Anxiety can affect queer people differently, especially if we have experienced minority stress or bullying.
Many of us spent our younger years in an anxious state. We might have had to police our mannerisms to hide our sexual or gender identity, or we acted in ways to avoid being bullied or shamed by others.
We might also have been in situations where we felt unsafe or excluded.
This anxiety can evolve into what is termed “hypervigilance”.
Hypervigilance is the state of constantly being on alert to threats. Our nervous system might have been so fine-tuned to watch out for signs of danger that it can remain on high alert even in times of calm.
This also explains why some of us feel a spike of anxiety in certain social situations: our body might register danger if we're in environments which is reminiscent of times when we were previously shamed or bullied.
We can better manage our anxiety by being aware of how it physically manifests in our body.
The truth is anxiety is actually a natural, biological process.
It's our body's way of alerting us to threats. Some of us start sweating more, our mouth dry up, or we can hear our heart pumping faster in our chest. Sometimes we physically feel these sensations before we even realise that we're anxious.
By being aware of these physical sensations, we can better understand how our body is reacting to a certain place or environment.
By understanding what environmental factors are triggering our anxiety, we can prepare and practise ways to keep ourselves calm.
Understanding how anxiety shows up in our body can help us stay in the present moment and stop us from spiralling.
We can also remind ourselves that sometimes, thoughts are just thoughts.
One thing we learn from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is that we don’t have to believe everything that we think.
Not every thought that pops up in our minds is true.
Sometimes, anxious thoughts are simply thoughts, and not necessarily reality.
The next time you feel anxious, remind yourself that anxiety is a natural biological response.
We can cope with our anxious tendencies by being mindful of our bodies and our thoughts — and checking if this anxiety is grounded in reality, or if it is triggered by something else.
We can also treat anxious thoughts a little bit like clouds going through the sky... we can be aware of them, but not let them linger and stay too long.
It is also important not to judge yourself for your anxiety.
This anxiety once kept you safe in difficult environments. Many of us have experienced homophobia, biphobia or transphobia, and some of us still do, and so sometimes this anxiety is justified: the world is still not safe for many of us.
So give yourself compassion, and understand that this anxiety is your body is trying to keep you safe. The aim is not to never feel anxiety, but not let it overwhelm us, so we can live peacefully in times of calm.
“Dealing with Anxiety” is one of the guided therapy programmes available on Voda.
Designed with leading psychotherapists, Voda combines mindfulness with cognitive behavioural therapy to develop digital therapy programs centred for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Download from the iOS App Store by searching "Voda LGBTQIA+" or through this link.