Things To Do If You Feel Anxious
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Everyone goes through periods of feeling anxious and worried. After all, its a normal human experience. And whether youre dealing with occasional bouts of anxiety or trying to manage excessive worries, doubts, and fears, having tools to help you calm your mind and body can reduce the intensity and duration of these feelings.
Here are nine strategies that can relax your mind, ease your anxiety, and help you regain control of your thoughts so that you can feel better.
How Common Are Anxiety Disorders
In any given year the estimated percent of U.S. adults with various anxiety disorders are:
- Specific Phobia: 8% – 12%
- Agoraphobia: 1-2.9% in Adolescents and Adults
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: 2%
Women are more likely than men to experience anxiety disorders.
Anxiety refers to anticipation of a future concern and is more associated with muscle tension and avoidance behavior.
Fear is an emotional response to an immediate threat and is more associated with a fight or flight reaction either staying to fight or leaving to escape danger.
Anxiety disorders can cause people to try to avoid situations that trigger or worsen their symptoms. Job performance, school work and personal relationships can be affected. In general, for a person to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the fear or anxiety must:
- Be out of proportion to the situation or age-inappropriate
- Hinder ability to function normally
There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, specific phobias, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder and separation anxiety disorder.
Natural Approaches To Anxiety
Anxiety requires active treatment otherwise it constricts life and tends to become a chronic condition. But that doesnt mean it requires a prescription or medical intervention. Some of the most effective ways to control anxiety involve lifestyle or behavior changes.
Calming the mind through meditation is an Eastern technique finding favor in Western cultures. Regular activity such as running or walking helps release the muscle tension that creates so much distress. It also changes the brain. One of the most effective measures of all may be deep breathing. It has a direct effect on the nervous system, inducing a state of calm and curbing feelings of threat.
For more see Natural Approaches to Anxiety
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Are Stress And Anxiety The Same Thing
When it comes to the variety of emotions we feel every day, we often use stress and anxiety interchangeably. But, the two are actually distinct.
“Stress is very common, and we all deal with it in our day-to-day lives. It’s what we feel when a deadline is looming or in anticipation of an important event or occasion,” explains Dr. Sawal.
While the feeling of being stressed may be unpleasant, there are some short-term benefits to it. Stress comes with physiological changes that can help you overcome challenges and meet your goals such as increased concentration and enhanced reaction time.
“Anxiety, on the other hand, is when stress or worry become so excessive or so persistent that it negatively affects your daily life, as well as your ability to cope with the everyday stressors,” says Dr. Sawal. “Similar to stress, anyone can experience anxiety. But, unlike stress, there are no advantages to anxiety.”
In fact, Dr. Sawal adds that left unaddressed, anxiety can impact not only your everyday life but your overall health and well-being.
Do One Thing Each Day That Brings You Joy
When youre feeling anxious and want to take your mind off the stressor, Lagoy says to carve out time to do the things you love, whether that is riding a bike, reading a book, painting, or catching up with friends.
Regular exercise can help prevent or alleviate anxiety, as well as learning techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or practicing mindfulness, Lagoy said.
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Cause Of Anxiety Attacks
Anxiety attacks are usually although not always caused by severe stress. The symptoms depend on the type of attack. The term anxiety attack is sometimes used interchangeably with the term panic attack, but may also refer to any periods of extreme anxiety beyond what a person normally experiences.
Extra Support For Anxiety
If youre feeling so anxious that its impacting on your day-to-day life, you might need some extra support. See face-to-face help to see who you can talk to if you decide you want outside help.
Cognitive behavioural therapy has been found to be effective in helping people manage anxiety.
CBT helps you manage problems by thinking more positively. It frees you from unhelpful patterns of behaviour.
People like your local GP or a clinical or counselling psychologist can help you. If they can’t, then they may refer you to a specialist.
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How Anxiety Affects You
Individual symptoms of anxiety are things we all experience from time-to-time.
If you experience more than one of the following, over a couple of weeks or longer, you may need some extra support.
Physical effects of anxiety
- Dry mouth and/or difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty getting to and staying asleep
- Poor concentration
- Rapid heart rate and breathing
- Sweating or trembling
- A flare-up of another health problem or illness
- Sexual problems, such as not having any sexual feelings or no interest in sex
Some common ways anxiety can affect your behaviour and feelings
- Irritability or always being in a bad mood
- Having a strong urge to avoid situations that could trigger your anxiety
- Worry or always feeling that something bad is about to happen
- Asking a lot of needless questions and needing constant reassurance
- Being a perfectionist
- Being pessimistic and focusing on what may go wrong in any given situation
Why Do I Feel Anxious And Panicky
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, worry or fear. Everyone feels anxious at some point in their life, but for some people it can be an ongoing problem.
