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I have written this piece on anxiety from my own experience of suddenly experiencing anxiety attacks age 50. Putting the blame on being perimenopausal and an unpleasant work situation, I found cognitive behaviour therapy helpful, providing support and strategies which helped deal with panic attacks when they pressed in on me. I present what helped me, but am no expert, so I consulted some websites to strengthen the advice I give here.
It’s experienced by every person at some time in their everyday life. For many of us feeling a little anxious is the norm. A preference for things to be just so, neat and orderly, nothing unexpected, ready for any eventuality makes some people feel very uneasy if they don’t have all their ducks in a row. Plenty of people thrive on a stressful job, even enjoying the feeling of juggling many deadlines or agendas, they say it makes them achieve more. Anxiety in moderation can be motivating or help with focus or productivity.
Neither situation is what mental health professionals mean when they use the term anxiety, or panic attacks.
The term anxiety more accurately refers to someone feeling ambushed, blind-sided or incapacitated by this feeling of worry or anxiety. It can come out of nowhere. Those who suffer find they are unable to attend events or parties, meetings that they need/want to attend, it can stop them living a normal life.
A person suffering anxiety often feels incapacitated by the fear and shows all the primitive human responses triggered by our ‘fight or flight’ reaction:
- Cold sweats
- Shortness of breath / tendency to hyperventilate
- Elevated pulse/heart rate
- Feelings of nausea
- Desire to run away or hide
- Feelings of dizziness or shaking / trembling
- Your mind goes blank
Many sufferers know that their feelings of fear or panic are irrational, that they have let their worries get out of proportion, but they struggle to process the situation with anything other than the above panic responses.
Someone who struggles with anxiety will feel their suffering trivialised and greatly misunderstood when people categorise it alongside the more everyday type of anxiety discussed earlier. In the same boat as someone who suffers from depression, when a non-sufferer tells them to ‘pull themselves together’ or ‘it’s nothing to worry about’, the person with anxiety feels the severity of their problem trivialised and it’s insulting.
It’s important to remember you’re not alone, in fact anxiety disorders (or the group of related conditions) are among the most common mental health issues diagnosed and are highly treatable. It may help to understand that most of the symptoms you feel during an anxiety or panic attack are due to the flood of adrenaline in your system. When it’s not being put to use (fight or flight) this will make your heart pound, cause you to feel breathless, light-headed and give you the shakes. It’s not uncommon for people to mistake these symptoms for those of a heart attack.
Here are some techniques that can help:
Analyse if there is a particular time when anxiety commonly strikes
For women it can be exacerbated by PMS (down to a hormonal imbalance), similarly during pregnancy and whilst perimenopausal and menopausal.
Be kind to yourself at high-risk times
If you can’t avoid or re-schedule the situation/appointment perhaps you can take herbal remedies or use aromatherapy (e.g. Bach’s Rescue Remedy)
Learn some breathing or meditation techniques
Take deep, slow breaths in; on the out-breath visualise blowing your problem away. Listen to your heart beat and think of calm visuals or pleasant memories to adjust your focus and distance yourself from the current, stressful environment.
Note your anxiety-inducing things in a list, but do not allow yourself to worry about them at the moment they occur to you
Schedule yourself an hour each day you can devote to thrashing any/all problems listed around. Try to brainstorm a solution (see next point).
Allow yourself to imagine ‘what if’
Visualise the problem/situation you fear occurring. Create a hypothetical worst case scenario then imagine how you would deal/manage it. Is there a Plan B?This is using catastrophizing to your advantage.
Get enough sleep
Your anxious thoughts will be worse if you’re tired, try to sleep 7-9 hours a night. Taking naps during the day may make it harder to sleep at night.
Take light exercise
Aim for 30 minutes of exercise daily (break it down into smaller chunks if you need). The best for anxiety busting and stress relief are rhythmic exercise which moves arms and legs. Of course I recommend sex, but also try dancing, walking, running, swimming or martial arts!
Reduce your caffeine intake
Good quality brands of decaf mean you don’t notice its absence. Anxiety is also exacerbated by alcohol and nicotine, so reduce or cut these out if you can.
You may be wondering why I haven’t listed Removing Yourself from the Situation or ‘avoiding the anxiety inducing thing’ in my list of solutions. The main reason is because evasive action is not a solution. We shouldn’t create a habit of running away.
At first, when anxiety is in its most extreme form, it may help, but it’s far more useful to develop coping strategies. It won’t always be possible to avoid things which induce anxiety, no matter how much we might wish it, so the key is to obtain armour and weapons with which to tackle it and defend ourselves.
While anxiety can be improved with self help, there’s a time to involve professionals
If you identify that your worries and fears are causing you to avoid too many situations or getting in the way of your daily life, a professional therapist with experience treating anxiety disorders can help. Mindfulness skills can be taught 1:1, in a group or even over the phone.
If, however, you are presenting physical symptoms you should visit a doctor who’ll examine you and discuss the problem. They will want to know about medicines, supplements or any recreational drugs you’ve been taking to properly assess the situation.
While it is more common for women to suffer anxiety than men, Performance Anxiety is quite common as men reach middle age.
Older men can find they can get an erection (not quite as often or as quickly as when they were younger) but struggle to stay erect if the direct stimulus is removed. The more the penis-owner worries about “getting hard and staying hard” the more likely it is that their erection will suffer.
My advice: play with themselves more! Use solo play to find out what touches, speed and pressure works, then don’t be shy to keep a focus on the penis during foreplay, enjoy the sensations and visual stimulation. This will help them be ready for action. Even if the hardness flags a bit, there is still plenty of scope for pleasure to be experienced and a climax to be reached.
The header image I’ve used is from Pixabay