DISCLOSURE: Please understand that I am not an expert on anxiety, I’m not a Psychotherapist or a Medical Doctor. The opinions expressed in this blog are from my own and other’s experiences. If you need to seek help from a trained Mental Health Professional visit Talkspace or Betterhelp to speak with a certified therapist at an affordable price. Or: call 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
Bring Midlife Anxiety Under Your Control
So my lovely Midlife ladies…
We all know that, even with our years of life experience, we’re not immune to anxiety creeping into our lives. So what is anxiety and why is it very common?. It’s our body’s internal reaction to stress…and it’s completely normal. It’s encoded into our DNA to help us detect and deal with real and perceived threats.
However, it becomes a more serious issue when it starts to interfere with our day-to-day lives.
Mild anxiety is one of those pesky feelings that can creep up on anyone, at any time, about anything! Sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason for it. It’s nervousness, butterflies-in-your-tummy kinda stuff.
Then there’s the real anxiety suffered by millions of people and its debilitating effects on their lives. This is a much more profound experience than just nervousness.
Do You, Or Have You Experienced Anxiety?
We can all suffer from anxiety at some stage in life. It can be caused by a serious life event like the death of a family member or friend, illness, financial issues, and even menopause. OR, quite commonly, a traumatic incident in our childhood.
For example, I have a really strange story about one of my anxiety triggers.
When I was a kid growing up in a small village in the UK, our local Vicar decided it would be a great school outing to take our class up to the bell tower of our local church. No probs. Seemed like a fun thing to do for a bunch of 8-year-olds.
Thing is…he misjudged the time of day and the clock struck midday while we were up there. Apart from the deafening sound of the huge hammer hitting the bell twelve times, there was this whirring sound of the mechanism controlling the hammer.
As kids, we thought this was hilarious, all giggling, and trying to scramble down the ladder in a hurry, urged on by the frantic vicar.
I didn’t think anything of this until years later.
As an adult in my mid-thirties, I started to notice that I couldn’t be near (or even look at) anything that had gears, cogs, or any type of mechanism.
Grandfather clocks gave me the heebie-jeebies. I’d get a serious panic attack, couldn’t breathe, my hair stood up on the back of my neck, and I’d break out in a sweat. I’d have to leave the house (or sometimes a restaurant) to distance myself from the supposed ‘danger’…and I could never understand why.
I’m a totally rational person, or at least I like to think so, but this ‘phobic anxiety’ didn’t make any sense to me. Until years later.
I was having a conversation with a friend who said that something happened in her childhood that manifested her anxiety long after she became an adult and that I needed to think back to what may have caused mine.
Finally, the penny dropped!
They Say It’s Best To Face Your Fears Head-On
So, my way of dealing with it was to force myself to assist a clock-maker while he pulled a Grandfather clock apart to repair it – and BANG! – anxiety brought under an element of control.
This is apparently called ‘Exposure Therapy’ in medical terms, but I wasn’t aware of it at the time. Thankfully, nothing as totally over-the-top as letting a Tarantula crawl on your hand to get rid of a spider phobia…can you imagine, OMG!
So, no more anxiety phobia for me…to clocks at least. Don’t know how I’d go in a room full of big cogs or mechanisms but I doubt I’ll ever find myself in that situation.
Anyway, I digress…
There’s no making light of anxiety.
You can’t just pretend it’s not happening, and don’t let anyone tell you to stop being silly and just ‘deal with it’. They obviously don’t understand!
However, you do need to confront the cause of anxiety in order to get it under some control. Ignoring it won’t fix the problem. By confronting it I mean taking charge and deciding when you will let those thoughts into your mind, AND how much you will let them affect you.
**Do you have any stories of your anxiety triggers and how you deal with them?**
What The Heck Is High-Functioning Anxiety And Do You Have It?
This a weird concept…having anxiety, but functioning with it at a high level. Seems counter-intuitive doesn’t it? But many people have it, particularly in high-stress work environments.
