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Vandana Kohli
Vandana Kohli


Checking for excessive anxiety


A friend complained that his sister wasn’t listening very well, these days. “I call out to her or say something to her when we’re together and she’s lost in her own thoughts,” he said. “It has been bothering me over the past few months,” he admitted. “I asked her what keeps going on in her mind, and she says it is things she needs to get done in the day. Mundane stuff.”

The lady in question had always been attentive, interested and present in the moment. She’d married her sweetheart, had two children and took pride in her home. She’d worked as a research assistant on short assignments. Confident and positive, now in her late thirties, she’d become somewhat withdrawn. Her siblings and a couple of close friends had noticed this.

A few years ago, her husband and she had unexpectedly faced financial difficulties. At the time she seemed to take it in her stride. Though things had mostly settled since then, a residue of some sort was left behind. She’d become unsure and anxious.

Normal or abnormal
While anxiety is an emotion we experience often in the normal course of our lives, there are signs to tell if it may be in excess. The first is a state of constant worry, whether there is reason or not—worrying about everything and everyone all the time as a first reaction to even the most mundane activity of the day.

A disturbed pattern of sleep is another sign. Not sleeping soundly enough and waking up with fatigue, even with enough hours allocated to sleep is another way to know of excessive anxiety. When we are anxious, the nervous system comes under stress. This puts duress on our digestive system almost immediately. Persistent indigestion is, therefore, a sign of increased anxiety as well.

Combined with other symptoms, tension in the muscles, for no apparent reason is also a marker. While muscles around the neck, shoulders and back may be all wound up, the limbs may begin to feel limp. Anxiety diffuses our sense of strength in the arms and legs and we begin to feel weakened. This makes us unsure on our feet, literally and otherwise. Because we feel physically this way—fatigued and unsure—it further reflects in the mind, creating more self-doubt than before.

These are signs of a spike in anxiety. An anxiety disorder though, entails more extreme symptoms. Disproportionate and irrational fear, panic attacks and the inability to participate in the present moment are signs of a more serious disorder.

There is no age for feeling excessively anxious, though older people can be more prone to it. For any person going the anxiety route, a lot of relief can come from family. If family members and close friends recognise the signs mentioned above, they are in a position to understand better what the person is feeling in mind and body.

Patience and humour are the greatest balms. Loved ones can help by responding pleasantly each time, by gently repeating reassuring facts and thoughts, and by making the person laugh, as often as possible. Keeping things light, drawing attention to all that is positive around the person, even several times over, works slowly but extremely well to restore a sense of balance eventually.

Taking the person out of the home environment—to dinner, a film or simply for coffee, at regular intervals, breaks the mind’s reverie and helps to dent the anxiety circuit. Talking about it, whenever required, helps ease the tension from back then, and brings the present more into focus, eventually.

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The Week

Topics : #Mindscape | #opinion

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