A little over a year ago I had a day of what I believe was anxiety. Looking back it had been building for some time. Upon waking that day I felt an unsettled and anxious feeling for no reason. I do not remember many details about the day. However I do remember thinking “I just have to keep going”. Almost visualizing lifting my heavy leg and clunking it down to keep moving forward.
As I stood at the gas station for gas, I could not remember my password for my debit card or even which card to use. Meeting a friend for lunch, I was very unfocused but I did tell her what was going on. Though I remember little, the things I do remember I remember quite vividly. Each thought was just to make it through the next moment.
The kids came home from school and I remember hoping my husband would be home soon. Every movement, every thought took effort. When he came home he talked about his day, I remember working to keep calm . Almost too calm! I told him I wasn’t well, my head felt funny. He held me and he prayed for me. I felt exhausted that night.
I went to see my doctor and she has kept a close eye on things. Occasionally I have similar feelings though none are as strong or as controlling as that one day! Partly because I have learned to recognize some signs. That day last March I felt as though I had been sideswiped. I didn’t see it coming. I am very careful now in my self care as well as my mental health care.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety by definition is, “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” Worry is how you think about something. On the other hand, anxiety is a physical response to a trigger that affects your body. It can affect anyone and everyone.
According to Statistics Canada’s 2002 Mental Health and Well-being Survey, 4.7% of Canadians 15 years of age and over reported symptoms of anxiety. 50% of adults with ADHD suffer from anxiety disorder and 30% of kids with ADHD have anxiety. ADHD symptoms that coexist with an anxiety disorder may significantly impair their ability to function (psycom.net). Also, ADHD challenges in and of themselves can make kids more anxious. ADHD kids are at higher risk of having anxiety.
Symptoms of Anxiety in Kids
Anxiety and ADHD can both be easily diagnosed. This is list not intended for making diagnosis but to be aware. For correct diagnosis please see a neuropsychologist. (list from Psycom.net)
- Difficulty falling/staying asleep
- Increased irritability
- Withdraw from peers
- Refuse to go to school
- Clowning around in school
- Hair twirling, skin picking
Anxiety can be helpful when used as intended as it initiates fight or flight. Therefore when you are camping and see a bear this anxiety starts up the fight and flight! The problem is when the reaction is bigger than the situation calls for.
My daughter does not have ADHD but we have been watching her anxiety for some time. A few weeks ago, her brother caught a cold which turned to pneumonia and he was quite sick. At the smallest hint of a sore throat she began to panic. She couldn’t sleep and told me she was worried about getting pneumonia. She told me, “I can tell my brain this is different but it just won’t listen to me.” It is an awful feeling to be so out of control of ones feelings and emotions.
Symptoms of Anxiety in Adults
- Feeling nervous, restless or tense.
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom.
- Having an increased heart rate.
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
- Feeling weak or tired.
- Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry.
Avoiding activities that bring anxiety on may feel good at the moment but in the long run it makes the anxiety stronger. Instead learn how to talk back to your feelings and recall times in the past that you used your resources to over come what was scaring you. Changing how you respond will give you a sense of control and will decrease the intensity of it.
Steps to take:
- Keep track of triggers. Write down what causes anxiety. Name the negative thoughts that come up. Now write the worst thing that could happen in that situation. Usually our thoughts are large and over exaggerated. FOR KIDS: Give them a picture of a thermometer to take to school. When they feel anxious the can write on their picture how “hot” the anxiety felt and what triggered it. Could also get the teacher involved if the child is comfortable with that.
- Learn thought stopping. Tell your brain, “No. Stop telling me that, worry brain. I can do this”. This interrupts the worry cycle and keeps the brain from flooding with anxious thinking.
- Deep breathing. This will slow down your heart rate and begin to relieve muscle tension. There are lots of deep breathing techniques. Find one that works for you. FOR KIDS: Visualize blowing up a balloon. Breathe in for the count of 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4.
- Muscle Relaxation. Make a fist really tight and hold for 5 seconds, slowly let go and feel your muscles relax. Tighten each muscle in your arm all the way up to your head in this manner. Tighten face muscles as well or any other muscles in the body. Some people work through many muscles. If I am out and about, I will focus on 1-3 muscles until I feel in greater control of myself.
- Speak it out loud. There does not seem to be any research necessarily showing this to be beneficial. However, I have found it to be extremely helpful. Each time I have voiced it I have felt the intensity to decrease. It is amazing how much our inner thoughts affect us. Bring it out in the open.
DON’T IGNORE IT
Anxiety is a serious matter and not one you want to leave unassessed. Please seek medical attention if you or your loved ones are affected by anxiety. It is like a weed that grows and takes over all the beautiful growth. If unattended it will continue to take over.
I make sure to keep in check with my loved ones when I feel off. That’s all I say to my husband sometimes. “I feel off”, or “I have THAT feeling again”. He doesn’t always know what to do with it. But just the fact that I’ve brought it to light often eases the hold it has on me.
From my family to yours,
ADHD Coach Laureen