Anxiety, as defined by the American Psychological Association (APA) is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.
People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns and may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also suffer from physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness, or a rapid heartbeat.
Everyone feels anxious now and then. For example, you may worry when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or before making an important decision. Occasional anxiety is normal, but anxiety disorders are a completely different ball game altogether – they are a group of mental disorders that cause overwhelming anxiety and fear, which can make daily life difficult. Excessive anxiety can cause one to avoid work, school, family get-togethers, and other social situations that might trigger or worsen symptoms.
Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
The main symptom of anxiety disorders is excessive fear or worry. Anxiety disorders can also make it hard to breathe, sleep, stay still, and concentrate. Your specific symptoms depend on the type of anxiety disorder you have. Common symptoms are:
-Panic, fear, and uneasiness
-Feelings of panic, doom, or danger
-Not being able to stay calm and still
-Cold, sweaty, numb, or tingling hands or feet
-Shortness of breath
-Breathing faster and more quickly than normal (hyperventilation)
-Thinking about a problem over and over again and unable to stop (rumination)
-Inability to concentrate
-Intensely or obsessively avoiding feared objects or places
In conventional medicine, anxiety disorders have been classified into many types, such as:
Generalized anxiety disorder: Where you feel excessive, unrealistic worry and tension for no real rational reason.
Panic disorder: You feel sudden, intense fear that brings on a panic attack. You may break out in a sweat, have chest pain, and have a pounding heartbeat (palpitations). Sometimes you may feel like you are choking or having a heart attack.
Social anxiety disorder: Also called social phobia, this is when you feel overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. You obsessively worry about others judging you or being embarrassed or ridiculed.
Specific phobias: You feel intense fear of a specific object or situation, such as heights or flying. The fear goes beyond what’s appropriate and may cause you to avoid ordinary situations.
Agoraphobia: You have an intense fear of being in a place where it seems hard to escape or get help if an emergency occurs. For example, you may panic or feel anxious when on an airplane, public transportation, inside an elevator, etc.
Separation anxiety: Little kids aren’t the only ones who feel scared or anxious when a loved one leaves. Anyone can get separation anxiety disorder. If you do, you’ll feel very anxious or fearful when a person you’re close with leaves your sight.
The causes for anxiety disorders are many and can include:
–A history of mental health disorder: Having another mental health disorder, like depression, raises your risk for anxiety disorder.
–Childhood sexual abuse: Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse or neglect during childhood is linked to anxiety disorders later in life.
–Emotional or physical trauma: Living through a traumatic event increases the risk of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can cause panic attacks.
–Negative life events: Stressful or negative life events, like losing a parent in early childhood, increase your risk for anxiety disorder.
–Severe illness or chronic health condition: Constant worry about your health or the health of a loved one, or caring for someone who is sick, can cause you to feel overwhelmed and anxious.
–Substance abuse: The use of alcohol and illegal drugs makes you more likely to get an anxiety disorder. Some people also use these substances to hide or ease anxiety symptoms.
–Low self-esteem: Negative perceptions about yourself may lead to social anxiety disorder.
Allopathic medications aren’t always the best means to address anxiety disorders. Natural treatments, such as the Bach flower remedies, can be effective in treating and helping to manage Anxiety Disorders. Below are a list of the Bach flower remedies that may be used for any sort of anxiety problems:
Rock Rose: This remedy is especially helpful when you experience acute panic attacks, such as terror or fright, which makes you feel frozen and unable to move or think clearly. It is used during any emotional emergency, such as when in an accident, in the midst of a terrorist attack, while hearing very bad news, etc. In short, this is the remedy for panic attacks.
Mimulus: This remedy helps when you feel fear that you can put a name on, such as fear of dogs, spiders, snakes, being alone, losing a job, illness, etc. It is also a remedy for shyness and nervousness.
Cherry Plum: This is the remedy for those who fear losing control of their thoughts & actions and for a deep sense of fear that they might do something against their own will. This is a good remedy for mania and a loss of emotional control.
