Wondering how to deal with anxiety? Unfortunately, anxiety is one of those things all of us must deal with in one way or another. There are a great many things in our daily lives that can bring about anxiety, such as going on an important first date, writing your finals in school or at college, waiting for a biopsy or other medical test results, giving a speech, being on an interview with a prospective employer, or the lead up to a big game.For most of us, whatever anxiety we may feel in each situation passes once we’re over the awkward greetings, once that is underway or when we’ve delivered the first joke in our speech, and so on. For other people, anxiety doesn’t go away, and it can affect their ability to do life simply and without hindrance. In such a situation, anxiety may have developed into a disorder that needs medical attention.
If you find that your anxiety severely complicates your life or causes you to miss out on things that could enrich your life like social events, school, job opportunities, or recreational activities with friends, consider speaking with a mental health professional such as a therapist or a psychologist to get help and figure out how to deal with anxiety. Anxiety disorders are treatable, and the sooner you can get the help you need, the better.
If you struggle with anxiety, but it’s not at the level where it requires medical attention, how can you deal with it? It’s important in such a case to understand what it is before learning how to deal with anxiety effectively.
What Does it Feel Like to Have Anxiety?
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” When you’re feeling anxious, it can manifest differently for different individuals. While some of the symptoms of anxiety may be experienced in common by most people, not all of them will apply to every individual in the same way.
Some of the emotional and physical symptoms of anxiety may include:
- feeling weak (some people call it “jelly legs”)
- gastrointestinal distress (such as diarrhea, gas, or constipation)
- the feeling of butterflies in your stomach
- clammy or sweaty hands
- rapid or shallow breathing
- rapid heart rate
- feeling nervous or tense
- trembling, feeling tired or lethargic
- insomnia, trouble concentrating on tasks
- preoccupation with whatever you’re feeling anxious about
- repetitive behaviors like washing hands (which may also signal an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
- the desire to avoid the trigger of your anxiety.
Anxiety has different effects on different people. For some, feeling anxious before a big game or performance helps by giving them a keen awareness and edge, while for others it is a distraction that takes their focus from present tasks.
If one experiences the physical symptoms of anxiety over an extended period, that can produce stress and affect one’s health. If the anxiety is strong enough, it can affect the performance of tasks and may even cause someone to avoid doing something, which all negatively affect your quality of life.
Why do I feel anxious? Causes of Anxiety
Anxiety is a natural reaction to situations that we may find threatening. Our bodies prepare us for a fight-or-flight response, which accounts for many of the physical symptoms of anxiety. The things that cause anxiety in people differ. Some people have performance anxiety, which manifests in certain situations such as when they must give a speech or presentation but doesn’t otherwise make a mark on their life.
Other people are anxious in social situations. Still, others are anxious around dogs or other animals, and so on. Family, work, health, money, and other life issues are among the many things that can trigger anxiety.
When these anxieties persist over a prolonged period and affect day-to-day life, the individual likely has an anxiety disorder. It is wise to seek help for anxiety if it is prolonged, disruptive, or out of proportion to the trigger.
It’s not entirely certain why some people are more anxious than others. One possible cause is that some people who undergo a traumatic experience will have their anxiety triggered because they are genetically predisposed to it.
Additionally, anxiety may be a symptom underlying another condition such as depression. Anxiety may also be linked to environmental factors, such as learned behavior if one has parents who were anxious.
Getting to Work: How to Deal with Anxiety
How then can we deal with anxiety? Remember, anxiety is a normal, healthy emotional reaction that is valuable for our survival. Feeling anxious over specific situations isn’t something unusual. When anxiety hasn’t become an anxiety disorder, there are several ways to help yourself be less anxious. These include:
Getting regular exercise.
Regular exercise, whether it’s walking, running, cycling, swimming, or Pilates not only allows you to reduce stress and take your mind off things, but it can help you improve your self-image and releases brain chemicals such as dopamine and endorphins which elevate your mood and are the body’s natural painkiller.
In exercise, not only is your brain producing these feel-good chemicals that uplift your mood, but it is also reducing the levels of chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline that cause stress.
Deep breathing and muscle relaxation techniques.
These soothe the physical and mental symptoms of anxiety.
Change your diet.
What you eat has a profound effect on your body and mind. Eating healthy food is great for your overall mental and physical health and consuming fewer stimulants such as caffeine and other foods like sugary drinks, tea, chocolate, alcohol, or drugs like cannabis will help you keep your anxious emotions under better control. These foods and substances tend to aggravate and can bring on anxiety and panic attacks.
Maintaining a good and regular sleeping pattern is good for your overall health. Sleeping well helps you to eat better, be more focused and productive, and it enables you to recognize and process emotional information better.
Watch your thoughts.
If negative thoughts hold sway, they can generate even more anxiety as you dwell on them. Instead of focusing on what could go wrong, or the ways things aren’t going according to plan, exercise faith and trust that God in his wisdom and goodness will bring all things together for good (Romans 8:28). Take your thoughts captive and replace negative beliefs with positive affirmations of trust in the Lord.
Take a time out.
Taking time to relax and decompress can help you reduce stress. At times, anxiety comes about due to tunnel vision. Being away from your desk or whatever situation triggers your anxiety can give you breathing room as well as an opportunity to keep perspective.
Watch the medications you take.
Before using an herbal remedy or over-the-counter medications, check with your doctor or pharmacist if they may contain any chemicals that may aggravate anxiety symptoms.
One of the ways to reduce stress and anxiety in your life is by getting organized. When you know what your triggers for anxiety are, you can try to work around them to limit the impact of those triggers. If your anxiety gets triggered by work deadlines, for example, making a clear calendar that sets out your deadlines might help you to meet them better prepared.
Breaking down your tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks and steps is also a good way to make something that at first seems daunting easier to deal with. At times, when you organize your calendar, you may find that you have entirely too much on your plate and may need to cut down on some commitments to create room in your life. If that’s what you need to do to prepare and complete your tasks on time, then you should do it.
Anxiety, while being a normal and healthy emotion, can take a toll on you and your relationships, particularly if it becomes a permanent feature in your life. Anxiety disorders are treatable with a combination of medication and counseling. If your anxiety becomes unmanageable and you find that it disrupts your life, consider seeing a therapist and getting a diagnosis so that you can deal with your anxiety, enjoy your life to the full, and not be held back.
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