This a where you strive to accomplish as much as possible. To be seen to function perfectly normally, in your job, at home, and in social situations. You may be successful in your career, appear to be on top of everything, and have people comment on how organized and capable you are (little do they know)
This was totally me!
This level of commitment to a routine and having to achieve as much as possible is often driven by a form of perfectionism and the need for control. But, because control can’t always be maintained or guaranteed, and even the best-laid plans go astray, so your stress level rises.
But the worst is that you’re really good at hiding that anxiety.
Procrastination is another sign of HFA. This is brought on by a fear of getting things wrong. So is constantly double-checking yourself, like re-reading emails 3-4 times before sending them in an effort to get them perfect, or constantly making lists for everything whether you need them or not…just in case you miss something.
This becomes like a self-fulfilling prophecy. You don’t want to show your vulnerability and ask for help, especially as everyone thinks you’re so capable…and you don’t want to let go of the control you think you need. This leads to more stress!
So Here Are Some Signs You Have Anxiety – Not Just A Small Worry.
You’re constantly worrying about everything, even small issues.
It seems to control you – rather than you controlling it.
It gives you a physical reaction, like a form of paralysis, not just a mental state.
You find it difficult to suppress negativity and find the positives in life.
You often can’t fully express the problem in words – it can seem totally irrational.
The response can be a severe emotional one, preventing you from dealing with the issue.
The feeling can last for days, not just hours.
It can sometimes prevent you from functioning normally in both personal AND professional situations.
You have trouble sleeping, or concentrating on anything for a normal period of time.
You feel no-one else understands which leaves you feeling isolated, even from friends and loved ones.
Let’s Look At Some Of The Causes Of Midlife Anxiety
There are so many reasons why you may be unsettled, unhappy, or unfulfilled, and anxiety is your body’s way of handling, (and warning you) of these emotions.
The kids have now all left home and you’re left with an Empty Nest.
It’s very common for a feeling of panic to set in as you realize that everything you have been used to in your life has changed.
Your relationship may be teetering on the edge of collapse.
Maybe you’ve been unhappy for years and things are coming to a head for you, particularly now the kids have gone. You know it’s pointless and soul-destroying remaining in an unhappy relationship…but the thought of taking the steps needed to get out of it is terrifying.
You may be quite introverted and put off by the thought of the dating world again.
This is very common for those of us who’ve been in long-term relationships. Sometimes it feels easier to just stay single rather than battling the dating minefield…BTW, staying single isn’t so bad!
Maybe you have finally come to terms with the fact that you’re Gay,
You feel like you’ve been living a lie for years. Also pointless. You deserve to be happy, irrespective of what people say. It’s your life and you have to live it your way.
There’s something in your life that you’ve always wanted to do but think you’ll never get the chance.
Maybe move to Florence and try your hand at Water Color painting. Or, volunteer at the Orang Utan sanctuary in Borneo. (Moot point at the moment with Covid-19 but it won’t be forever) so start planning.
My personal desire was to finally give the ‘finger’ to my job.
I was fed up with my extremely stressful, demanding, and frankly, thankless corporate career, and I wanted to head off traveling and working for myself online. AND, selfish though it may seem…I was going to do it whether my husband chose to come with me or not…the desire was that strong.
Remember, You Only Have One Life To Live!
I know that some people believe that death isn’t the end, but call me a skeptic. Until someone can definitively prove otherwise, I assume we only have one life on earth…and it has to be lived in a way that brings us Joy, Happiness, Peace, and Fulfilment.
That’s not selfish…no-one said our destiny is to suffer. That may mean we have some hard choices to make…but the rewards for your Mind, Body, and Spirit will be life-changing!
Why Embracing Your Anxiety Can Be Beneficial
I know this sounds strange but anxiety is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. There is something causing it, albeit not always real or rational but it’s worth taking the time to analyze what it may be.
Note: I’m not referring to clinical anxiety or depression.