Aspen: This is a terrific remedy for unconscious anxieties when one is always scared and fearful but does not know what of. The fear experienced is vague and unexplainable and may haunt the person day or night. It is especially good for a fear of the dark.
Red Chestnut: This remedy is to be used when you find it difficult not to be anxious for other people, especially loved ones, and are afraid that some unfortunate things may happen to them.
Depression is a common and serious mental /emotional disorder that is primarily characterized by feelings of sadness and negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act. It causes a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems that can decrease your ability to function at work and at home. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:
-Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
-Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
-Changes in appetite- weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
-Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
-Loss of energy or increased fatigue
-Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., inability to sit still, pacing, hand-wringing) or slowed movements or speech (these actions must be severe enough to be observable by others)
-Feeling worthless or guilty
-Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
-Thoughts of death or suicide
Symptoms must last at least two weeks and must represent a change in your previous level of functioning for a diagnosis of depression. Also, medical conditions (e.g., thyroid problems, a brain tumor, or vitamin deficiency) can mimic symptoms of depression so it is important to rule out general medical causes.
Risk Factors for Depression
Depression doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone, even a person who appears to live in relatively ideal circumstances. The below factors can be a cause for depression:
Biochemistry: Differences in certain chemicals in the brain may contribute to symptoms of depression.
Genetics: Depression can run in families. For example, if one identical twin has depression, the other has a 70 percent chance of having the illness at some point during their life.
Personality: People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed by stress, or who are generally pessimistic appear to be more likely to experience depression.
Environmental factors: Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse or poverty may make some people more vulnerable to depression.
Bach flower remedies for depression
The following Bach flower remedies may be used to treat and help manage depression.
Clematis: The go-to remedy for those who find their lives unhappy and withdraw into fantasy worlds. They are ungrounded and indifferent to the details of everyday life. This remedy teaches one to establish a bridge between the physical world and the world of ideas and may foster great creativity. Is also used to bring clarity and alertness to the present moment.
Honeysuckle: This remedy helps you to let go of past experiences or events. It is the go-to remedy to treat nostalgia and for thoughts that are in the past rather than in the present.
Wild Rose: The remedy for those who suffer from apathy and a lack of interest in life and. It helps you to take responsibility for your own life and feel a lively interest in life, work, and the world in general.
Olive: A great remedy for those who suffer from chronic exhaustion / total physical and mental tiredness. It helps you regain energy, vitality, and a renewed interest in life.
White Chestnut: This is the go-to remedy for when your mind is cluttered with thoughts, usually arguments, ideas, thoughts that you do not wish to have in your mind.
Mustard: This remedy is useful when you feel suddenly depressed without any valid reason. It feels like a cold dark cloud that destroys normal happiness and cheerfulness. This sort of depression comes and goes of its own accord.
When I was younger, one of my favourite movies was a German independent film by writer-director Tom Tykwer, called “Lola rennt.” In English, it translates to “Run Lola Run,” and it centres around a 20-minute period in the life of the heroine that alters the course of her existence completely. Somehow, her strength of will allows her to rewind time for another attempt, at resolving a situation that appears impossible. It’s an amazing, inspiring movie, which holds up to this day, and that I highly recommend to young girls and boys alike. For me, it combined the things I was most consumed by at that time, running (although it isn’t technically a sports flick), love, and the yearning to control my own destiny. As a girl it made me feel strong, and unbreakable, in the face of unknown challenges in the future. While as a woman that has been tested by ups and downs in life, it inspires me to be stronger than I think I am, and to trust that though I might bend, I won’t break.
The best moment in the film occurs when the main protagonist just doesn’t know what to try anymore, having rewound these twenty minutes several times already, to no avail. So she starts running, closes her eyes, and asks her subconscious to guide her in what she ought to do next. I think the reason why this movie is often in the back of my mind, after all this time, is because the more years I’ve lived, the more I’ve found myself faced with impossible circumstances, and no clear path to get through.
