Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Got Anxiety? Read this.

It's a funny thing. Can be crippling in extreme cases or in lesser extents, be quite good for you. Kinda like small amounts of stress.
If you suffer from anxiety, I might just have a few pointers that may assist you in coping with it.
Like most posts, this one has been triggered. Surprise, surprise, I've just been subjected to a fair amount of anxiety myself by coming back to work. Regular readers will know that I've just been through some major surgery (and subsequent mistakes made by said surgeons) in which i ended up being paralysed for quite a few hours and almost checked out a few times.
But my anxiety was not caused by what you might think, I was never anxious about going back to work, I was (and still am) excited to be back. Back full time now after a graduated return to work program that started off with 4 hours per day for first couple of weeks, then up to five and half etc.
No, my anxiety was because I've been struggling having normal conversations with people, or even speaking publically when normally (pre operations and trauma) I'd been fine. I'm not normally a shy kinda guy.
Anxiety has been creating awkward silences, making me struggle talking to people and making my heart race. Anxiety has been knocking me off my game. 
Not cool. But thankfully, not for long. 
Turns out that trauma, 3 operations in less than 3 days with all that general anaesthetic AND 4 ½ months in recovery with only the odd visitor, "discussion" with difficult ACC people and loving family members to talk to, does not make for a well-rounded, confident workplace conversationalist by any means. 
Seems I had become quite blunt (more than before), less aware of my impact on others and I'd been missing a few social graces like patience and tolerance. Who knew?
Not generally a great look for someone in my position as a manager as you can imagine. 
Interviews (which I deliberately keep semi casual to get the most out of candidates) often created eyebrow raises from potential staff from my lines of questioning.
The good thing however – just like you who come here to read this stuff – I realised. Thankfully very quickly. This is actually something I have anxiety to thank for. See? Told you in some cases it's okay to have.
Now as you know if you visit here often (and again, just like yourself) I'm not one for taking things lying down so have been working hard on sorting all this out. Pretty sure I'm almost back on track now.
Fall down six, stand up seven. Set your goal, nail it.
So the purpose of this post – because of all that palaver - I have figured out a couple of quick win help techniques (and reinvigorated a few from my old fighting days) that may work for you as they have (and are) for me.
  • Clench and relax your stomach muscles multiple times. Anxiety (and stress) is often held in this location.
  • Pull down your upper back muscles (shoulder blades) toward your waist and release a few times too. Like point 1, this is another good location for muscle bunching from emotional content. You can also use this one for relieving stress headaches as often those types of headache is caused by upper back muscle tension running into the neck.
  • Clench and hold your left hand, make a fist, let it go. Again, repeat. Left hand is closest to your heart (why a wedding ring is worn on it) and this action is an old technique I learnt from a very understanding Grandmaster who saw me stressing before a multiple attacker training session, it often works.
  • Git your soundz on - favourite song time – play it loud either in your headphones, at home before your anxiety inducing moment or even in the car on the way to it. Music can soothe the savage beast inside or rark it up even more toward the "you won't break me" positive reinforcement
  • Most important - BREATHE – oxygen really is your best friend. But it's not just about in and out. Concentrate on keeping your breathing regular as anxiety often speeds up your breathing patterns. Bringing it back to standard (or slower) will reduce all kinds of factors churning through your bloodstream. But dont go too slow. Often thinking everyone has fallen down some invisible hole when in fact you passed out and are staring at the ceiling, can be awkward. Trust me on this.
  • "Check yourself before you wreck yourself" – google says the actual origin of this saying actually began in Tauranga! As "street" as I have been in the past (snigger), no it wasn't me. Now this one really is all about self-monitoring. If you know you have anxiety, you have to also know that your emotional reactions or conversational interactions may not quite be on point as they have normally been. Be aware of who you're talking to, check their reactions to what/how you're saying things. There have been multiple moments since I've been back where I've just bluntly stated things or just walked away from discussions when the other person may not have been finished asking for my help. Luckily I think I've caught most of them and wheeled back. If you're one of them, oops, sorry. Work in progress.
  • Don't be afraid to make mistakes. To quote something I have up on the wall of my home dojo;
  • Last one - lay off coffee and if you're a smoker, try kick that to the curb too. Both generate anxiety, not solve it. Plenty of scientific proof. Up to you though, I'm not telling you what to do, choice is always yours.
And that's about it for now.
Failing these self-help things working for you, suggest talking about it with a friend and/or utilising counselling if you can. Sometimes just talking with someone who can help you discover some "tools" to help can make all the difference in the world.
That said, off you go. .
Time to go get some things done.