By Alicia J. DiGiulio, LMHCA
Anxiety can be described as feeling uneasy or being overly concerned about a situation. Those living with anxiety describe having unrealistic fears that increase their worries. Excessive worriers can view almost anything as a potential threat. Although anxiety is a normal reaction to stress, ongoing anxiety may be the result of a disorder such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety, or Panic Disorder. Anxiety disorders affect nearly 40 million adults in the US alone.
Anxiety can affect the body in ways that may surprise you. People living with untreated and unmanaged anxiety may face a multitude of difficulties because it can affect every aspect of our daily lives. Common effects of living with untreated anxiety disorders include:
- Inability to fulfill responsibilities at home, work, or school
- Sleep disturbances
- Family and marital problems
- Inability to do things quickly or accurately
- Fear of leaving home, or panicking in unfamiliar settings
- Feeling unable to do anything to make things better
- Loss of self-esteem due to feelings of helplessness/hopelessness
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
Anxiety rarely improves without treatment. It is important to receive help if you believe you or someone you love is suffering. Here are some suggestions to help you re-establish a sense of calm and control:
Talk to your doctor.
Make sure other health problems are not adding to your feelings of anxiety. Your doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants (as these help both anxiety and depression) to help you manage anxiety and excessive worry.
With your doctor’s approval, begin a regular exercise program. Regular aerobic and strengthening exercise is an effective way to train your body to deal with stress.
Eat a nutrient-dense diet.
Stress and worrying provoke some people to eat too little, others too much, or to crave nutrient-deficient foods. Keep your health in mind when worrying nudges you toward food.
Drink caffeine in moderation.
Caffeine stimulates the nervous system, which can trigger adrenaline and make you feel nervous and jittery. If you choose to consume caffeine, do so in moderation.
Be conscious of your worries.
Living well with anxiety doesn't mean you should try to not worry. Instead, set aside 15 minutes each day where you allow yourself to focus on problems and fears, letting them go when time is up. Some people wear a rubber band on their wrist and "pop" the rubber band if they find themselves going into their "worry mode”. Find a way that works for you to acknowledge fears and then release them.
Learn to relax.
Relaxation techniques can trigger the body’s “relaxation response,” which is the opposite of "fight or flight.” Relaxation techniques offer potential to reduce anxiety and worries, and they also increase your ability to self-manage stress. Common relaxation techniques include deep breathing, listening to calming music, and activities like yoga. Mindfulness activities such as meditation or prayer can help you to pay attention to what is happening at the present moment without worrying about an undetermined future.
Have a strong social network.
Chronic feelings of loneliness or social isolation make it harder to effectively manage stress. People who are happily married and/or have large networks of friends have greater life expectancy compared with those people who do not.
Talk to a professional therapist.
Counseling can help you develop appropriate coping strategies to deal with issues that trigger excessive worrying. The therapist will help you identify what types of thoughts and beliefs cause the anxiety, then work with you to reduce them and create healthy thought patterns.
Although excessive worrying and high anxiety can cause an imbalance in your life, there are solutions. Implementing some of these tips will put you back on a path to wellness and peace.
Take the first step; contact Crosswinds today to enroll with one of our therapists.