I recently lost immediate family to Covid-19, and it’s the worst pain I have ever felt. To know that you will never see this person again, and that they won’t be around to enjoy the people and things they loved, is hard to bear. Families can be fractured, or go a long time without speaking, but, as long as your loved one is alive, there is still hope for things to be resolved between you. Hope that wounds might be healed, and new memories forged. But when the person passes, all that potential for change disappears along with them. Leaving you alone with your memories, which hopefully were happy ones. Because otherwise, regret and despair at knowing that they’re gone forever, and that whatever is broken will never be fixed, can make for uncomfortable bedfellows.
When this event occurred, I enacted my coping mechanism, to try not to fall apart. Immediately, I spoke with my support system, to try to make sense of things, and to also figure out what the next steps should be. If you don’t have close friends or family to turn to, or if your crisis also involves them, I would advise you to turn to a therapist or a social worker (if you have one, or can be referred to one). Or, even calling an anonymous helpline, so you can reach out to someone right away, somewhat share this burden, and at least get another perspective on things.
Ultimately, how you choose to react when you’re faced with a situation that you have no experience dealing with, is up to you. Whatever film, TV show, or literature you reference to inspire your courage, may not fully fit your circumstances or emotions. But I have to say that every bit helps. Just like with any other challenge, the gains made might be incremental, but cumulatively they can help you surmount this, and any other obstacle that you come across. In my case, I flashed back to this movie scene. Probably because, like Lola, I tend to put my faith in the unknown, and trust that my subconscious is guiding my actions, to ensure they’re the right ones.
As always, I pray that this blog post reaches someone who needs to read this, or at the very least, that it inspires new fans of Tom Tykwer’s work.
I often think about how children, and young adults now view their future in a post Covid-19 world. Much like the world changed when I was a kid, before and after September 11th, 2001. I believe it has similarly been rocked on its axis by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) pandemic announcement of March 11th, 2020. In a world of social distancing, global vaccines, and increased job automation, I ponder how our younger cohorts are envisioning their futures? Are their career aspirations as unrealistic as mine were in grade school (based solely on my hobbies, toys, or favourite shows)? Or, as out of touch and limited in choices, as the aptitude tests I received in high school? Or has the advent of social media, ever faster internet service, and smartphones, allowed their dream careers to be much more in line with the current and future employment sectors than ours could have ever been?
One thing that I don’t think has changed in our rapidly evolving, technology-driven society, is our youthful assumptions of being settled as adults. Regardless of whether the top dream job has shifted from being an actor or a doctor, to that of a social media influencer or reality TV star. Children and teens still assume that by a certain age, they’ll have their lives pretty much figured out. My generation sure did, and so did our parents’ and so on. For example, when I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to grow up because I thought growing up would be just like it was portrayed in popular culture. Everything that was awkward about you in your youth would magically straighten itself out. Transforming you into this beautiful, well-balanced finished project of a person, that made the world “your oyster.” Those are some of the nonverbal messages I took in from the popular makeover teenage movies, magazines, and TV show segments of that time.
What you eventually figure out is that being a well-adjusted adult is a continual balancing game. You get older every day, and you keep being faced with varying challenges to overcome, while maintaining the accomplishments you’ve accumulated so far. May they be professional achievements, such as a new position, promotion, or business endeavour. Or maybe they’re personal feats, like a new relationship, marriage, or expansion of your family unit. Or even emotional milestones, such as; the loss of a friend, family member, or acquaintance. Or, the deteriorating health of any of the former.
Being an adult really means, constantly learning how to maneuver and withstand the challenges that life will continue to throw your way. All while staying on an either steady or upward path of professional and personal development. It isn’t always easy to manage. And, not being perfect at it, or always successful at juggling all the “balls you have in the air,” doesn’t make you a failed adult. It just makes you human. Adulthood, also means remembering the child you once were, and giving yourself some grace. It means being kind to yourself, especially when things get tough. While being self-aware enough to acknowledge when you are not sufficient. Identifying the situations where your team-of-one isn’t strong enough to manage it alone, is an important part of growing up. Figuring out what aid you might need to eventually “turn the tide,” is a skill you never stop sharpening. As, the hurdles you’ll clear may require wildly different solutions from one to the next.
