18 November 2012


Years ago, I took a degree in Psychology because I wanted to learn about human behaviour. However I didn't actually learn how to interpret body language or 'read' what people are thinking. Needless to say I was slightly disappointed by this. In both the areas of my life that I want improve, acting and writing, I want to understand people better. I want to be able to write about the little things that people do, the way that we react in different situations, the habits we display. And I want to find inspiration for my acting.

So this A - Z will be a weekly series of posts exploring human nature and behaviour by looking at everyday emotions, experiences, and situations. It will draw on my observations of other people, my own experiences, snippets from authors that write emotions/behaviour exceptionally well, or just some cathartic rambling. However I do hope you find these posts insightful, amusing or just a little bit interesting.

A is for Anxiety

Anxiety is something that I think everyone can relate to and understand. Whether it is a full blown panic attack, the nerves of talking to a large audience, or butterflies before a big exam, anxiety is something we all experience at some point in our lives.

For me personally, the height of my anxiety levels is on a rush-hour, busy tube. I don't know if it's the claustrophobia of so many people squeezed into one place with arms stretching  and bags poking into my back, the simple lack of fresh oxygen or the terrifying thought of being stuck underground in a cylinder of metal, but my rational mind goes out the tube window. Within minutes my heart rate sky rockets, my breathing becomes shallow and rapid, and my face flushes an unattractive, vivid puce.

The fear that I might be sick is compounded by the butterflies in my stomach, the sweaty palms, the wobble of the tube as it hurtles over the bumpy tracks, and the knowledge that I just can't escape until the next stop. The only way I've found to distract myself during the journey is to play word games in my mind and stop all thoughts from wandering to my own feelings of panic.

So when I reach my stop, I feel a complete and sweet relief as I jump through the tube doors. I can finally take a deep breath and feel my heart start to slow. I have escaped.

Having just finished reading Kendare Blake's amazingly creepy and well written Anna Dressed in Blood, I can't help but be reminded of the tension and anxiety that spilled from the pages. So here is a little snippet that perfectly describes Cas's fear and panic:
"I'd like to leave now. I'd very much like to leave now. The hairs are up on the back of my neck and my teeth would chatter if I wasn't clenching so hard. Given the choice between fight or flight, I would choose to dive out the window, knife in hand or not... After this is over, I might puke. Assuming, of course, that I'm still living."

Does this quote make you as anxious as Cas?
What situations make you nervous or panicky?


Dani Riot said...

I love people watching. When I am on the tube, instead of words games I people watch. I look out for faces that would be good to photograph and think through the light I would use to capture their characters.

Iffath said...

This is such a great idea, Hannah. The word anxiety makes me think of school. I know it's kinda cliched, but it really does. Everything about school just makes me feel nervous and claustrophobic and I just really can't wait to get out.

Cas's quote is PERFECT.

Hannah Mariska said...

I remember the feeling - there are so many different pressures at school! Thanks for sharing :)

Jamie Gibbs said...

I get odd looks from people when I tell them that I really enjoy using the Tube whenever I'm in London, but then I imagine I'd feel differently about it if I lived there.

A little anxiety can be useful in some situations; since it activates the flight/fight response it gives us a nice boost of adrenaline to deal with whatever the situation is e.g. legging it out of the Tube station quick as a flash as soon as the doors open :)


Book Angel Emma said...

What an absolute fantastic idea Hannah. I'm looking forward to the rest of the alphabet ;D

Clover said...

I love this post! I have a real interest in psychology as well.

There are lots of things that make me nervous/panicky. I went through some bad panic attacks when I was younger. Mostly to do with walking into rooms. I couldn't go to my classes because I dreaded that closed door so much. I really should have gotten help then but I never did.

I still don't like entering say small shops with closed doors. That makes my heart beat faster and hands go clammy. I also get anxious on the telephone. I hate calling people I've never spoken to before but of course I have to do that quite a lot when changing phone network providers and so on.

Jo said...

Such a great idea, Hannah! I've only had a panic attack once, and that was when I realised, when at uni, I got my dates wrong, and an important piece of coursework was due in in two days time, and I was nowhere near finished. I guess stress worked in my favour, because my tutor was really impressed with what I came up with (though I failed as I had no time for the interview that was required, but with resubmitting at a later date with the interview, I did really well!).

I remember a discussion my class had with another tutor about anxiety before exams, and our tutor said we just have to trick our minds; the way the body reacts to fear - butterflies, sweating, heart racing, etc - is the same way the body reacts to excitement, the actual feeling is just in our heads, and we just have to try and trick ourselves into feeling excited instead.

That is an awesome quote! Looking forward to future posts!

Hannah Mariska said...

That's such a clever idea, to make your mind think your body is excited instead of afraid or panicked! Thanks for the tip - love it :)

Hannah Mariska said...

Thanks for sharing. I know how you feel about phones - I'm not sure if it's the anonymity, but even calling for a take away fills me with dread! Jo's tip (above) is a really great idea. I'm going to try to it on the tube (I just hope I don't have a manic excited Sheldon face when I do). I hope it can work for you too. :)