Over 2 million people in any one year in Australia suffer from anxiety, according to beyondblue… and that’s only the people that are opening up about it and seeking a diagnosis, many, many more are struggling without support. At the recent Nurturing Your Health presentation: Anxiousness & Overwhelm – when the group started talking about what anxiety is there didn’t appear to be a person in the packed room who couldn’t relate to feeling the effect of anxiety in their lives. Yes, this disease is insidious containing many subtle layers and there are very few people that escape it amongst the fast pace of modern society.
What was revealed as the women shared their stories was that it doesn’t just affect our mental health but like wise very much our physical health, our work, and our relationships – in effect, everything. What unfolded over the morning was a ‘we’re going there’, ‘let’s have this’ discussion, lead by three women who have much to share on the topic from their own lived experience and dedication with working with it.
Katie Walls, Donna Gianniotis and Alison Pearson had some exceptionally clarifying insights to share with the group, inspiring everyone to reveal and expose some of the habits, behaviours and beliefs we are using to fuel the level of anxiousness and overwhelm we experience in our every day.
Here are some of the highlights of the morning…
“People sometimes don’t even realise it is anxiety at first as they are so used to the feelings that is has become normal,” Katie Walls.
“I had absolutely no awareness of my anxiety. It took about 15 minutes into [a healing] session to feel the anxiety I was living with in my body,” Alison Pearson.
“It’s almost seen as being championed in the corporate world – if you’re not in it [anxiousness] you’re not busy enough,” Donna Gianniotis.
“Look at the nitty gritty – the practical aspects of it… how does anxiety play out for you?” “What symptoms and feelings do you feel? How does this affect you in your day to day, at work, in your relationships?” Katie Walls.
“People say they are fine, but then go away and give it a go [clocking more how they feel when they wake in the morning] and realise they are already thinking about all they have to do that day and feeling a level of anxiety in their bodies when they wake up before they have even started their day. By having a check in with yourself, how you’re feeling, you can then respond to what’s there and give a deeper level of care for yourself,” Katie Walls.
“Anxiousness is too often a taboo word – something we don’t even want to acknowledge – we need to start talking about the effects of anxiety more openly, why should this topic be any different to talking about if you had cut your finger. We have created a social tabo from lack of understanding, not wanting to be honest and a perception of perfection that isn’t true,” Katie Walls.
“The reason for anxiety is simply that we are not honouring what we are feeling and therefore not acting accordingly with what’s needed,” Katie Walls.
“There are many reasons we avoid honouring what we are feeling; fear of not fitting in, standing out, rocking the boat for others, wanting to be accepted and recognised, not wanting to reflect our full abilities/the power that we are, are just some them.” Katie Walls.
What leads us to being in a state of anxiety and overwhelm?
“One of the major contributors to anxiousness is people feel time poor… but you can imagine if you have so much going on in your nervous system, even if you do have time for yourself, people find it hard to slow down and rejuvenate as an ongoing pattern of anxiousness is like an infectious state,” Katie Walls.
“There is a point where you stop feeling. People can champion that they are super calm but are they really present?” Katie Walls.
“Stress creates anxiety. If you’re living in a way where you get stressed, anxiety is around the corner. Thank goodness for the body to help us say stop, feel the effects on your body of how you are living.” Katie Walls.
“We can wear many masks – we can look super cool and together – yet we may not be feeling that on the inside. This is just a way to control/hide what your feeling, any form of control is very, very draining,” Katie Walls.
“We hold back because we don’t like how others are going to react to us.” Donna
“All we are doing is stalling – it’s going to come back to us. The tension doesn’t go away if you don’t address it,” Katie Walls.
“Often people don’t feel equipped to handle other peoples anxiety. People who are super sensitive go into complete anxiousness because they don’t know how to deal with all that they are feeling, the disharmony and ill-balances.” Donna Gianniotis.
“If we’re not offering the full us… if we’re not comfortable with ourselves, we’re going to feel anxious… if your saying something to fit in, it creates a huge tension in the body,” Katie Walls.
“Often we get championed in life for all that we are doing and delivering but if what we are delivering is done in a drive or to get recognition it creates anxiousness and therefore is really hurting your body, until your body reveals symptoms or a significant health issue,” Katie Walls.
“[When we try to control anxiety] we become very blinkered and don’t really see what’s going on all around us,” Alison Pearson.
What are the triggers?
Some of the triggers to anxiety the group identified included:
- Lack Time for preparation
- Public speaking
- Too many balls in the air, juggling commitments
- Lack of trust – not seeing the end result
- Feeling invisible – talking and not being heard
- Feeling as if we are being shut down
- Avoiding reactions
- Avoiding expressing truth
- Perfectionism - getting it right because I care what others think
- Being judged
- Absorbing from others and sympathising – a desire to fix others anxiety
- Lack of acceptance of choices
- Exposing control
- Worrying about what people think of us and trying to please people
What is Overwhelm?
“Overwhelm is when anxiousness hasn’t been acknowledged, an accumulation of anxiety and the body goes into overwhelm,” Katie Walls.
“If we can address the anxiousness early on, it takes care of the overwhelm,” Donna Gianniotis.