A little bit of anxiety can be helpful for example, feeling anxious before an exam might make you more alert and improve your performance. But too much anxiety could make you tired and unable to concentrate.
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Does Personality Play A Role In Anxiety
There is a type of personality consistently associated with anxietythose who exhibit the trait of neuroticism. One of the so-called Big Five personality traits, it describes a broad tendency to respond to experience with negative emotions and to be roiled by them. In study after study, neuroticism predicts susceptibility to both anxiety and depression and, to a lesser degree, all other mental disorders. Scientists believe that neuroticism reflects emotional reactivity that is especially attuned to threat. Some facets of neuroticism perfectionism stands outare virtually free tickets to anxiety. Perfectionists may seem like theyre on a path to success but in fact they are driven by a desire to avoid failure as a result, much of their mental life is devoted to worrying about mistakes they could possibly make and imagining dire consequences of those mistakes..
How To Tell If You’re Having An Anxiety Attack
If you feel like you had severe anxiety, then you had an anxiety attack. Any form of severe anxiety can count as an attack. But for those that are experiencing something more like panic attacks, the experience tends to be similar between different people.
Recall that anxiety attacks can mimic other health problems. If you haven’t been to a doctor, it’s a good idea to go at least once to rule out any more serious issues. Make sure your doctor knows about anxiety, however. Not all doctors are aware of the severity of anxiety attack symptoms. Some may not believe that anxiety can cause so many physical symptoms and sensations, but it absolutely can. Thats why its so important to find the right doctor.
The symptoms below are often experienced differently by different people. During an anxiety attack, your body experiences a wave of stress that is so profound, it’s difficult to know exactly how your individual body will react. Yet below are some of the most common symptoms of an anxiety attack:
You may not experience all of these symptoms at once either, and each one may cause various degrees of severity. You may also feel as though there is no way that it is an anxiety attack. Anxiety attacks and panic attacks are often so severe that the sufferers live in constant fear of the symptoms coming back.
Anxiety attacks also tend to peak around 10 minutes . Then as they dissipate, they often leave you feeling fatigued and drained, possibly fearful of another attack.
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Causes And Risk Factors
- Behavioral Choices
It’s important to note that everyone feels anxiety to some degree regularly throughout their life. Fear and anxiety are helpful emotions that can function to help us notice danger or threats that keep us safe and help us adapt to our environment. Anxiety disorders occur when significant distress impairs your ability to function in important facets of life, such as work, school, or relationships. There are many potential risk factors for anxiety disorders, and most people likely experience multiple different combinations of risk factors, such as neurobiological factors, genetic markers, environmental factors, and life experiences. However, we do not yet fully understand what causes some people to have anxiety disorders.
Genetic risk factors have been documented for all anxiety disorders. Clinical genetic studies indicate that heritability estimates for anxiety disorders range from 30-67%. Many studies, past and present, have focused on identifying specific genetic factors that increase one’s risk for an anxiety disorder. To date, an array of single nucleotide polymorphisms or small variations in genetic code, that confer heightened risk for anxiety have been discovered. For the most part, the variants that have been associated with risk for anxiety are located within genes that are critical for the expression and regulation of neurotransmitter systems or stress hormones.
How Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Related To Anxiety Disorders
Some people feel the effects of stress in their stomachs. People with IBS have uncomfortable problems with digestion, including stomach pain, constipation and diarrhea. They also frequently have anxiety and depression, which can make symptoms worse.
The connection between IBS and anxiety comes from the nervous system partly controlling the colon. The nervous systems response to stress may affect the stomach. Among people who get treated for IBS, anywhere from 50% to 90% may also have an anxiety disorder or depression. Treatment for IBS may include stress management and psychotherapy to relieve symptoms.
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When Should I Go To The Emergency Room For An Anxiety Disorder
Symptoms of an anxiety disorder can resemble symptoms of a heart attack or another health emergency. If youre experiencing an anxiety attack for the first time, or youre concerned in any way about your health, call 911 or head to the nearest ER. A healthcare provider will check you for serious or life-threatening conditions.
If youre having an anxiety attack and unsure whether you should head to an ER or not, its better to go. Healthcare professionals can make sure youre OK and give you any necessary treatment.
Will Anxiety Go Away On Its Own
“Anxiety and its symptoms resolve only when the underlying cause of the anxiety is addressed,” says Dr. Sawal. “In some cases, a person may take control of the situation or circumstance causing their anxiety on their own sometimes without even knowing it.”
For instance, maybe anxiety stemming from out-of-control debt was alleviated by taking actionable steps towards reducing this debt and gaining better financial control.
“Other times, however, a person may struggle to either identify and/or address his or her anxiety. This is when talking to your doctor can help,” adds Dr. Sawal.
