Anxiety is a part of life that affects us all in different ways. It’s unpleasant and if it persists it can even affect our daily lives.
Anxiety is actually a normal bodily response. For example, when your body needs food you will experience physical symptoms that will let you know and prompt you to take action. Anxiety works in a similar way. It is an internal alarm system that is designed to protect us.
It is known as FIGHT, FLIGHT, FREEZE and FLOP. It’s a physical reaction that occurs when something terrifying is happening or about to happen, either physically or mentally. Hormones are released that prepare our bodies to either run away (FIGHT), stay and deal with it (FIGHT), become completely still (FREEZE) or be submissive so you become floppy and the mind shuts down (FLOP).
There are many feelings associated with anxiety. You may experience a few, many or all of the symptoms listed below:
Butterflies in the stomach
Increased heart rate
Increased muscle tension
Legs feeling like jelly
Tingling in the hands and feet
Difficulty in breathing
Wanting to use the toilet more often
Feeling like your throat is seizing up
These are common symptoms experienced by survivors of sexual violence. They are unhelpful and upsetting as you may experience them even if there isn’t danger present.
BUT there are ways you can help reduce your anxiety levels when you have been triggered:
Breathing techniques such as the 478 Breathing Technique: Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, then breathe out for 8 seconds
Ground yourself: Acknowledge 5 things you can see, 4 you can touch, 3 you can hear, 2 you can smell, and 1 you can taste
Write a journal
Talk to someone you trust
Relaxation techniques: try an app such as Headspace, Pacifica, Calm and Relax Melodies
Go for a walk
Try a mindfulness colouring book
Herbal teas, such as chamomile, can help reduce anxiety and may improve sleep