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    Talk To Me About Anxiety



    Normally, I woudn't have another AMA so soon after the last one which you guys made extra-special with your questions. We live, unfortunately, in extraordinary times where what we face is challenging in ways that few of us would have anticipated even a year or two ago.

    The Hive is our space. Within the Darebee team, just like you, we have to grapple with the struggle of day-to-day life and the external world. We would have so loved to have come up with a magic recipe that could make anxiety melt away and worries disappear. We haven't, but that doesn't mean we don't have solutions.

    Hit me up with how you're feeling, what you do to try and cope with it and I will share our own personal insights plus the sizeable body of scientific evidence on things we can do to help deal better with this challenging world of ours. I will keep this open for seven full days, as usual. Stay safe,

    #2
    Hey Damer, I'm so glad that you brought up this subject. Anxiety has affected me personally most of my life. Being a Type A personality I always have too much on my plate. I tend to meet others' needs before my own which causes anxiety and resentment. Over the years I've learned to address anxiety in ways that affect me physically, emotionally and spiritually.

    Regular exercise is critical for me. I've found that I do best when I combine challenging goal-oriented exercise (a Darebee 30 day program is great) with something I like to do outdoors (hiking, swimming, gardening). Being in nature is calming and I focus on sights, sounds, smells, and touch.

    Emotionally dealing with anxiety has been more difficult, but I've learned to pay attention to why I'm feeling anxious. Am I worried I will fail at something? Am I anxious about what others think? Have I said yes to too many things knowing there's no way I can get everything done? Am I thinking 'what if'? (This has caused much stress in the past and really is a complete waste of time. Why worry about something that hasn't happened and may never happen?). Next I intentionally turn my thoughts to being grateful. There are so many things we take for granted every day: clean drinking water, the gift of sight, family & friends & pets, a favorite song, etc. By intentionally looking for everyday blessings and being grateful, I have moved my mind out of the worn and anxious neural pathways in my brain. For me, it is impossible to be anxious and grateful at the same time. Ultimately I choose to be either anxious or grateful. I'm picky about what I watch and read too. I don't watch/read much news (and I function just fine in society thank you). I limit my social media intake as well. At night, my smartphone is charging in another room. It's better to focus on being present.

    I believe there is a spiritual component to being anxious as well. I realize others will have differing views. In my case, placing my trust in the God who created everything means I don't have to be in control. What a relief! Prayer and connecting with other like-minded people has also helped me feel less anxious as I realize we are all on this journey together.

    Another key in reducing anxiety seems obvious: what I eat, how much and when makes a huge difference. I enjoy a good cup of coffee or tea but too much can bring on a near-panic attack. So I have to be careful with how much caffeine I consume and not have any past noon. Refined sugars and refined flour and alcohol also can make me feel edgy. Do I allow myself these things? Yes, in moderation and occasionally. I've found that being too strict with anything causes me anxiety--I'm worried about failing my eating or exercise plan! Also, camomile tea helps calm me in the evenings. And taking a GABA supplement once in a while has helped calm me during a stressful time.

    Finally, when I'm feeling anxious it's sometimes due to not having enough fun in my life. Sometimes I have to just drop everything and go for a hike, play an instrument, draw, dance around the house to 80's music, or do something that brings me joy.

    Comment


      #3
      Oh.
      Anxiety and I are old sparring partners, and it fights dirty.
      Exercise and meditation help, but even with those it gets too big to manage without counselling.
      So, I'm open to advice.

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        #4
        Lady Celerity thank you for adding your thoughts here and these are all important coping strategies that you mention. You haven't asked a question but you have covered a lot of very useful ground and practices by way of physical activity, mental focus and emotional control. What I will add, from science, is that while we all know we cannot control the external world our sense of control as we navigate our way through it comes from our ability to do two things well: First, predict; with some degree of accuracy, what will happen ahead. And second, our ability to cope with the unexpected (commonly called resilience). For the first we need to feed our brain with information (news and gossip from colleagues, friends and relatives, news outlets, even works of fiction), for the second, we need to have developed a secure sense of confidence in our own ability to just handle things. This requires a deeper understanding of who we are and why we do the things we do and, also, what we are capable of. Gamers, know these traits as Mastery, Commitment and Competence (drawn from dozens of social psychology studies) and they are the components that allow us to become adept at something, commit to seeing it through no matter the difficulty and feel competent that we can learn from the mistakes we make and improve.

