Do you hear a loud alarm constantly ringing in your ears, making it difficult to think or concentrate? Imagine strolling down a dark alley at night; your heart begins to race, your palm starts to sweat, and your mind goes all over the worst-case scenarios. The worry and unease are called anxiety.
These situations can be more than a vivid imagination. Just as the footsteps in the dark alley were a false alarm, many of our anxieties are also unfounded but hard to shut off. This is why it’s essential to understand and manage anxiety to prevent it from controlling our lives.
Common Cause of Anxiety
Knowing the cause of anxiety is one of the steps to addressing it or treating it entirely and effectively. You can get it from a variety of places, including:
- Underlying conditions such as PTSD or depression.
- Physical factors include hormone changes, lack of sleep, nutrition, and genetic inclination to mental health disorders.
- Past or childhood trauma, abuse, or unresolved issues.
- Challenging situations at home, including divorce, loss of a job, or financial problems.
- Environmental factors such as overcrowding, noise level, and living conditions.
- Overwhelming feelings of stress due to personal expectations.
- Stressful environment at work or school due to peer pressure or responsibilities.
- Inherited the tendency from parents or family members.
- Neurological sensitivity to certain situations.
- Biochemical imbalance or the side effects of certain medications.
- Other anxiety-triggering lifestyle habits like excessive caffeine or sugar intake.
All of this can lead to an overwhelming sense of fear that can seem impossible to control. In addition, these conditions can range in severity depending on the individual. Although any of these causes can precipitate an anxiety attack, it is essential to remember that everyone’s experience with anxiety is different.
Understanding the Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety is our body’s natural response to danger, which can be real or imagined. When our brain perceives any threat, the body goes into full-alert mode and releases hormones to prepare for a fight-or-flight reaction. This biological process, known as the “fight-or-flight” response, triggers physical changes such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, tensed muscles, and difficulty breathing, also known as an anxiety attack or panic attack.
Anxiety can be a wearing force in our lives, stealing our peace of mind and impacting our daily activities negatively. Everyone experiences this common emotion in their lifetime, but when it gets worse, becoming excessive and irrational, it can be toxic.
Let’s observe the signs and effects of being confronted with a situation that triggers anxiety:
The Physical Symptoms
When we are in a state of stress, our body will respond physically to the situation. As mentioned, our heart rate increases, our breathing becomes rapid and shallow, we break out into a sweat, and our muscles tense or unresponsive. Worst, we may have headaches, nausea, chest pain, digestive issues, shaking and trembling, or faintness.
The Mental Symptoms
We may experience trouble concentrating, our minds racing uncontrollably through our thoughts, worries, and fears. Our mind is on a battlefield full of conflicting ideas. As a result, negative thought patterns can set in, such as feeling defeated or irrational fear that something terrible will happen. Depersonalization or derealization occurs in extreme cases where reality seems distorted and unreal.
The Emotional Symptoms
We can feel overwhelmed by the situation we are in. We might feel on edge or hyper-aroused to the point where it affects our ability to think clearly and make decisions, which can be terrifying. We may also get feelings of panic, helplessness, and hopelessness. At times, depression or sadness can set in even without any explainable reason at all.
The Behavioral Symptoms
Anxiety will also hit our behavior towards ourselves and others. We may start to withdraw from social interactions, avoiding any situations where anxiety is triggered. We may become irritable and argumentative with those around us.
For example, we might snap at our family or friends when they don’t understand the intensity of our emotions or lash out in frustration. Sometimes we may regret our behavior afterward, feeling guilt and shame for how we acted. Hence, we isolate ourselves further, unable to cope with the moment. The feeling of defeat could be paralyzing, knowing there’s nothing we can do about it.
Difficulty Sleeping and Eating
We may lose our appetite or overindulge in food because of anxiety, leading to weight gain or loss. Similarly, we may be unable to sleep due to racing thoughts or nightmares, thus affecting our concentration and performance during the day.
Fear is natural and can be in many forms. It is crucial to remember that although anxiety can be a powerful emotion, it does not have to control our lives. We can improve by understanding the signs and symptoms of anxiety.
Know Your Triggers
Be aware of the situations, places, or people that can trigger your anxiety. It can range from public speaking to walking around in a crowded place. Recognizing the triggers can allow us to take preventive measures and plan our reactions accordingly.
Speak Out About Your Feelings
Talking to someone who understands what you are going through and can provide emotional support. Whether it is family, friends, or a counselor, talking to someone can help us constructively process our emotions. You don’t even need to discuss your anxiety specifically. You can talk about anything that interests you as long as it makes you feel better.
Speaking out about your feelings will allow you to build a support system. This support system will be your safety net when anxiety strikes and you need someone to lean on. The people you trust will always understand and be there to hold your hand and endure tough times.
Challenge Negativity and Exercise Positive Thinking
Anxiety can take over our minds and make us feel helpless. To battle this feeling, we need to challenge any thoughts that are negative or irrational. You can do this by filling your head with positive affirmations and focusing on the good in every situation. Acknowledge your worries but reframe them into something more empowering.
When difficulties arise, focus on solutions instead of problems. Engage yourself in activities that will distract you from thinking about them. For example, do something creative, sing, dance, or work out. Doing this will help us stay grounded and prevent our anxiety from spiraling out of control.
Practice Relaxation Exercises
When our anxiety levels peak, relaxation exercises such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can help us to regain control of the situation. Before anxiety attacks, learn these exercises and practice them regularly. You can stream them online, attend a class, or follow along from a book.
Develop Healthy Habits
Anxiety doesn’t always come from a single source. Sometimes, it can be caused by our lifestyle. As much as possible, stick to a healthy diet and an exercise routine that fits your preferences and mood. Have a comfortable sleep pattern and take regular breaks from work or study. These can help manage stress levels, reduce stress hormones, and trigger the production of endorphins. Find a hobby or activities you are passionate about to keep you away from overthinking, fear-inducing thoughts.
Remember to limit caffeine and alcohol intake when developing healthy habits. Try to eat more natural, whole food and drink plenty of water.
Take Time for Yourself
Make sure you make time each day for yourself, doing something soothing and calming like meditating, reading, listening to music, or taking a walk. A few minutes of relaxation can make all the difference in reducing stress and anxiety levels. More specifically, there are self-help books and audio recordings that can help us get through difficult times and offer guidance on scientifically or practically managing anxiety in healthy ways.
Seek Professional Help
If anxiety symptoms become unmanageable and start hindering your ability to manage daily activities, consider talking to a mental health professional. They are trained to assess and provide appropriate treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or medication. They can also prescribe medicine if necessary.
At the end of the day, remember that it is okay not to be okay. Do not always force yourself to be strong, and never be ashamed to seek help. Instead, defeat your anxiety one step at a time.
Remember That Anxiety is Temporary
Although anxiety can be overwhelming, remind yourself that the feeling of fear will come and go. As we work on our coping skills and make lifestyle changes, we can learn how to manage our emotions more effectively over time. We know we are strong enough to face our fears and ultimately improve.
With the right mindset, lifestyle, and support system, we can learn how to manage our anxiety and regain control over our lives. Feel free to seek help if needed. With patience and self-care, you will soon find yourself in a much more positive headspace.