- When people feel anxious, they may have lots of thoughts in their head, they may feel hot or sweaty and may feel a shaky or jittery feeling inside
- Feeling anxious is a very normal human emotion – in fact, thousands and thousands of years ago feeling anxious was really useful, as it signalled to us there may be danger around and we need to do something about it. This is called our fight or flight response
- As we have evolved, the part of our brain that houses this anxious safety system has remained, though other parts of our brain (such as the bit that helps us imagine things or remember past things) has grown
- Sometimes, if we imagine things, or worry about things that may happen, the anxious safety system that is still there thinks we might be in danger again, and kicks off the fight or flight response
- When we feel anxious we may worry a lot of the time about one or two specific things, or about lots of things
Feeling anxious and LGBTQ+ people
- For Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ+) people, feeling anxious can often be more common
- This is because things around us, such as worrying if we are safe, worrying what people think, or having to act a certain way can make it more likely that our anxious safety system will think we are in danger
- We might have thoughts such as What if I can’t do it or Everyone will stare at me, which can often reflect what other people have said about us, or how society or the media can make us feel
- If we have a good support network of friends or family, this can sometimes help us cope with our anxious feelings, but not every LGBTQ+ person has this
Tips to manage anxious feelings
Catching anxious thoughts
In order to understand how anxious feelings can creep into our ;ife, it is helpful to keep a record. Think of it like a mood diary, or mood tracker. This helps us to “catch” anxious thoughts and feelings and understand any patterns.
- Rate your mood out of 10, with 1 being super anxious, and 10 being totally chilled
- What can I feel in my body?
- What thoughts are popping into my head?
- What is happening around me/what am I doing?
- Where am I?
- Is the situation related to my LGBTQ+ identity? If so, how?
Once we have begun to catch when anxious feelings creeps in, we now need to try check the facts. The best way to do this is to understand how helpful or unhelpful our thoughts are in various situations. This is because we know that thoughts in our head can influence how we feel
Am I ‘mentally time travelling’ and thinking about things that might happen in the future, or things that have already passed?
Is there anything I am missing out and not ignoring, that could be relevant here?
Are my thoughts telling me the worst case scenario, rather than the most likely scenario?
Is my thought actually really valid, and letting me know that I should do something to keep myself safe?
Changing anxious feelings
OK, we have caught anxious feelings, and begun to understand when they might show up. We’ve then checked out some of the thoughts we noticed to consider how helpful they are. The next thing to do is try to change some these thoughts, or change what we are doing.
Think about the most likely scenario;
Ask other people for feedback on your thoughts;
Imagine your thought ‘on trial’ in court – what is the evidence?;
Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, and breathe out for 9 seconds;
Starting from your feet, scan your body, and if you feel tension, clench that muscle and release;
If you always avoid something, try give it a go – it might not be that scary!;
Contextualise anxious feelings
One important thing to consider with anxious feelings is context – what is going on? Importantly, is it within my control, and is it affecting my safety? As LGBTQ+ people, we sometimes can’t change big things like laws and policies very easily, though we can consider how we interact with our context, and protect our own bubbles.
I can ask myself: are there certain people in my life that make me feel more anxious?
I can ask myself: is my school/college supportive of my identity? If not, who can I talk to to raise this?
I can ask myself: are there certain social media pages that make me feel more anxious?
I can ask myself: are there certain laws or rules that mean I can’t do something that others can? If so, who can I contact to express how I feel about this?