You may be surprised to learn this (or maybe not as was the case when I first found out) but Dyspraxia and Anxiety tend to go hand in hand with each other. Research has shown that the majority of individuals with Dyspraxia will at least in some point of their lives suffer with anxiety as well.
Personally speaking I can quite agree with this as someone who is a natural worrier (and Dyspraxic) I didn’t realise there was any such connection till a few years back; despite being diagnosed with Dyspraxia back when I was 4 years old. Finding out that Dyspraxia and Anxiety often go together didn’t really surprise me, though what did surprise me was how I never really made the connection before. For up until that point, I just assumed that I had a worrying personality.
Now I should say from the outset that not everyone who has Dyspraxia will suffer with anxiety as lets not forget, we are still all individuals with our own personalities, life experiences and brain chemistry. Yet research has shown that when it comes to Dyspraxia, the majority of us do seem to deal with issues relating to anxiety. (For a further list of the range of traits common amongst those with Dyspraxia, I suggest reading “Dyspraxia In Adults.”)
Anyway, whether you are a natural worrier (who is often worrying about some imaginary event in the future becoming real) or suffer from some other type of anxiety, you maybe pleased to know that there are tactics that you can deploy to reduce your anxiety; both in the here and now as well as for the long term. I say long term in that by applying some of these calming strategies in the long term will actually help you to become a calmer person.
So to begin, the first strategy which can help with anxiety is;
The chances are that you probably have heard of Mindfulness before but even if you haven't, I'm sure someone around you has. I can say this confidently as in recent years Mindfulness was exploded into mainstream culture as well as medicine (thanks in part to the works of Dr Job Kabat-Zinn). It has also become particularly popular in personal development and business circles.
So what is Mindfulness? Well Mindfuless can be said to go back over thousands of years to at least the earliest days of Buddhism (2500 years ago) but probably goes back way before that. Even though it has its roots in various Eastern Religions and so the definitions change from one religion to the next, the best non-religious definition of Mindfulness comes straight from Dr Kabat-Zinn, this being:
Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally
Mindfulness is essentially focusing as much of your attention into the here and now: what is happening around you as well as any feelings, sensations you may have within your body. Whilst you may believe this is how you already live, I can assure you that this is not the case (unless you are already a Mindfulness practitioner). Instead nearly all of us are spending most of our days with our attention on our thoughts, etc.
So when it comes to Dyspraxia and Anxiety, how can putting your attention into the here and now help? Well to cut a long story short, it is our thoughts about X or Y that causes our anxiety. Hence by getting out of our heads and back into the rest of our personal reality, it is possible to calm down our worries.
I should say though that whilst practicing Mindfulness is easy to do, the hardest thing you'd face is being able to hold your attention away from your thinking mind for long. Like being in a cinema, watching a very entertaining movie, it is so easy to get engrossed in the movie that you forget that you are actually sitting in a cinema watching a movie.
Despite the struggle of staying present, research has repeatedly shown Mindfulness helps not only with calming your anxieties in the moment but if practiced over time, can help rewire your Brain to make you a calmer person.
For a technique that is meant to help calm down your anxiety, the name of this one may sound rather counterproductive. And when I explain how this strategy works it will probably seem even more counterproductive. Yet the irony is that this technique does work.
How this strategy works is when you are next feeling nervous, you will need to mentally select some time when you will deal with the anxiety; as long as how long you are going spend dealing with the anxiety. For example if you are worried about an upcoming date you have, you can set your worry time so in say ½ an hour time, you will dedicate 15 minutes to focusing on your anxiety.
Up until that time, you will simply focus on whatever you have planned. You can also incorporate some Mindfulness as well if you wish during this period; the aim is to distract yourself from your worries for as much as possible. No doubt your mind will try and pull your attention back to your worry, but do try to keep yourself distracted.
Anyhow when you reach the alloted worry time, stop whatever you are doing and perhaps with a pen and paper if needed, question the anxiety by asking yourself what is the worst that can happen. When an answer pops into your head, proceed to ask yourself 'and then what would happen?' And on getting an answer to that question pop into your mind, ask yourself 'and then what would happen?' Else you could vary it with the question 'how likely is that outcome going to happen?'
So taking the previous example, you are worried about an upcoming date, here is an example of the sequence you could have with the worrying part of yourself.
'Why am I worried about tonight's date?
Because he might see me for the first time and think I'm ugly, make his excuses and go.
'And then what would happen?'
I'd be left alone and it reaffirm that I am ugly
'And than what?'
Well I suppose I'd just go home
'So carry on single as I am now. How likely is it to happen that seeing me make him leave on the spot?'
Well I know if he walks out on first sight of me, he is not the person I want to be with anyway. And such low life's are rare so it is unlikely I suppose.