Your doctor has many tools at his or her disposal to help diagnose and address anxiety. He or she can refer you to a behavioral therapy specialist, such as a therapist or psychologist, or prescribe medications that can help reduce your anxiety.
“Studies have shown both behavioral therapy and medications to be beneficial in addressing anxiety, and these studies also suggest that the two are even more powerful when combined together,” explains Dr. Sawal. “Both aren’t always needed lifelong typically only for short periods of time when things are particularly chaotic or stressful for you.”
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Anxiety Isnt Only In Your Head
If you have anxiety, you might frequently feel worried, nervous, or afraid about ordinary events. These feelings can be upsetting and difficult to manage. They can also make daily life a challenge.
Anxiety can also cause physical symptoms. Think about a time when you felt anxious. Maybe your hands were sweaty or your legs were shaky. Your heart rate might have sped up. You could have felt sick to your stomach.
You might have linked these symptoms to your nervousness. But maybe you werent sure why you felt unwell.
Most people experience anxiety on occasion. Anxiety can be serious or turn into a disorder if it lasts for a long time, causes significant distress, or interferes with your life in other ways.
Types of anxiety include:
Specific types of anxiety might have additional physical symptoms.
If youre having a panic attack, you might:
- fear that youre going to die
- have trouble breathing or feel as if youre choking
- have numb or tingling sensations in parts of your body
- have chest pain
- feel lightheaded, dizzy, or as if you might pass out
- feel overheated or have chills
Anxiety, the bodys response to stress, is how your body alerts you to threats and helps you get ready to deal with them. This is called the fight-or-flight response.
Your body isnt meant to always be on alert. Being in constant fight-or-flight mode, which can happen with chronic anxiety, can have negative and serious effects on your body.
How Can I Best Cope With An Anxiety Disorder
There are several steps you can take to cope with anxiety disorder symptoms. These strategies can also make your treatment more effective:
- Explore stress management: Learn ways to manage stress, such as through meditation.
- Join support groups: These groups are available in-person and online. They encourage people with anxiety disorders to share their experiences and coping strategies.
- Get educated: Learn about the specific type of anxiety disorder you have so you feel more in control. Help friends and loved ones understand the disorder as well so they can support you.
- Limit or avoid caffeine: Many people with anxiety disorder find that caffeine can worsen their symptoms.
- Talk to your healthcare provider: Your provider is your partner in your care. If you feel like treatment isnt working or have questions about your medication, contact your provider. Together, you can figure out how to best move forward.
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What Does It Feel Like To Have Postpartum Anxiety
When you have postpartum anxiety, you might feel worried a lot, to the point where it gets in the way of your everyday life. Worries are usually related to the baby, but they can also stretch to many other aspects of life as a new parent. This might include feeling anxious about nursing, feeding, social interactions, returning to work or school, and whether or not youre a good enough parent.
Besides nonstop, disruptive worries, you might have other feelings like:
Some mothers with postpartum PD might feel like they cannot leave their homes, because they are anxious about having a panic attack in public.
How To Treat Anxiety
Anxiety disorders can often be addressed successfully with psychotherapy, alone or in combination with medication, and with lifestyle shifts. Cognitive behavioral therapy , tailored to an individuals specific anxieties, is one of the most effective options. Patients learn to challenge distorted thought patterns that create so much distress.
Exposure therapy, in which patients are safely and gradually exposed to their fears so they no longer avoid them, is an essential part of most behavioral treatments for anxiety. Medication is often used to help patients control symptoms enough to focus on talk therapy.
Lifestyle changes play an important role in the long-term management of anxiety. Exercising, deep-breathing, and programs of meditation all target very specific facets of the disorder.
For more see Treatment of Anxiety
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Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorders:
Anyone may experience these symptoms during stressful times. However, individuals with anxiety disorders may experience them in absence of stress, with more severe symptoms and/or with several symptoms appearing together.
- Inability to relax
- Rapid pulse or pounding, skipping, racing heart
- Nausea, chest pain or pressure
- Feeling a “lump in the throat”
- Feelings of dread, apprehension or losing control
- Trembling or shaking, sweating or chills
- Fainting or dizziness, feelings of detachment
- Thoughts of death
Ways You Can Look After Yourself
- Talk about how youre feeling and what’s making you anxious. Just being heard and understood may make you feel better. You could open up to a friend or call Anxiety UKs helpline.
- Look after your physical health. Eating well, staying physically active, avoiding cigarettes and alcohol and getting enough sleep can also help you manage anxiety better.
- Breathing exercises can help: our page on panic attacks has some suggestions. Some people find practising mindfulness useful, but be aware it isn’t recommended for social anxiety.
- Consider joining a peer support group. They offer a safe place to share your experiences and worries with other people who also have an anxiety disorder. Ask your GP about local groups or visit our page on peer support. Anxiety UK offers online support groups.
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