Despite being much older, and no longer as easily impressionable, part of me still wants to turn into a more glorious version of myself. I think that it’s okay to continue to strive for growth in every aspect of your lived experience, to really get the most out of this life. And yet, I still have to consciously fight the small corner of my psyche, that somehow believes that a Hollywood version of myself could show up, at any moment, to save me from actually doing all of this self-work. I know that it’s silly, and unrealistic, but I also understand that that’s my inner child. Before I could grasp all these more adult concepts of self-help, and sustainable growth, I just dreamed, hoped and pined for the moment when I would feel that I’ve arrived. That I’ve finally moulted into the person I always fantasized I could be. With maturity, and understanding of societal marketing and consumerism culture, I’ve changed. Not in where I want to be as a person, but in the steps that are required for me to get there. I have veered away from dreams, and wishes, influenced by popular culture. Instead committing to goals, actions, and effort that I expect to bear the fruit of an accomplished personhood, and a fully realized life.
I hope that today’s teens and young adults are able to come to these realizations ages earlier than I did. So that they can really enjoy every part of their transition into adulthood. Without discounting experiences, as I once did, just because I wasn’t quite who I wanted to be yet. Along with the difficulties that growing up can engender, today’s youth also has to contend with the changes that Covid-19 brings, and the negative impacts of social media. That is quite a tall order, but I’m confident that our future generations are smarter, and even more capable than those that came before it. What might seem to be a huge feat for someone in my generation, will likely just be a “rite of passage” for those coming into their own.
I was made to reflect recently on the many souls that have departed in the past year. Perhaps naively, I’ve grown accustomed to being lucky enough to go numerous years without suffering much personal bereavement in my immediate social circle. Maybe it’s a sign of my getting older, combined with the unique circumstances brought on by the pandemic. But never in my life (growing up in the West) have there been so many casualties all around me. An experience mirrored in their own social circles, by my friends, family, and acquaintances.
Previously, the casualties I’ve experienced have mainly been that of elderly relatives, a few serious ailments, a few accidents, and one missing person spread across my entire lifetime. Rather than, the back-to-back surprise losses of individuals, that just a year ago, I could have sworn would be in my life for many years to come. In the past year, social distancing requirements have made seeing our loved ones difficult, if not impossible. Based on age, medical history, Covid-19 restrictions where one resides, and distance. The latter being, for those whose families live across the country, or across the world. No longer having that loved one in your life, after being unable to see them for much longer than is customary, can be a hard blow to bear.
I have discussed in previous posts, mental health and how much this pandemic can adversely affect this kind of wellness. Humans are social animals, so we suffer from the very isolation that is required, for the safety of others right now. Those who had issues they were dealing with prior to this societal isolation are having to deal with them on their own. Without the physical support systems, they were used to. Others who have never suffered from mental health concerns are faced with this unexpected challenge, without the pillars of support they usually have present. The programs available are being overwhelmed by unforeseen demand and having to be made virtual in order to keep each other safe.
So along with loss due to Covid-19-related complications, I have personally experienced bereavement caused by mental health crises. For some, how intense the world has become, uncertain, and separate has either exacerbated prior issues, or created an imbalance in their psyche that caused them to choose to exit our lives, and this world. For those who knew them, and loved them, the guilt of “not being there” physically for them, is crushing. Because when someone becomes overwhelmed by some sort of mental health concern, it can become hard for them to reach out to you and ask for help. Often you can tell from their appearance, and/or how they comport themselves in person, that something is off. And hopefully, your loved one will then open up, answer your question(s), and allow you to help them. But with the distance, it’s so easy to not know anything is wrong until it’s too late. I understand that legally we have not been able to truly be present in the lives of most of those we care for, since the pandemic was declared. But not knowing whether our presence could have made the difference needed to avert their demise, is devastating. Many around me have either lost persons who chose to leave or had complications combined with the pandemic, which caused their exit. Those left behind have such a hard road ahead of them, with few distractions from the immensity of these personal tragedies.
