There’s a good chance that we’ve all experienced feelings of anxiety in response to real or perceived threats at one time or another. For most people, these feelings are normal as the brain is hard-wired to caution you at times of danger, change, and the unknown.
Psychologists believe that anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress and that this stress triggers a system in the brain that accentuates your performance. So, a little anxiety now and then is okay and might be your body’s way of preparing for an impending change.
Not Every Anxious Feeling Is Normal
- Do any of these statements sound familiar?
- You worry too much.
- You must drag yourself out of the bed every morning and often wake up feeling sad for no obvious reason.
- You’re disposed to making negative predictions.
- You worry about the worst that could happen in any situation.
- You take negative feedback very personally.
- You’re your biggest critic.
- You avoid people more than you should.
- Anything less than perfection feels like failure.
If they do, then there’s a chance that you’re experiencing some degree of anxiety and/or depression. Unpleasant feelings are a part of our daily lives. They are there to teach us a lesson. Once we’ve learned our lesson, they often move on but might come back with another lesson later.
For some, these feelings can be all-consuming, impairing the individual’s ability to enjoy life as they’d otherwise like to. For some, anxiety might treat their everyday events as life-or-death situations. It can become a disorder and that isn’t a good place to be in.
Anxiety can creep up on you in many ways from physical and behavioral symptoms that mess with your emotional and cognitive state of being.
Yet, each time, it can leave behind a somewhat similar and familiar feeling – the feeling of being a little more lost, battered, and alone (1).
No anxious person has the same set of symptoms, which is why each person’s anxiety is unique and therefore their individual journey. That said, most people have some of each type of the symptoms, only in different combinations, which makes understanding how it works more appreciable.
- Feeling nervous, restless or tense
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
- Having an increased heart rate
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
- Feeling weak or tired
- Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
- Having trouble sleeping
- Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
- Having difficulty controlling worry
- Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
You need to understand the many dimensions within which you and your anxiety exist. Once you start identifying these dimensions which are mostly characterized by triggers and symptoms, you’ll be able to work around them, and in time, overcome them too.
An anxiety disorder isn’t created or brought on by a single cause, however a combination of points. A number of other elements play a role, including personality factors, difficult life experiences, and physical health (2). Let us look at the causes here;
- Family history of mental health conditions
- Personality factors developed as the age progresses
- On-going stressful events like pregnancy, work anxiety, family events, trauma, abuse, death or loss of a loved one, etc.
- Physical health problems like diabetes, asthma, heart diseases, etc.
- Substance use like alcohol, smoking, drugs, etc.
- Other mental health conditions like depression.
Accept and understand it
There is no shame in being anxious. And we would prefer not to have put this obvious point across (because it’s obvious and should ideally not need any re-affirmation).
But sadly, because of how this feeling can be trivialized and/or stigmatized, it’s important to let all those who experience anxiety know that they are not alone and by accepting it they’ll also be overcoming it.
Likewise, it’s important to let others know that they shouldn’t be underestimating the pain of those with anxiety disorders. Worse, that they shouldn’t be stigmatizing anxious people by saying things like, ‘you’re overacting’, or ‘you’re so OCD,’ when they might not know enough or when that’s not what they mean.
Anxiety Doesn’t Exist in Isolation.
While it is tempting to think of it this way and distance it, it simply isn’t true.
- Take time to reflect on the issues that are floating around and inside your subconscious mind.
- Tug at the issues and see what comes of it. You might be surprised to unravel a host of emotions and pent-up memories that might ultimately lead you to the peace you’ve been wanting.
- Re-visit and visualize the very situations that act as triggers.
- Observe yourself and your reactions towards the situation. Make peace from the fact that whatever the fear, this time it isn’t happening for real.
- Think of this as a chance to re-write those situations to give it the ending you’d like it to have. Your anxiety has a voice. Listen to it.
How to Banish Worry
Remember that there’s always a way out of any anxiety-driven thought and feeling that you might be experiencing. Most importantly, remember that you are not alone. The whole world is waiting to discover and befriend you.