        Comment


          #5
          BravoLimaPoppa3 you are, obviously, in good company. We all get anxious at some stage, the current perfect storm of conditions brought together by the pandemic, global uncertainty and personal difficulties we all face has only made it worse for all of us. You are right in that exercise and meditation help but they are not enough. We usually go to them when we are already stressed (so we are mitigating the symptoms rather than the cause). In addition, when we try to block something in our brain or 'forget it' our brain assigns resources to remembering it so it can 'forget it' (yeah, we're that weird inside our head. There is an article on this here: https://thesnipermind.com/what-covid...on-making.html - it also lays out some strategies towards coping better with anxiety.)

          Science tells us that if we experience anxiety regularly, rewiring our brain to not experience it is next to impossible. So what we can is mitigate it, not so much by avoiding it or blocking it as by embracing it and understanding and defusing it. our sense of anxiety has evolutionary roots that helped us survive which is why it is so difficult to eradicate. At the same time, letting it take us over works against our long-term survival. Within the Darebee team we try to talk things through by externalising what we are feeling as in: "today's news is messing with my head" or "the fact that we don't know what will happen to the world by Christmas is stressing me out". Externalization is a valid psychological technique to ease the stress we feel by changing point of view. The moment we clearly articulate the problem (i.e. stress and anxiety) and its source, we cal look for solutions. Even acknowledging that there isn't one (as in knowing what the world will look like by Christmas this year, for instance) allows us to refocus our efforts to dealing with things we can actually control (like getting up in the morning and enjoying a great cup of coffee) and that allows us to better understand that what we feel is natural and since we cannot truly divine the future (in my example) we can stop worrying about that and focus on something else.

          It is very difficult to deal with anxiety entirely alone. Because we are designed to feel it strongly, on our own, it can overwhelm us. What I would suggest is get a support group. The Hive is always an option and everyone here is automatically supportive of others even if they are not sure what to advise. The interaction certainly helps. Focus on a win or two. Set yourself small targets that will make you feel good if you achieve them. Understand that you're not alone. Right now, across different countries and culture, separated by different nationalities and languages, we all feel the same things.

          Find joy in something. (Personally, when things get bad I play my favorite video game online for half an hour or so. It allows me to feel that I am responsible for nothing for a short time plus it helps me decompress by mentally taking me elsewhere. You can also achieve the same by turning off the lights or putting down the shutters and listening to your favorite music, watching a movie or reading a book. There is an interesting study on that here: https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-wa...-mental-health)

          Once you are mentally recharged you always feel different about your ability to handle stress and anxiety.

          I hope this helps a little.



          Comment


            #6
            I have an odd experience with anxiety.

            To make a very long story short: my anxiety was (and still is) triggered by mostly gluten!!!!! Of course stress too. But I mean gluten intensify my anxiety. Luckily, I found quite a "simple" solution to my own issue.

            I would classify myself as gluten "sensitive", not intollerant or a celiac. So I eat gluten in moderation. I have always experienced negative thoughts since I was a kid. My mind would go to a very dark place. It was always hard to get out of that place. A few years ago (prior to covid) I experienced a full on anxiety / panic attack - where I came to a point where I could hardly lift my arms, my neck and shoulders felt like I had a block of lead placed on them. I started to stess even more, I didn't know what was happening, and that lead to me becoming worse by the day. I suspected I had some vitamin deficiency. I Google searched the issue. (Yes, Google saved me!!!!!!!)

            In my case... It was as simple as: (gluten attack.... stress....)

            Magnesium
            Vitamin B (all, including Biotin and Folic Acid) - particulary B12 I have to point out.

            These 2 vitamins will immediately take away my worse anxiety, worse pain, and I'd come back from that dark place within hours.

            Then I have to also take:

            Iron
            Calsium
            Vitamin D (apparently this help with the absorption of Calsium)

            So far these were the culprits causing my issue with anxiety. Every single time I become trapped in negative thoughts, and I start to hate my existence with some aches and pains in my writsts, mouth ulcers, and often pimple like bumps on my scalp, and upper arm chicken skin. I know to immediately take Vitamin B 12, or all Vitamin B's in a syrup or pill form. Even an injection from a doctor. And also magnesium for the aches and pains in my case. I do take my vitamins daily, but occationally I forget. Once those negative feeling starts to creep up, I immediately know I didn't take my vitamins!!!

