Anxiety is a feeling many people deal with throughout their lives. It is a normal reaction to situations that evoke feelings of fear, worry, or apprehension. Anxiety can cause someone to have numerous physical or mental reactions that range in duration and severity. For some, however, the duration and severity of anxiety is disproportionate to what is causing it. This can mean the difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder.
Symptoms of Anxiety
When a person has an anxiety disorder, it can affect their ability to manage daily responsibilities. There are numerous forms of anxiety that may be specifically related to a past experience, phobias, or other triggers, but there are some general symptoms that are shared among all forms of anxiety. These include:
- Increased irritability
- Difficulty concentrating
- Insomnia or difficulty staying asleep
- Feeling “on edge” or restless
- Overwhelming feelings of worry
Causes of Anxiety
While these symptoms are general and are experienced by everyone, for a person with an anxiety disorder, these feelings can become persistent or overwhelming. Anxiety disorders are complicated and may develop over time due to a series of experiences or factors. This varies from person to person making it impossible to know if someone will develop the disorder. Some factors that may contribute to the development of an anxiety disorder include:
- Genetics: In some cases, having a family member with an anxiety disorder can make it more likely that you may develop one yourself
- Brain chemistry: Changes in the brain and hormones can change the way the brain functions
Medical side effect: Symptoms of another condition, medication, or stress following a major medical event can cause anxiety to develop
- Environmental factors: Stress, family problems, difficulty at work, or financial stress can create anxiety
- Substance abuse: Both substance abuse and withdrawal can cause symptoms of anxiety
Dealing Effectively with Anxiety
While treatment for anxiety can include the use of medication, there are other steps you can take in conjunction or on their own to help you cope with the day-to-day symptoms of anxiety. Some ways you can reduce the impact of anxiety include:
- Accept your anxiety: Anxiety is normal and can be helpful in some situations. It can help you assess situations and determine your safety. It can also help motivate you to take action. Anxiety should not be something that lasts long, however, and it should not take complete control of your life. Finding a healthy balance in coping with anxiety can lessen its control over you.
- Get active: Having an outlet is helpful for physical and mental health. Regular exercise can ease anxiety, boost your overall sense of well-being, and improve your state of mind. Finding exercises you enjoy can help you stick to a routine and want to engage in the process.
- Make time for sleep: Getting enough sleep at night is critical to your overall health. Making sure you get at least eight hours of sleep can help improve your mental and physical health. If anxiety keeps you from falling asleep at night, develop a routine that supports relaxing your mind and creating an environment that enables sleep.
- Ask for help: Changing patterns to reduce anxiety can be difficult, but the process can be made easier if you have friends and family to help. Having people in your life who can provide encouragement, help you make lifestyle changes, and assist you in overcoming challenges is vital to your success.
- Reach out to professionals: The support of loved ones is fundamental, but sometimes, it is not enough. Reaching out to a mental health professional can make a significant difference in how you cope with anxiety. Engaging in therapy to learn healthy coping mechanisms, break destructive habits, and receive support can make a big difference in how you manage anxiety moving forward.
- Determine if your anxiety is valid: When dealing with things that make you anxious, it can be difficult to take a step back and be objective, but it may be necessary. Is the thing that causes you anxiety dangerous or threatening? Or is it something you fear that has gotten out of control? Determining the consequences of facing your anxiety can help you understand what type of help you may need in dealing with it.
- Face your anxiety: If your anxiety does not come from a source that is dangerous or threatening, it may be time to face it. While your natural reaction may be to avoid the source of your anxiety, sometimes facing it head-on can help you break its power over you. Depending on what causes you anxiety, you may find that facing it allows you to overcome it. This is especially helpful when dealing with challenging phobias.
- Cut yourself some slack: Sometimes, the source of anxiety is yourself. Having rigid rules in place and setting high standards that are nearly impossible to meet can be a great source of stress. Take a step back and assess the restrictions you have placed on yourself. If they are unrealistic or if they are restrictions you would not place on others, it is worth considering alternatives that reduce stress.
- Actively work against anxiety: Rather than letting your anxiety hold you back, consider taking a risk and experiencing something new. Doing something adventurous or not meticulously planning ahead can help you not let anxiety run your life. While anxiety can provide a layer of protection in some situations, in others, it can prevent you from trying something new and exciting.
- Remember the bigger picture: It is easy to get weighed down in the small details and little experiences of every day. Instead, focus on the things you can control to lessen the impact of anxiety. Avoid finding escapes through substances as this often worsens the condition and your overall health. Instead, focus on building a healthier lifestyle through exercise, nutrition, and adequate sleep to combat the negative effects of anxiety.