Do you get an uneasy feeling?
Have you seen the news lately? It seems like the world is coming to an end! In our age of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, it is no surprise that you may feel an inevitable disaster is waiting for you right around the corner. Heavy exposure to tragedies displayed on a grief laden news cycle lends to us some potential consequences, one being is that it begins to subtly prepare us internally to expect further tragedy. So, if you have a sense that something negative or bad is going to happen, you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong, as it is our mind’s way of defending ourselves from being caught off guard. However, when that begins to disrupt aspects of our personal lives, we may find that the accompanying anxiety is not only unnecessary, but also debilitating.
How this sensation of impending doom reveals itself to us could be unique to an individual dependent on numerous factors of previous trauma or levels of trauma exposure. It may be a standalone sensation, or it could be a further symptom of a greater anxiety disorder, either way, understanding what to expect is a good way to begin its comprehension. Let’s start with the physical sensations, increased heart rate, increased perspiration, trembling, hyperventilating, difficulties with sleep, and a general feeling of being ‘on edge.’ A single or combination of symptoms is common when expecting the worst as this is how anxiety manifests in the body. Pair this with a thinking pattern that experiences an increase in painful, stress-inducing thoughts, then it could lead to behaving in ways that quickly transform your living experience into a fearful one.
Living life in fear is difficult to solely keep to ourselves as disruptions will be expressed throughout our professional lives, social relationships, and ability to effectively engage in appropriate self-care. An ever-present sense of dread could prevent someone from leaving their home due to fears of safety, or perhaps fearing that their anxiety would become uncontrollable once outside the home, are signs that the anxiety itself needs to be addressed. It may be easy to fall into a new pattern of behavior where we avoid the feeling of anxiety itself and all the discomfort it brings, which then creates restrictions of what we are able to do with our lives.
It is first necessary to determine the debilitating nature of the feeling, and if this feeling may be a part of something greater. Hypervigilance or hyper avoidance and intrusive thoughts are just some of the symptoms associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for example. It is also common among those that experience Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and other anxiety disorders to feel the burden of a lingering sense of dread. The aforementioned physical components compound on that sense, leading to classic combinations of fearfulness for the future with what is actually being felt in the body. For example, someone who experiences intense panic attacks my feel that a heart attack is imminent. For someone else, they may get caught up in ‘safety rituals’ they perform in order to prevent disasters leading to what may be a false sense of security. Anxiety in this case is reinforced leading to a cycle of fear and increased anxiety if the rituals aren’t performed. Examples of these can be something like making sure the door is locked multiple times, to spending an exceedingly long time washing, praying, or another unconnected task with what is predicted or sensed.
Ways to begin to cope
When it comes to overcoming our anxiety, increasing an overall understanding is a great start to getting a healthier sense of control over life. There are things you could do right now to work towards relief, and to challenge yourself when it comes to your commitment for treatment. If you, or someone you know experiences this hypervigilance or sense of impending doom, here are just a few activities that you can begin with.
- Reduce use on social media. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the term ‘doom scrolling’ has been popularized to describe the act of scrolling and searching through social media to find negative news to almost indulge in a common shared sense of dread. If you already struggle with increased anxiety, and social media perpetuates it, then a first important step would be to set personal boundaries around news and social media consumption. [Set time limits i.e., 30 minutes a night, actively seek out positive stories, fill time with a new hobby such as writing, reading, or exercise.]
- Begin to journal and reflect on events of anxiety. Ask yourself thoughtful questions about how it affects your pattern of behavior. [Why am I continuing to seek things that disturb me? How am I expecting myself to feel? What would my daily life look like without this fear?] Questions that encourage self-reflection are great ways to remain inciteful and promote a greater understanding of what works for us to be our healthiest selves.
- Engage yourself in positive affirmations. These may be simple statements you tell yourself that are both truthful and encouraging. By telling yourself affirmations on a regular basis, you begin the process of reframing your thinking patterns that increase self-esteem, along with your own perception of your ability to overcome adversity [Examples include “I am able to make it through the day”, “I am strong enough, “I can succeed.”]
- Practice new relaxation techniques. If you are familiar with the concept of mindfulness, then you may already know of its capability to bestow a positive and relaxed outlook moment to moment. Being able to start your meditation journey has never been more accessible with a plethora of phone applications and online videos to guide and support any person of any skill level. [Mindfulness breathing, meditation, going for a mindful walk.]
Again, it is expected in our tumultuous world to be showered with news that triggers our anxiety. We don’t have to let it dictate our ability to enjoy life, however. If, despite your understanding of these concepts, you still struggle to find relief then considering venturing into treatment with a professional is recommended.