            This is crazy, right!? A vitamin deficiency can cause anxiety! My mind was blown by this.

            At least in my case it was THAT simple. Vitamin B12.

            Comment


              #7
              Nightg0ddess thank you so much for adding your experience here. It highlights two very important things: First, the way each of us feels anxiety is unique to us. Second, the triggers for our anxiety may be the same (pandemic, work stress, life changes etc) but the underlying cause is different.

              I will explain that last bit a little more so it makes sense. What we experience in the external world are stressors. Our response to those stressors however is governed by our physiology and our physiology is the result of our own unique microbiome and our own unique neurological set up (every person's central nervous system is different). These unique differences then determine what causes the sudden inability we have to deal with external stressors. The inability is, usually, the result of our neurobiological system being overwhelmed because it is fighting too many battles on too many fronts. A classic example of this is how short-tempered we all get when we are short of sleep. Being short of sleep causes our brain to function poorly because of inadequate flushing of toxic chemicals that build up during the day. This makes everything just a little bit harder which means we have a much smaller margin of tolerance for small things that annoy us and we then react strongly to them.

              Just like a good night's sleep restores the neurochemical equilibrium we need in order to be our usual sunny selves, so does dealing with an underlying cause (i.e. gluten sensitivity, over-reaction to caffeine or sugar, lack of a particular vitamin, etc) make us more capable of dealing with the load of sudden or heavy external stressors.

              Comment


                #8
                I can't say that I have ever been a very anxious person, maybe at some times in life over certain events, but generally I look at the long term and try to realize that short term problems are simply the process by which I achieve long term goals. Strangely though, I work in operations management, which doesn't really have long term goals, just daily or hourly goals, so looking ahead at work is not really possible.

                Three years ago, I was not in such a good place though, physically and mentally. I know that weight is just a number, but I weighed about 100 pounds more than I weigh now, and this much extra mass takes its toll physically and mentally. I started out just focused on the goal of weight loss, but the more I lost, the better I felt and the more ways I looked into expanding that progress. And so the more I learned that health is not only how much you move and what you eat, but pretty much everything holistically. For instance, something simple like listening to music helps to calm people (which as far as I can tell is scientifically proven) but a lot of people simply don't do this as they don't think about listening to music in an otherwise hectic day (or at least I find it is something that I have to make time for personally, or I just won't do it). Same thing with reading. As far as I can tell, it is scientifically proven to be more relaxing and more rewarding than watching television or movies (not to mention physiological cues like blue light) but before I got on this fitness path, I had read maybe two books in five years, but in the past 3 years I have read over 80. But it is so easy to feel drained and just switch on a streaming service and zoning out. Same thing with alcohol (here the science is not at all ambiguous), because except in the very shortest term (usually minutes, maybe an hour or two) it increases the feeling of anxiety and then just makes things so much worse. I didn't drink a lot before, but now I essentially don't drink at all.

                I know that being anxious can be a physiological issue, in that our bodies and brains react in a specific way, but it is also based off of our environments and our actions. So I try to control what I can in the latter two areas, and not worry too much about what my body is programmed to do.

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                  #9
                  CaptainCanuck thank you so much for sharing your personal coping strategies and you are, of course, 100% correct. We should all take your advice, slow down just a little, read more (because reading a book changes our neural pathways and alters how we think about things for the better), listen to music, drink in the moment. We don't because, as you point out, our environment doesn't support this. We feel we are caught up in a world where everything moves at speed, we feel there is no time to slow down (or feel guilty if we do) and need to sometimes self-medicate (alcohol and mindless streaming) in order to get a little respite. The reason we feel that way is because we are programmed by evolution to be pro-social. Pro-social behavior drives us to behave like everyone else. When everyone around us is stressed, or fearful or anxious this is passed to us through visual and verbal cues. Our brain and body respond in kind and we also become stressed, fearful and anxious. Breaking that cycle starts with an awareness of our primary responsibility: our self. If we can't adequately take care of our body and brain we are unlikely to be of much use to anyone else. We also owe it to others around us to be, like you, focused on improving our behavior. When enough of us do it, it is the thing to do.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    I haven't been in the Hive for some time, but I'd like some advice, and I'll give what I can.

