefs, knowing you are acting in a way that meets your needs (not just others needs).
Depression is the result of prolonged (negative) stress leading from initial anxieties. If your mind cannot reconcile your thoughts, feelings and behaviours over time it will break down and lead to mental health problems. You need help at any stage of psychological distress – whether from friends and family who notice you’re ‘not yourself’, tutor or colleague perhaps, or professionals like a GP or counsellor or a life coach, or someone related to your area of concern. And it is about concern – something is wrong, or at least ‘not right’.
You can make simple changes sometimes, but another perspective from someone else can help a lot. Reframing the issue – thinking of it in different terms, a different viewpoint – might help.
For example, staying with someone who hurts you emotionally or physically (whether you have a choice or not), or someone who expects you to believe or behave as they do and you don’t feel able to stand up to them when you don’t agree.
Anxiety about money, people, relationships, situations, lack of opportunities or choices you have or don’t have might be some things that cause anxiety in your life.
Holmes and Rahe developed a matrix of life events that cause stress (anxiety) – their Stress Scale, allocating a points system to life events like marriage, death, divorce, bereavement, house moves, relationships, jobs, finances and fulfillment in life. The higher the points, the greater the stress and anxiety.
So get help, advice and support quickly and avoid greater pain and upset down the line. There is no health without mental health (psychological health).
Note: I don;t like the phrase mental health because of it’s judgemental connotations that limit personal power and accountability in making changes. Thoughts change emotions and behaviours and each influences the other …
*In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the excessive mental stress and discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, and/or values at the same time. This stress and discomfort may also arise within an individual who holds a belief and performs a contradictory action or reaction. For example, an individual is likely to experience dissonance if he or she feels one thing and yet behaves as if they feel something the opposite. Wikipaedia