Anxiety – how anxiety can affect your health

The subject on my mind today is anxiety and how it can affect our overall health – physical and mental health.

I went to bed last night after my “Ancient Wisdom” post and felt pretty good. But this morning I woke up feeling this tightness in the bottom of my stomach – I knew the anxiety was creeping back in.

I’ve always suffered from a little anxiety over the years. Stress often made the anxiety worse. As a sensitive person, I found it interesting that office equipment would often stop working if I was stressed out trying to meet tight deadlines or if I was just having a bad day in general.

It seemed that everything around me, could tell that I was stressed out.

Light bulbs would blow out. Photocopiers would jam or stall. Even yesterday, while on the phone with Shaw cable and my doctor – their systems completely froze up while talking to me.

This happens a lot. I used to joke that it was just my karmic energy – but sometimes I wonder how much our energy can affect things around us.

You overthink everything, you exhaust me

My ex, Trigger, used to accuse me of “over-thinking” everything. That’s a trait that I think inherited from my mother. She would obsess over certain things. Like if a person crossed her – or if she made a mistake.

When it came to relationships, I would obsess over every little detail. I would obsess over everything I said or did wrong. The anxiety would get to me so much that it actually destroyed some friendships over the years.

Simply, because I didn’t know how to deal with it or how to care for myself.

Anxiety as an empath

I’ve always been a sensitive person. I describe myself as an “empath” – something from Star-Trek lingo I think, though I never watched the show. I could easily pick up on tension and anxiety around me. I felt the stress from others.

I could tell when something big was going down in the office because of the tension in the air.

When I worked at NorQuest College, I could feel the excitement in the air on registration day and would come home feeling “buzzed” and almost high from the elevated atmosphere.

But along with all the high’s – there were exceptional lows. I can pick up on grief, anger – and anxiety – from other people. And it starts to make me feel anxious too.

Life as an empath. Some consider it to be a gift. But I’ve always thought of it as a curse.

Anxiety in physical form

For me – the anxiety can present itself in physical forms. A tension headache – tightness around the forehead. A stomach ache – a tight feeling in the stomach. It isn’t really pain or nausea – it’s just a tight “butterfly” feeling that you get.

And then there’s real anxiety – a panic attack – where the room around you starts floating. Your breathing becomes erratic. And you feel as though you are having a heart attack. You wonder if maybe you should call 911 and go to the emergency room.

Anxiety affects millions of people around the world. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Stress and anxiety from daily life can strongly impact our mental health.

Hormones and Anxiety

About ten years ago, when I was first diagnosed with Polcystic Ovary Syndrome, my doctor put me on a combination anti-depressants and pain medications. We also tried hormone replacement therapy for a short time. But I never liked the way the medications made me feel.

I’d get lost for hours “in my head”. I made up problems about my relationship with Trigger that weren’t really there. Or I obsessed about them because my over-active mind wouldn’t let me, let go of issues. It would eventually lead to our relationship ending.

I had nasty side effects from the HRT – I remember the shakes and the night sweats. I remember standing in -30C weather in a t-shirt and thinking “this feels amazing right now.”

During that year, I lost seventy pounds and most of my symptoms, including the anxiety, faded away with each pound. I felt good about life. About myself. I was happy – for the most part.

I eventually weened myself off medication and the hormone replacement therapy. And I felt more like my normal self again. I never want to go back to that – but I do understand that anti-depressants help a lot of people out there.

But as the weight came back on over the years, the anxiety seemed to come back with it. And it’s been an exhausting battle ever since.

Coping with stress and anxiety

I’ve already written some articles on how to cope with stress and bad days with self-care. But I think it’s important that people feel okay to talk about their anxieties and fears.

I worked for four years on a project – Mental Health Capacity Building in Schools in Alberta The thing we focused most on was reducing the stigma that you felt when suffering from mental health issues.

Writing is therapy

One thing I will suggest that helped me is to start writing. You don’t have to use your real name. You can use a private journal. You can start a blog and write using a pen-name. Or you can be like me and openly discuss your mental health for all to see.

It takes bravery – a lot of bravery. And sometimes even I double back and delete posts if I’m feeling anxious about them.

Anxiety affects us all at some points in our lives. Whether we’re late for a meeting and stuck in traffic. Or we’re stressed about paying the mortgage. Or maybe you’re faced with trouble in the office – or trouble in your relationship. Or maybe your child is being bullied in school or stresses out easily over tests and homework.

These are things that can cause anxiety.

Just know that you are not alone. There are organizations out there that can help you. Reach out – join a support group. Talk to other people who struggle with anxiety. Or you can follow blogs like this one and learn about different coping techniques.

Even as I’m writing this I’m feeling the anxiety fade away. My stomach feels better – but it’s growling because it’s time for lunch.

For me – I’m going to pour myself another cup off coffee, turn on some tunes and just lose myself in my writings.

It is after all – my therapy.

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