Ask yourself questions like these and wait for the responses to come up, and no matter how silly the answer you get is, just go with it. The key is to accept and work through your worries than ridicule yourself for having these.
This is an excellent technique for dealing with anxiety. For more information on Worry Time and how to apply it, click here.
This method for calming yourself down is so well known that it hardly needs saying. If you have ever had a panic attack, has anyone ever told you to 'breathe deeply.' Maybe you have given similar advice to someone who was in the midst of anxiety.
Breathing deeply and slowly is a very good way to quickly reduce your anxiety. From personal experience it won't completely rid you of your fears, but it will certainly take the edge of any panic attack. And by taking the edge off it will allow you some space for logical thought.
When it comes to Dyspraxia and Anxiety, it seems that we are more prone than most to panic attacks and as such, remembering to breathe deeply can be of instant relief.
I cannot say with certainly why breathing slowly and deeply helps with anxiety but I believe it is due to what is known as the mind-body feedback loop. If you haven't heard of this loop, essentially it is a name for the way our minds and bodies are intrinsically connected: to the point where a minor change in one will have a corresponding effect on the other.
Noticed how someone when they are happy tends to walk and carry themselves in a way that reflects their mood. Same as someone who is depressed, shy, scared, etc. And when one is anxious, one doesn't tend to spend their time breathing deeply but does so when they are calm.
As such by adjusting your breathing to be more slow, you will produce a corresponding shift in your mind as well.
You may have heard how if you want to experience a healthy high, undertake some rigorous exercise. It has being known by experts for many years now that exercise isn't only good for our bodies but also our minds.
Yet why is exercise good for anxiety? Well the answer to this is that when you exercise, your body reduces a natural painkillers called endorphins. Now endorphins are also a feel good chemical which can quickly shift our anxiety away.
Now the exercise doesn't need to be a marathon, yet merely walking from one end of the room to the other probably won't suffice. Instead the exercise needs to be about 30 mins, according to researchers back in 2011.
So the next time you have some anxiety or worries on your mind, going for a 30 minute jog, swim or even fast walk could be enough to boost your mood and calm your worries..
And let’s not forget that exercise is also beneficial to the Mind as well.
Accomplishing Small Tasks
If you are wanting to induce a chemical balance in your Brain and didn’t fancy doing some exercise, there is another feel good hormone you could call upon, Dopamine.
Dopamine is best known as the bodies reward system and is a feeling of well-being that is typically experienced when you have done something that you set out to do. For instance whenever you have completed a difficult task, you probably feel good in yourself. A feeling of pride, achievement and a heighten sense of self-esteem. Well those feelings can be attributed to Dopamine flowing through your Brain.
And you can also call upon Dopamine to help you deal with your anxieties. Next time you are feeling nervous, try write out a small to do list, consisting of a series of tasks that you'd like to do. Then go out and achieve them.
By doing so you will start to feel a sense of accomplishment which would subsequently reduce the anxiety. Though it should be mentioned that this technique will be hard to do if you are in the midst of a panic attack. Yet if your anxiety is more in the background or just a general sense of unease, producing Dopamine by undertaking a series of basic tasks can be just the mood stabiliser that you need. As someone who has both Dyspraxia and Anxiety, this method has certainly been beneficial to me!
Talking It Out Can Be A Trap For Those With Dyspraxia And Anxiety
Whenever I am experiencing some sort of worry, one thing which I often want to do (apart from mentally ruminate on it) is to tell a loved one or a close friend what is on my mind. As the old saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved.
Now there is a certain truth in this. Often when one is worrying about something and is able to share it with another, the other person can provide a fresh perspective on the problem; even a solution.
Unfortunately when it comes to Dyspraxia and Anxiety, it can very quickly turn one's inner monologue into an outer monologue. Where essentially we end up speaking up minds openly and as such, merely end up talking to the person round and round like we do in our heads. I know I have been guilty of this behaviour on more than one occasion.
As such if you do decide to share your anxiety with a friend or loved one, I suggest you give yourself a time limit to which you will talk about it. Maybe 5 minutes or maybe ½ hour. Yet don't go beyond, otherwise you end up openly ruminating and all that happens is you end up wasting time when you could be genuinely working on your worries. And annoy a friend or loved in the process who'd politely be stuck in a non going rant.
Anyhow if you like to know more about Dyspraxia, including the strengths of having Dyspraxia, I recommend you read my book 'Dyspraxia: How To Thrive As An Adult’ by Alex Gadd. You can find that by clicking here.
Else if you would like to be in a group of fellow Dyspraxics and find more information on this disability, then why not join the Dyspraxia Support Group on Facebook.