Why Talking about Anxiety Matters
It has been reported that a staggering 92% of Pakistanis feel anxious and nervous about something or the other; a figure unmatched across the globe. According to the study, most of this anxiety comes from the deteriorating economic conditions of the country and its declining state of security.
Whether it is issues related to unemployment, healthcare, threats of terrorism, the increasing crime rate or the cost of living –tensions are high and affecting people of every age alike. At the same time, there are only 400 trained psychiatrists in the entire country, producing a doctor-to-patient ratio of 1:400,000 people. So the rising level of anxiety has very few caretakers.
The economic conditions have only deteriorated since the last known mental health statistics were researched upon a decade ago. Presumably, mental health will only have worsened.
Why do I need a Self-Help Guide for my Anxiety?
The stigma around mental illnesses takes a stronghold of even medical practitioners in the field of mental health. Psychiatrists often dismiss the DSM when treating their patients, or fall victim to patriarchal and transphobic cultural stigma. This risks makes situations worse for people seeking the service, especially as it takes a lot of self-assurance to even make that move in the first place.
With anxiety being so prevalent, ill-managed, and increasingly rising, any help a person can get will go a long way. In that event, a self-care kit for the anxiety-ridden can be a good thing to keep in your pocket.
Managing Your Anxiety on Your Own: A Helpful Guide
No matter what age group you fall into, the gender you classify as, the profession you work in, or your economic status; you are at a risk for anxiety or know someone who has it.
It is useful to learn how the anxiety-relief process works so that you are better equipped to handle yourself. Here is a small overview of what recovery from anxiety recovery looks like.
1. Identifying the Triggers
Let’s take an example: You are in the market, and you see your friend Adam buying some tomatoes. You go over to greet him but realize soon enough that maybe it is best to keep your distance; he is angry. In fact, he is seething, stomping around, and cursing three generations up some politician’s lineage over the vegetable prices.
Sounds like a completely understandable reaction to the growing stress; but is it really helpful?
The first thing you need to know about mental health triggers is that they are entirely different from causes. While the “cause” of your anxiety is the deteriorating economic conditions of your country, the “trigger” is what heightens existing anxiety. For example, being suddenly charged an extra few bucks for the same drink you have every day would classify as a trigger. The next thing you know, you find yourself cursing three generations up some politician’s lineage because you are unable to calm yourself.
The Take-Away: Getting to the root of your anxiety is the first step to recovery. Our suggestion would be to jot down in one place all the things that trigger you.
2. Relieving Anxiety Triggers
If looking at the price tag of an item makes Adam go into (justified) fits of fury, perhaps he should hand some cash to someone less prone to distress to do the shopping for him. Alternatively, he could go just hold the tag and keep staring at the price until the rage passes -eventually, the anger will stop visiting in the first place. This might earn Adam some judgmental looks but as long as he learns to de-stress, right?
Point being, once you have zeroed in on the villain, it is time to take a shot. You can not change the environment but you can reduce the stress it causes to you by trigger prevention (not going to the market) and trigger desensitization (standing in the middle of the market glaring at a piece of paper).
Whatever works for Adam.
The Take-away: Avoid what triggers you, challenge what triggers you or partially avoid and partially challenge your triggers. The choice is yours.
3.Recovering from Your Anxiety
Let’s go back to Adam’s tantrum again. He has fixed a portion of his salary for grocery, and every month he hands the money to his wife to do most of the shopping. When he does go, he avoids looking at the prices. When his co-workers complain about the inflation rates, he listens and understands but adds nothing to the conversation. He reads the newspapers, and hears his wife and coworkers complaining about the economy, but simply does not throw in any of his own energy into it.
He tends to stress out less, is constantly in control of his emotions. In fact, he gets through the day relatively calmer than before. Adam has found a middle-ground between the triggers and the cause of his anxiety.
And so can you.
The Take-away: List down the activities you can replace your triggers with, and start putting them to practice.
4. Sustaining the Relaxed State
This is where most people recovering from anxiety start messing up, often relapsing back into an anxiety-inducing state.
Let’s revisit Adam a few weeks down the road. He starts going with his wife to buy groceries more often than is healthy for him. Sometimes he chips in during conversations about the inflation rates with his co-workers. He reads about the stock market in the newspaper and his whole day is ruined. If he does not stop himself soon, he’s going to be stuck in the same toxic cycle all over again.
The Take-away: The reduced anxiety after you have challenged your triggers can feel a little unfamiliar. It is important to stop yourself from going back to your triggers again.
You Cannot Completely Get Rid of Anxiety….And You Don’t Have To
While you cannot control the environment, you can equip yourself with a few skills in order to lessen the negative impact it has on your mental health.
Understand that recovery is a long-term process and requires constant mental gymnastics. The most important thing to remember here would be that with every cycle you complete on the chart above, your anxiety will have reduced.
And eventually, that will be enough.
Gadit, A. A. (2007). Psychiatry in Pakistan: 1947 -2006. Journal Of Pakistan Medical Association .
J. Walter Thompson. (2013). Anxiety Index Study -Global Report.
Nine in every 10 Pakistanis are anxious: Survey. (2013, August 24). Retrieved from The Express Tribune: https://tribune.com.pk/story/594483/nine-in-every-10-pakistanis-are-anxious-survey/