I don’t mean to make a heavy situation, heavier, but I also don’t believe that “hiding your head in the sand,” and pretending things are not happening if they are, makes things better. Actually, I’m a firm believer that one of the reasons why I am still here, is that I do my best to name whatever it is that is troubling me, at all times. I always have. I drag it out of my mental closet, examine it under the light of day, and share these concerns with either a close friend or (since I’ve been an adult), a therapist. Often a professional can give you insight that maybe your friends can’t. They can offer you hope in the form of programs available in your area that often your friends do not know about. Getting an external perspective on an internal issue helps. Because, often what feels so awful, or hopeless inside your head, isn’t when shared with someone else. Sometimes you don’t know that the burden you carry isn’t your fault, it happened to you. Or that it can be shared with others to alleviate that pain, and work through those issues. It doesn’t have to cost money, there are free hotlines, online resources available for free at your public library (which is open for select services, despite Covid), and so many wonderful programs to help even if one feels they cannot afford to.
My goal with this blog, talking about the heavy issues of mental health, bereavement, and grief, is that hopefully, someone who needs to see this, will. Someone who needs to witness this perspective, this path back to your usual self, even in these uncertain times, will. Or that others that are doing well, might read this, and check on their friends, family, and/or acquaintances, just that little bit more. Even if, they appear fine on social media, or in group chats. Let them know you’re here, that you love them. And that if they need to see your face to discuss something that’s difficult for them that you’ll be there. Even if, it’s from across their yard or balcony.
Learning your limits and boundaries can be an equally painful and surprising experience. No one is as surprised as I am by how different my life currently looks from even just a month ago. I am used to experiencing change, however, the shifting dynamics in my life right now, both with others and myself, indicate a clear time of transition for me. Times like these tend to generate the most spiritual and emotional growth, and to be honest, I did try and catalyze that process consciously. I embarked upon a 30 Day Challenge beginning on December 7th, 2020 and coming to an end on January 5th, 2021 with the intention of gaining clarity. I knew that I needed to hone my focus in terms of where I dispensed my energy; and, I had the suspicion that a challenge targeting my habits and daily routine would help me in obtaining that clarification. My hypothesis was correct, as that is exactly what happened.
For my 30 Day Challenge, which was inspired by a TED Talk given by Matt Cutts, I chose 3 things to accomplish every single day. The first, was I would wake up early every morning. I wanted to reset my internal clock and gain the most out of every 24-hour cycle. The second, was that I would write and publish a blog post every day on my website ariellelondon.com. I wanted to produce daily content on my site for a few reasons, but one reason being to work on my discipline even further. The third, was that I would cut out a guilty pleasure of mine, a soda drink, for the entire duration of the month. It may sound small, but I was consuming a great amount before the challenge and knew that I needed to somehow make that change. All three parts of the challenge were difficult on different levels, at different times and in different ways. However, all three were also highly successful and taught me incredible lessons, improved my habits, and have now led to some serious change.
There comes a certain time in your life where you can no longer take an ostrich approach to the body that you have standing fully exposed while your head is in the sand. If you want to progress you have to acknowledge reality as reality is, because without doing so you are blinding yourself to where in fact you stand. I have a saying, “mental health is physical health,” and I say it often. I repeat these words because I do not think people realize just how greatly their state of mental wellness can indicate their physical state. There are other reasons why I say this as well, but for the purpose of understanding the inevitability of change, imagine a person who is unwell mentally. This disruption may be taking place in the mind, but physically their mind is still attached to their body and so their main source of direction (aka the mind) can lead them astray physically. So with that in mind, looking at change within the context of actively seeking it through a 30 Day Challenge, I am happy to say that I have removed my head from the sand in some vital areas of importance. And with that revelation comes new boundaries and the inevitable entity that is change has presented itself into my universe, full throttle.
This is not to say that any of this is easy. Times of great transition can often lead to times of great discomfort as they don’t call them growing pains for nothing. However, when it comes to bettering your mind, body, soul, spirit and life overall… embrace the growing pains as necessary side effects of the antidote you have newly prescribed your life and remind yourself of the end goal of being happy and healthy. After all, everyone deserves to live the fullest version of what happy and healthy means to them. Life is an oyster full of endless possibilities, if you need to make a shift in your life, lean into the power of change and embrace its trove of hidden opportunities.