What does anxiety feel like to you?

It’s natural to feel anxious. It’s natural to worry. It’s our body’s response to when we feel we’re in danger, or stressed. However, it’s really hard when anxiety is making the situation worse and keeping you from being the person you are. We’ve found that having a strategy to calm yourself down is really helpful in feeling more in control of your anxiety.

We asked a few of the Tsrang fam about what anxiety feels like for them, and how they try to stop themselves from spiralling

Major disclaimer - we aren't mental health professionals, and all our stories are anecdotal

E.Z., 27, she/her:

I never thought I had problems with anxiety until I started working. I was getting inundated with emails and didn’t know how to answer them. It felt like my vision and brain were swimming, my heart was pounding and the air was getting wavy. I think it’s the closest I’ve been to a panic attack.

I would also cry very easily when my nerves built up in front of people that I preferably wouldn’t, normally from fearful anticipation of a negative reaction, or conversations that were making me feel attacked and I felt helpless.

I got very nervous around the boss/employee dynamic, as anything that wasn’t 100% praise would make me upset and feel like I was in “trouble”. I also felt unable to challenge them or defend myself as they were in charge.

What makes you feel better?

Reminding myself that it’s my natural response and my body is trying to ‘fight or flight’. I imagine adrenaline is running through my veins like a cartoon, trying to get me to run away, and oxygen is not getting to my brain to think clearly.

I try to take deep breaths to recover my logical thinking to the situation, and handle it with some thinking involved rather than having my adrenaline control me. 

I also attended therapy which made me realise I was projecting an adult/child dynamic with my bosses, where I was seeking reassurance and validation from them and I needed to be in an adult/adult dynamic.

Telling myself “how would an adult, or Karen-like character handle this?” also helps me flip it into a more powerful mindset. It doesn’t always work, but knowing why I am reacting this way does calm me down a bit.

G.L, 28, he/him:

I’ve had anxiety my entire life. I can remember having panic attacks since when I was little. When I was younger it was about anything to do with change, I feared the status quo shifting and losing the safe space that I had in my life. When I was younger and a panic attack had been triggered I would be absolutely hysterical, screaming, crying and unable to move.

As an adult it feels like someone has reached a hand into my chest and is squeezing my insides. My mind starts moving too fast to comprehend anything aside from fear and more and more irrational thoughts start popping into my head.

Even as a grown man, I still get panic attacks. After talking to more people, you understand it is a lot more common than you think and you’re not alone in the fight.

What makes you feel better?

As an adult, my anxiety has gotten slightly better and my coping mechanisms have improved.

Short term fixes for me are listening to music, going for a walk or taking deep breaths.

Long term fixes are trying to redirect the fear. For example, being afraid of not doing something as opposed to doing something. I should be more afraid of the fear paralysing me and not achieving anything, as opposed to any irrational fear I might have about what could happen if I take the leap.

J.H, 27 she/her:

I’ve experienced anxiety since I was a child. Triggers for me are feeling out of my depth and having a fear of being out of control in a situation.

This can manifest itself for me in many different scenarios, for example as minor social anxiety going to a party where I don’t know many people, or stress at having to do a presentation at work in front of a group on a topic I’m not overly confident on.

For me, I experience minor anxiety as butterflies in my stomach and nervousness and at its worst, it’s a physical building up of stress in my body and in my head to the point that my whole body becomes tensed up, my thoughts become irrational and cloudy, I can’t think straight and I feel uncontrollably panicky. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realised that what I was experiencing was probably a panic attack. I usually get a migraine later that day as a result of the intense stress and tension that builds up in my body. 

What makes you feel better?

Mindfulness is really important. When you’re in that mode of experiencing a high level of stress, it can be really hard to pull yourself out of it. When my body is being flooded with ‘fight or flight’ hormones, I find myself trying to remind myself that I’m not in any danger in any way I can.

Deep breaths, grabbing a drink of water, physically removing myself from the stressful situation and going for a walk, or talking to someone about it. More often than not, the situation I’m stressed about can be resolved in one of these ways. 

S.H, 25 she/her:

I first realised I was suffering from anxiety at age 23. I went through a painful breakup, which resulted in what felt like my world crashing down. I started getting really anxious in work meetings, occasionally having panic attacks. I started therapy and realised that I’ve been suffering from anxiety for most of my life, and I was anxiously attached in my major relationships. Anxiety sucks big time, no one likes or enjoys feeling anxious. But I think our perspective on anxiety causes more suffering. Even the word ‘anxiety’ makes us shrivel. 

Is anxiety a big, nasty monster that we need to push away and hate? Or is it a small, scared inner child that just needs a cuddle, to be seen and understood. I think trying to medicate anxious feelings, denying it, and pushing it away is denying a part of yourself that needs healing.  

What makes you feel better?

Therapy has helped me a lot. I’m still working on loving all parts of myself, learning self-acceptance is a hell of a thing and it takes time. Remembering this helps me: I am not anxiety, I do not have anxiety, I am simply experiencing anxiety. Keep your chin up, it’s hard sometimes but you’re going to be okay 😊


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Photo by Alexandra I. on Unsplash

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