A blog is no place to discuss or speculate on serious mental health issues. In these cases, it will be most beneficial to seek professional counseling.
I’m talking about the unresolved aspects of your life. Like the previous section where we discussed possible issues with relationships, unfulfilled dreams, sexuality, and career changes among others. These need to be given your time. Ignoring them isn’t going to solve any problem.
They need to be examined for the root cause and possible solutions. Only then, by confronting them will you gain back control and get on top of your anxieties. Setting aside some uninterrupted time to think things through may give you a light-bulb moment.
If you can’t get to the bottom of the cause, or you know what it is but feel unable to deal with it, there are some things you can do to help in the short-term. BUT remember, long-term…you HAVE to confront the issues or they will always control you!
Try These Calming Techniques:
Name 5 Things
Name 5 things you see, 4 things you feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you taste. This works by distracting your emotions with other things to experience. Use this technique any time and anywhere you feel your anxiety getting a grip on you.
Start a Journal.
Write down your fears and worries, and possible solutions in your Journal. These are your private musings. Be as specific as you like. Use colored pens and get creative. It’s amazing how this can be a distracting and therapeutic exercise.
Use a Simple Breathing Technique
Breathe in for a count of 4, hold for 7 counts, and breathe out to a count of 8. It may take a little practice but you’ll start to get the rhythm and breathe in more deeply in a shorter time, whilst stretching out the exhale. This exercise will send a signal to your brain to relax.
Do some exercise
Go out and walk in nature. Spend time really noticing the colors and smells of flowers, the touch of the grass on your bare feet (think Richard Gere in Pretty Woman). Watch the sunset. Look out for insects; butterflies, Lady Bugs etc. This is a great distracting technique that will help quiet your brain for a while.
Use Some Essential Oils,
Use in a diffuser allowing the gentle scent to permeate your environment or keep a bottle in your pocket. Next time you feel stressed and anxious, take a whiff. Lavender, Rose, Bergamot, Jasmine, Chamomile, and Vanilla will all be beneficial. Also, Sandalwood, but it’s sometimes hard to find.
Drink a Hot Cup of Herbal Tea.
Try to stay away from caffeine if you can. (super hard for me ‘cos I luurve coffee) A hot cup of herbal tea has a calming effect…and you’ll probably feel good about being ‘herbally healthy’ – try Chamomile, Spearmint, Rosehip, Lavender, or Ginseng. Maybe add a lemon wedge or splodge of natural honey to your tea for a boost of vitamin C
Spend Time With Your Pet
Their silly antics and unconditional love will help soothe your anxieties as it’s really hard not to be amused and distracted by their behavior. Animals often pick up on your mood and seem to feel that you need some TLC, and they benefit emotionally from your attention as much as you do from theirs.
Listen To Some Calm, Relaxing Music.
Create your personal playlist so you only hear the types of songs that soothe your mood. Lay on the floor or the bed and totally relax. Really listen to the music and stop other thoughts entering your mind. Just a thought…maybe stay away from the heavy-beat style and stick to calming, easy listening instead.
Start To Practice Meditation.
You can choose to listen to ‘Guided Meditation’ using recordings, or just sit quietly and comfortably, concentrating on your breathing. Or try ‘Progressive’ meditation. Lay down flat on the floor in a quiet, calm environment (if possible). Then starting at your toes, think about each part of your body starting to totally relax, concentrating on feeling the tension leaving each part before moving onto the next part of your body.
Get Plenty Of Rest
The average adult needs between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Anxiety and stress will be exacerbated by a lack of rest. So, another option is to have an afternoon nap. And please…no inner dialogue about feeling guilty or lazy. This is your health and state of mind we’re talking about here. Have an uncluttered bedroom and invest in some lovely bed linen, so sliding in between the sheets for a good nap will be something you really relish.
These are just a few effective techniques for helping control your anxiety.
But, the best one will always be to confront it, analyze it, listen to it, and act on what it’s really trying to tell you about your life and the changes you need to make.