Signs and symptoms of anxiety.
It can be challenging to determine whether you truly have anxiety based on your feelings. The best way to understand this more is with the help of a counselor. You can, however, look for things that may lead to anxiety.
Consider whether you have any of the following:
- Fear of failure.
- Worry about the future.
- Thinking something bad is going to happen.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Excessive worry that consumes your thoughts.
- Increased heart rate.
- Tense muscles.
- Questioning your decisions.
- Fear of losing control.
- Fast breathing.
- Sexual problems.
- Mind racing.
- Mind going blank.
- Phobic behavior.
- Avoidance of situations.
- Social distress.
You do not need to have all these symptoms to have anxiety. If you do have any, you should consider talking to a counselor. They can help you understand what you’re feeling, whether it is anxiety or another issue, and how to get help.
Factors that may make your anxiety worse.
Some things can make anxiety worse. If you struggle with anxiety, consider each of these things. Are they something you relate to? Is it something that you could try to change? Think about them and see how they may be impacting your anxiety.
Sleep provides the recovery time the body, brain, and emotions need after a long day. It also allows your systems to prepare for the new day ahead. Inadequate sleep or irregular sleep habits make it difficult for the body, brain, and soul to do this, resulting in increased anxiety.
A chaotic or messy living space.
When you live in a messy space, the brain sees chaos. It automatically, sometimes without you knowing it, raises your anxiety level. It can increase tension, make it hard to relax, and foster an atmosphere of chaos in the mind.
News and media.
As much as you may want to be informed, you are not designed for the constant barrage of information provided by media outlets. From television, print, radio, and social media, there is an onslaught of negative information presented to you throughout the day. This can increase your overall anxiety, even if these things are unrelated to what worries you.
Caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.
While they may seem harmless and unrelated to your anxiety, each of these things that you consume has the potential to make your anxiety worse. They may work differently, but they each affect how you think, feel, and behave.
Caffeine has a host of effects that impact anxiety including the following:
- Stimulating your fight-or-flight response.
- Increased heart rate.
- Faster breathing rate.
- Increasing body temperature.
- Raising blood pressure.
- Increasing stress hormones.
Alcohol use, even occasionally, impacts your anxiety. While it may seem like something that will relax you, it often has other effects including the following:
- Impacting how you respond to stressful situations.
- Affects neurotransmitters that impact stress, panic, and anxiety.
- Disrupts sleep.
- Lowers mood.
- Potential consequences for behavior when drinking.
- Physical symptoms like headache, nausea, dehydration, and low blood sugar.
- Sometimes creates an uncertain or out-of-control feeling
Sugar impacts the body and brain in several ways, including potentially worsening anxiety. Some effects include the following:
- The release of insulin makes the body try to counteract a spike in blood sugar and stabilize blood sugar levels
- Increased feelings of worry and sadness.
- Linked to depression.
- Mood swings
While you may not need to eliminate these things, consider how much you consume, when you consume, why you consume, and how they impact you. Conversations with your medical doctor and your counselor can help you determine the role of caffeine, alcohol, and sugar in your overall wellness.
Lack of exercise.
Science has been clear about the physical benefits of exercise, but you may be less aware of the mental health benefits. Exercise provides an opportunity for release. The physical exertion of exercise can release tension and stress. This is partially because it increases endorphins. These are the “feel-good” chemicals that boost your mood.
Exercise also decreases stress hormones. Important things happen in the brain when you exercise. Anti-anxiety neurochemicals such as serotonin are available when you exercise. This lowers anxiety and improves overall mood. When you don’t exercise, you may find that your anxiety gets worse.
Missing or skipping meals.Sometimes schedules make it tricky to eat a meal at a reasonable time. Other times, the way you feel may change your appetite, resulting in skipped meals. It may seem insignificant at the time. When you do this, however, your body isn’t getting the fuel it needs to function well.
It also means your blood sugar can plummet, leaving your body to work hard to make up for it. This can increase physical anxiety within the body which then feeds into emotional anxiety.
Not drinking enough water.
Water is a key component to overall wellness and body function. It impacts brain health, how you feel, and your behavior. Even a slight lack of water can increase cortisol, the stress hormone. This directly impacts how you feel and the way you handle things, potentially increasing anxiety.
Lack of fresh air and time outside.
You were not designed to spend all your time indoors. Your body is designed to get outside regularly. “Getting outside, breathing fresh air, and taking in some vitamin D from the sun can lift our mood, lower anxiety, and boost our mental health.” (Natalia Tague, ED.S., LPC, ACS, CCTP)
If you want to lower your anxiety, time outdoors plays a role. When you are indoors most of the time you miss the benefits of fresh air, movement, and sunshine that can decrease your anxiety.
How to make changes.
If you read this list and identify with any of the things that can worsen anxiety, it may feel overwhelming. It may even make you feel more anxious to consider these things and think about how to make effective changes in your life.
Three things are important to consider:
1. Don’t tackle all these things at once.
If you try to change all these things in your life at once, you will likely fail. It is better to look at one or two things and make changes for some time. After you change these things for a few weeks or a month, consider making an additional change.
2. Don’t give up before you start.
Lists like this can be incredibly overwhelming. This may even be to the point that you want to throw in the towel before you start. But doing that won’t help you. Instead, remind yourself that you are capable of change. You are capable of hard things. You can take small steps toward big progress.
3. Don’t go alone.
You may be tempted to try to handle this on your own. But when you do things in isolation, they are less likely to work. Instead, consider who can support you as you address things that may be impacting your anxiety. Do you have a trusted friend or family member to whom you can talk? Maybe a pastor or counselor? Reach out for help instead of doing it on your own.
A trained counselor is the perfect person to help you navigate your anxiety and discover freedom. Look through the counselors on this site and reach out. A counselor is there to support you in your wellness journey and walk with you toward the healing you desire.
“Stressed”, Courtesy of Uday Mittal, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Computer Time”, Courtesy of Robert Bye, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Tanking Up”, Courtesy of Bluewater Sweden, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Standing in the Stream”, Courtesy of Chris Fuller, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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