“Overwhelm is also a subconscious way to keep people away – no one can get near you because you’re like this spinning top not being who you truly are. It’s a very effective in keeping people away without being angry,” Alison Pearson.
How can we identify, support ourselves avoid or reduce anxiety and overwhelm?
“Ask: ‘Is my heart feeling racy when I wake up in the morning’?”, put your hand on your heart, does your body feel rested from your nights sleep or slightly racy even though you have just woken up?” Katie Walls.
“The more that I’m not anxious and feel connected there is a natural impulse, a natural motivation… you don’t need anything to get you ‘revved up to deliver, its just a natural process which doesn’t tax your body’,” Donna Gianniotis.
“From the work I had done on myself addressing anxiety I was then able to see it so much more in others.” Katie Walls. Whole families are often in anxiety but the parents are not addressing their anxiety so are not picking up the anxious pattern in their children.
“Relate to another as a person,” Katie Walls. For example, see your children as whole human beings too and relate to them that way, not simply as their mother or father.
“We’re seeing these issues with our kids and with men, who can be reluctant to communicate. We say, ‘I’ll just give them space,’ but it’s the opposite of what’s needed, open the conversations,” Katie Walls.
“Any anxiety someone has contributes to someone elses. There are different ways we can live with that so it doesn’t have an affect on us,” Katie Walls.
“The more aware and more truthful we become we see everything from before that we have been living that’s disregarding. When I allow myself to be honest about what makes me anxious I see the patterns of behaviour that I’ve allowed for some time,” Alison Pearson.
“We start to feel the control that masks our anxiousness,” Katie Walls.
“Understand your level of anxiousness and what triggers you by asking how you are going elsewhere, in other environments,” Donna Gianniotis.
“How cool is it to ask yourself about what has triggered a reaction for you … see it as an opportunity for healing. We cant improve our wellbeing unless we get comfortable with the tensions that come up to show us that something needs addressing, that I need to do some work with myself. We can only address what we are allowing ourselves to feel and be honest about,” Katie Walls.
“It’s fascinating what we can do to cover up the anxiousness. We can get very good of masking it,” Donna Gianniotis.
Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and supporting our sensitivity is really important as is knowing that we are enough, just as we are and not being defined by what we do.” Alison Pearson.
“Say: ‘To the best of my ability I need to look after my body. What are my triggers with anxiety – where does it come up in my life?” Katie Walls
What happens when we start to work with the anxiety and overwhelm?
“How wonderful would it be if we wake up and say ‘I wonder what today will bring’, ‘what will I learn today?” Katie Walls.
“Things have to constellate sometimes – something dramatic and drastic may need to happen – to help us to see our attachments… they constellate to give us the opportunity to help us heal” Katie Walls.
“To start with, you have to feel all the anxiousness… it’s not fun because you feel the momentums and choices that have been made. The more you allow yourself to feel it, it starts to clear from the body. In time, you start to feel your essence, your loveliness. It’s about reconnecting to the loveliness. We’re then not identified by the anxiousness anymore,” Donna Gianniotis.
The importance of self-care
“Never having enough time is the best excuse to not care for ourselves… knowing that all our other relationships come from caring for ourselves. If we are avoiding our relationship with ourselves - the quality of what we offer to everyone else will be reduced,” Katie Walls
“If you’re not re-filling yourself with self-care and nurturing – what is the quality you are offering others… the substance needs to be there. The knowledge of self care needs to integrate into a living experience. Children can especially sense if our words are empty and we are not living what we are asking them to do or live” Katie Walls.
“Anxiety is not a bad word or a failure – if anything, it’s insightful as it’s showing your sensitivity – your relationship with your awareness. But we’re not, generally speaking, activating the support we need to offer ourselves to work with it. Deepening Self-care and Self-nurturing is so important as it provides the stability that’s needed to support you with anxiety,” Katie Walls
“Choose the quality in which you move first of all, this is a very useful tool when your feeling that anxiousness or overwhelm,” Donna Gianniotis.
“When we are in that anxiousness it can be hard to connect back. But if we are connecting on a daily basis, that’s creating a foundation that’s easier to come back to. Do it when you’re feeling great, use that as a confirmation so that when you do go into anxiousness it’s easier to connect back to your body,” Donna Gianniotis.
“Ask yourself: “Do I want to go to the vices to not feel the anxiousness such as sugar, caffeine, alcohol or the many other vices we can use, or, do I want to come back to me in the body?” Katie Walls.
Donna presented the Gentle Breath meditation (add link here) for the group to experience. The Gentle Breath Meditation is a very practical meditation tool to support you to connect to your body and observe what’s going on in life rather that absorbing the ill balances in life.
“Sometimes when you do the Gentle Breath meditation you might feel really sleepy or really racy – sometimes you’re just too far away from yourself to sit and be still. So do something else that helps you with your union with your body – i.e. consciously let your shoulders go. In this you begin to feel when you are holding tension in your shoulders. When you walk consciously let yourself feel your feet connecting with the ground with each step rather that walking via auto pilot. You can bring this relationship with your body everywhere,” Katie Walls.
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