Self-Care in the Times of Anxiety and Intrusive Thoughts

17-Aug-20

Mental Wellness

Change is scary. Changes that come from making a life-altering decision are scarier. When you are all set to move to another country, away from your home and family, it’s only natural to feel homesick from time to time. Unfortunately, along with homesickness, adjusting to a new environment can also bring up feelings of stress and anxiety that could potentially result in mental health struggles. Fortunately, in their starting stages, these situations can be made better by taking control and practicing self-care.

 

While psychological disorders have been stigmatized, it is important to accept that facing mental health issues is nothing to be ashamed of. Approximately 450 million people worldwide are currently suffering from them. It is important to not lose hope, and work towards a healthy recovery.


One of the most common symptoms that go hand in hand with major changes, is anxiety. Anxiety is defined as the constant, irrational fear and worrying about things. While anxiety can be experienced in normal conditions, it can prove to be unhealthy if it prolongs. Anxiety is your brain’s way of alerting you about the dangers ahead and becomes dangerous when it begins to interfere with your daily life. 


Intrusive thoughts are those that persist in the mind, and can often be unpleasant, giving reason for concern. Intrusive thoughts could hinder your day-to-day functioning. These thoughts become borderline obsessive, which could further develop into violent or disturbing thoughts. 


Anxiety and intrusive thoughts together, or anxiety and other symptoms can often act as the gateway to larger mental health issues. Being aware of these possibilities, is the first step to try to protect yourself from it. Acknowledging the problem is a step in the direction of improvement.


Step one to coping with any illnesses or problem is being able to accept they exist, define them, and understand what they’re truly made up of. 

 

If you find yourself worrying uncontrollably, feeling irrationally fearful, or having racing thoughts, it could be signalling some form of anxiety. In this case, it is essential to look for other signs like increased heart rate, inability to sleep or concentrate, restlessness, shortness of breath, and sweating or fatigue. Several of these indicators together could point towards an illness.

 

Intrusive thoughts can be identified by looking for signs like, constantly overthinking about something in specific, the contents of which tend to be unpleasant and unacceptable by society. If these thoughts continue to persist after consciously trying to avoid them, they could be seen as intruding and could interfere with your daily functioning.

  

While anxiety disorder is a thing of its own, identifiable by the symptoms mentioned above, anxiety also acts as a symptom of more significant mental health issues, such as - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Panic Disorder, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

 

If anxiety and intrusive thoughts are experienced together, they can result in a case of OCD, which is characterised by obsessive/intrusive thoughts that make you feel compelled to carry out certain actions. Anxiety also presents itself in the form of Panic Disorder. Panic attacks are the main defining feature of this illness, and can be understood as sudden feelings of fear and discomfort, without any known reason, that peak in a matter of minutes. Another anxiety disorder is PTSD. As the name suggests, the root of this illness is trauma that has been significant enough to stick with somebody. 

 

Often when these symptoms start to show, people can feel a loss of control on their thoughts and actions. But when it is just at its starting stages, and even throughout recovery from severe cases, the individual can take measures like self-care to regain lost control. It is essential to continue practicing this while seeking professional help too.

 

Some measures that can be put into practice to cope with mental health issues include:


Talking to someone you trust

People find comfort in opening up to someone they trust. In cases like these, talking about your thoughts, what’s been bothering you, and what gives you anxiety, might prove to be very helpful. Just knowing that you’ve got someone who’s willing to listen and cares about your well-being may provide relief.


Trying to efficiently manage your worries

Since feeling anxious could make you feel like you don’t have control over your worries, it would help to allot a certain amount of time to think about what’s worrying you. People set timers, to consciously try and stop thinking about these things after it goes off.


Keeping your physical health intact

Mental and physical well-being go hand in hand. To get one step closer to being mentally healthy, you need to keep physically fit. You could do this by getting enough sleep - 8 hours a day. Don’t turn to junk food and keep your diet nutritious and healthy. Engage yourself in daily physical activity and exercise.


Remembering to breathe

Anxiety and panic attacks tend to make people forget how to do the most basic thing - Breathe. Take deep breaths, hold it in, and exhale. Practice this every time you notice yourself getting anxious. Breathing deeply can help keep anxiety in check, to a large extent. Practice mindfulness, focus on the moment, pay attention to your breathing.


Maintain a diary

Maintaining a journal with all your anxious thoughts is a good idea. This helps to get things off your chest. Through this, you can notice patterns of what triggers you, and pay attention the next time it happens. But don’t fill the diary with just this, if you’re making progress, note that down too!


Try support groups

In the case that these things become difficult to talk to your close friends and family about, support groups will come to your rescue! These are groups made up of people who are facing similar issues, and might help you feel like you’re not alone, and gain some perspective.


Give yourself a break

Try to not be too consumed by your worries and remember that from time to time, everybody deserves a break. So pick up something you like doing, maybe paint (it’s known to be therapeutic), dance, write, or watch something that cheers you up.


Some of these issues may be common when you’re making a big change, but never forget, where there is a problem, there are also numerous ways to cope. Adjusting to a new place may seem tough to start off with, but it does get easier. Know that you’ve always had it in you to make a positive difference to your mental health. Step up, help yourself and help others who may need it by lending an attentive ear. And no matter the situation, always remember to breathe!

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