When you’re anxious, your mind can get caught up battling the thoughts ringing its head. You can become so consumed by the process of balancing your emotions that you fail to recognize the physical effects of it.
There are some tell-tale signs which when addressed can instantly help bring down your anxiety. Your breathing is at the top of that list.
Typically, when anxious, your breathing quickens and becomes shallow. This goes against the natural pattern of breathing which is slow and deep. And because our lives depend on our breath, any deviance in this pattern can add to your stress and make you more uncomfortable.
You can quickly counter this by focusing on your breath:
- Place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest.
- Breathe in slowly, focusing on expanding your abdomen first and then your chest.
- Exhale slowly, telling yourself to relax when you breathe out.
- Repeat Steps 1 through 3 for at least ten breaths.
Your body is not meant to be stressed. It’s meant to be happy, healthy, and at peace. And so, when you get upset, your body is alarmed and responds by producing stress hormones. Exercise has proved to be very effective in burning these hormones.
Exercises such as running, jogging, brisk walking, and/or aerobics for as little as 15 to 20 minutes, at a time when you’re stressed, can do wonders to alleviate symptoms of anxiety.
Choose any physical activity that you enjoy doing. The fact that you also like what you’re doing will help shift you to a happier and stress-free phase.
We are social creatures. We want to mingle and thrive as a collective society. And so, by this nature, it is natural for you to feel better when you connect with or talk to someone you understand and who understands you. Rally your support system.
Call a loved one and talk about what’s troubling you. Even if you’re somebody who doesn’t like to mingle a lot, you might find it helpful to just let things out of your system. If you don’t have anyone you can immediately call and talk to, try, and journal your thoughts.
Do not hesitate to talk to yourself either. Try and understand exactly what’s bothering you and the best way to do that is to ask yourself questions.
- What’s bothering me?
- Does my narrative sound correct?
- Is there another way of looking at what happened?
- How can shift to a better place?
Always ask yourself questions because when you do, you may get vital information that can then stimulate your thinking further, perhaps from an all new reasonable and refreshing angle.
Listen to Music
Sound stimulates the mind and body. It can inspire you or upset you. When you’re upset, try and listen to music that soothes your mind. Listen to whatever makes you happy.
Spend Time with Pets
Studies prove that spending time with pets promotes better moods and health. Spend time with your pets, play with them too. You’ll quickly realize your anxiety disappearing away.
Give Your Mind Something More Productive to Chew On
Often, when you’re stressed, your mind refuses to think outside the situation. It focuses on the discomfort and replays the events that led to it several times over. If the worry is serious and needs assistance, then we urge you to consult a therapist.
- Reading a good novel
- Watching a movie
- Playing a sport
- Spending time with family
- Walking your pet
- And anything else that makes you happy
But if it’s more minor in intensity and caution, then we recommend distracting it with some of your favorite activities.
Stay in the Present
Remember that most of what has upset you has happened in the past. The moment has passed. And a lot of what you may worry about may be in the future. They happened yet and might never happen too.
Instead of toggling between the past and future, stay in the present. Notice your breath because that’s living in the present. Focus on your breath as mentioned before and bring yourself back to the present.
When to see a doctor
- You seem like you’re worrying excessive and it’s hindering your job, relationships, or life.
- Your worry, fear, or anxiety is disturbing to you and also difficult to handle.
- You really feel depressed, have trouble with alcohol or substance abuse, or have other mental health concerns together with anxiousness.
- You believe your anxiousness could be connected to a physical health issue.
- You have suicidal thoughts or behaviors – if this holds true, seek first aid immediately.
Your Anxiety Your Journey
As you progress further in life, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the origins of your anxiety, you’ll also discover ways to manage and overcome them.
At this point, we urge you to take a moment to pause and reflect on everything you’ve learned about yourself so far.
Conclude on what’s right for you and what’s not. Don’t rush into things. Instead, take time to regroup and recalibrate. You decide when and how you want to move things ahead.