                    So I changed jobs, I'm in my first week of my new job as a Designer (pamphlets, posters, flyers, tshirts etc.).

                    Now, NO ONE at said job has the time to properly teach me the software or the workings of the business, so it's very much on the job training or me training myself.

                    In this case I'm feeling like other people's anxiety rubs off on me. (Hello performance anxiety, my old friend...) They are all crunched for time to the max, and eventually my time will get crunched too. Although we are supposed to take 15 minutes for "lunch", I find I'm so busy that I just don't have time for that. I have to learn to do an entire design in 10 minutes. And do 6-10 a day AT LEAST, but obviously more than that.

                    So I end up going the entire work day without food or water for that matter, and feeling rushed. I might take a healthy smoothie with me, but then for some reason CHOOSE to go out and buy something less healthy that I "believe" will give me more mental energy, yes, sugar and caffeine.

                    Then I binge at home. Luckily there's not much to binge on apart from Peanut butter sandwiches, because making a healthy smoothie just takes too long.

                    ​​So that's contributing to lots of anxiety currently!

                    In the past, the only way I could get myself out of anxiety is to CHOOSE to be happy or grateful or calm. Because I can use just as much energy to calm myself down as I can to make myself anxious and depressed.

                    Yoga helps, purely because of the mindfulness, a quality I wish I could carry into my everyday life, away from my mat.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Nevetharine thank you for adding your story here and it is, unfortunately, an all too-common situation. We are geared to be pro-social by evolution. This means that we easily take on the anxiety and stress of others, respond to difficult situations by taking on more and more responsibility and all too-easily sacrifice our self because we feel that is the only quantity we have some control over. You will need to decide for yourself what you can and cannot implement from what I will tell you.

                      1. The primary rule of self-care is to hydrate. Even snipers in a battlefield situation will take time out to grab a sip or two of water. Low hydration in the body contributes to lower performance levels, increased anxiety and poor responsiveness to social cues (there is a study on that here). So taking a few sips throughout the day to help your body remain in a balanced homeostatic state is the first step towards feeling you have control over what you do.

                      2. You are already operating under stress. Your mind and body are alert because cortisol levels (the stress hormone) contribute to staying sharp. Caffeine and sugar introduce a further chemical challenge for your body to deal with so you are undermining your own ability to perform by introducing them to your day.

                      3. It may help if you use a psychological trick called self-distancing. It basically helps you decompress on the go.

                      I really hope all these help a little.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Thank you for the advice, Damer I'll definitely try to implement Trinity's trick. And yes, I know sugar and caffeine are bad. I usually talk to myself at home too as a way to motivate myself to do something, and I often tell myself "You have to eat something healthy if you want your brain to perform well" . Hence me taking the smoothie, yet it remains a challenge to stick to the plan when INSIDE the stressful situation.

                        There's little time to remind myself of WHY I brought the smoothie in the first place before some freak part of my brain just hijacks all reasoning.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by Damer View Post
                          Lady Celerity Gamers, know these traits as Mastery, Commitment and Competence (drawn from dozens of social psychology studies) and they are the components that allow us to become adept at something, commit to seeing it through no matter the difficulty and feel competent that we can learn from the mistakes we make and improve.
                          Thank you Damer for this insight. It's very helpful to me now as I am currently in a new and stressful job trying to learn the ropes. Just having the process described is incredibly encouraging.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            I have had a lot of experiences with anxiety over the decades. In my my first career, which was very demanding & at times dangerous, alcohol was the choice to deal with the stress & anxiety. On & off over the decades I had control of alcohol but occasionally the demons got the better of me. Last year, I had had enough & quite drinking. No regrets. In 2010 when my late wife died, I saw a councillor for about 2 years. In the last 2-3 years I use meditation, daily gratitude, try to find things to be grateful for. Fresh air, eating right really helps.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              PETERMORRIS966 thank you so much for sharing your journey here. It is important, as you show, to have small wins every day to help us stay the course. Bravo!

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