Claudia is a single mum of two who works full time as the Managing Director of a large corporate outfit.
She finds herself running her grown up kids around, whilst simultaneously running the workplace and the home like a well-oiled machine. This is how she works best and this is how she likes it, after all she has had nearly ten years to perfect this juggling act tout seul. All until one day last week when her son moved out with his girlfriend and her daughter moved to a university 200 miles away.
At first Claudia felt happy and had a drinks gathering to celebrate. However in the following two weeks she experienced all the anxiety of an Olympic gym team: heart palpitations, sleepless nights, racing thoughts and high blood pressure. She found herself anxious without reason and it only seemed to get worse. A trip to her GP left her with a diagnosis of unfocussed anxiety disorder, something health professionals are now seeing more and more of.
Claudia was sent for a blood test and prescribed a temporary batch of statins for her BP. The GP recommended she explore holistic stress management techniques such as mindfulness meditation & light exercise while also reducing caffeine and alcohol intake. So what led to Claudia’s sudden anxiety pandemonium?
Several factors are thought to be implicated in the sudden onset of unfocused anxiety:
- When we are stressed our bodies produce stress hormones such as cortisol, noradrenaline and adrenaline. Our bodies can get used to living with the increased stress chems & when they suddenly start to decline, in line with said grown up child residents, our bodies can experience feelings similar to withdrawal symptoms. Often we unconsciously pick up on this and seek to create further stress so as to avoid this cortisol come down.
- When in an emergency/traumatic situation which requires our full attention the mind is consumed with the event. All thoughts and focus remain tightly glued to what is unfolding and this means the usual internal dialogue quietens down. When seen in this way, stress could be relied upon as a ticket out of mental chatter. When stress and panic subside, the noisy mind may return.
- When your day is run in a whirl of children, work commitments, family responsibilities, needy spouses and food shops; you leave yourself with very little (perceived) decision making to do. You have to do lots of things. And so you do them. You don’t have to decide on which things to do, and which things you enjoy/profit from most, because you are busy doing all those things you have to do. One of the main causes of Unfocused Anxiety disorder is the arrival of increased personal choice. Psychologists have long discussed that too much choice leaves us feeling confused and anxious and today we have more choices than ever. What will I do, now that I don’t have to do all those things? And more to the above, what will I think about and concern myself with now that X is no longer an issue.
Regular meditative practice can help you better respond to patterns of thinking within yourself, enabling you to take a step back and give yourself a break.
When you have this extra mental space you could begin to explore some of the new experiences you might wish to have in life now that you have the time. Have you considered enrolling on a course? Undertaking some personal development, joining a club or just rediscovering what it is you enjoy doing in your ME time? Don’t be alarmed if you don’t figure your passions out overnight, give them time to unfold.
I hope this article gave you some food for thought,
Notes: Coping with stress and anxiety is different for everyone. If you need help with this please seek the advice of your doctor before undertaking any new wellbeing programmes. You can find more information on Social Anxiety Disorder, Generalised Anxiety, Unfocussed Anxiety, and Panic Disorder at www.nhs.co.uk/ and www.mind.org.uk