More than 40 million Americans struggle with anxiety, and it is one of the most diagnosed mental health conditions. Anxiety happens when your body reacts to stress. Everyone experiences stress, and it is a healthy and regular part of life, but balance is critical. Stress can drastically increase anxiety when it is poorly managed. Having elevated anxiety over a long period can negatively impact a person’s physical health and cause unwanted emotions. To live a healthy and fulfilling life, learning to manage anxiety and stress levels is vital.
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, unease, or nervousness about a specific event or something with an uncertain outcome. All people experience anxiety at some point in their lives, but it can become a medical disorder quickly if not maintained appropriately. To help people identify and treat their anxiety, they should know the difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder requiring medical treatment.
People can experience normal anxiety such as apprehension about what’s to come on the first day of school, giving a speech, or a job interview. These situations may cause a person to feel nervous or fearful, which is perfectly normal. The anxiety experienced in these situations may motivate a person to do a better job. Ordinary anxiety usually doesn’t interfere with your everyday life and comes and goes depending on the situation or event that brought it on. But, in the case of an anxiety disorder, anxiety may be with you all of the time. It can be intense and even debilitating for someone. Anxiety disorders can affect a person’s life so much that they stop doing things they use to enjoy and start isolating themselves. In extreme cases, anxiety can even prevent a person from crossing the street, going to a busy public place such as a grocery store or library, and even keep them from wanting to leave their home. If an anxiety disorder goes untreated, it will only increase and get worse.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are several types of anxiety disorders, including:
Panic Disorder– People with panic disorders experience reoccurring random panic attacks. Even when there is no real danger or apparent cause for anxiety, people with panic disorders can experience frightening panic attacks and trigger severe physical reactions. When panic attacks occur, a person feels like they are losing control or having a heart attack.
Phobia– People that possess a phobia have a debilitating and overwhelming fear of an animal, place, situation, or object. A phobia is more pronounced than fear and develops when a person has an unrealistic sense of danger about something.
Social Anxiety Disorder– When social interactions cause chronic irrational anxiety, a person may have a social anxiety disorder. Everyday social interactions can cause anxiety, fear, embarrassment, or consciousness to a social anxiety disorder. People with this disorder fear that they are being judged by other people when present in social situations.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder– This disorder consists of obsessions that lead to compulsions, excessive thoughts that lead to repetitive behaviors. This disorder often means a person feels the need to arrange objects in a specific manner or fear germs.
Separation Anxiety Disorder– This disorder is commonly present in children when separated from their parents and experience excessive anxiety, but it can occur during any age. People will often dwell on the current fear of separation from someone and can’t think about anything else. Separation anxiety is more than just normal clinginess.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder– When a person has difficulty recovering after experiencing a traumatic event or experience, they may have PTSD. This condition can last anywhere from a few months to a few years. Triggers can cause people to recall memories of the trauma so clearly, that they relive it again and experience intense physical and emotional reactions.
Anxiety is more than just an ordinary and uncomfortable feeling that comes and goes quickly for many people. Without outside treatment or counseling, it can be hard to manage the mental and physical effects that anxiety causes. However, there are five things you can do to cope with your anxiety and gain insight into your psyche if you are experiencing anxiety.
1. Challenge Your Thoughts
People who have anxiety experience many negative and irrational thoughts and may assume that the worst-case scenario is likely to happen. Any positive result may feel unlikely to someone with anxiety because they focus on their main worry becoming their reality. A person must challenge these thoughts by actively thinking about them as they occur and break their usual negative thinking pattern. Ask yourself if the fear you are experiencing is based on reality and if there is a more realistic and positive outcome rather than the one you currently have. Focusing on the positive outcome that may come from a situation will help you believe that it is more likely for that to happen.
2. Adjust Your Negative Thinking Patterns
Our minds are processing thoughts constantly, and a lot of it is automatic. Once you become aware of the presence and risk of negative thoughts, you can adjust your thinking. Taking away the unrealistic expectation that you may have about something will allow it to be easier to interpret and deal with. Becoming aware of your thinking adjusts your thinking and rewires your brain’s response to stress, along with combining your insights into your thoughts.
3. Build An Optimistic Outlook
Your way of thinking is transformed by anxiety and allows you to focus on small situations, but optimistic thinking works the same way. Take those specific and small moments that cause you stress and focus on the good things that can come from it to change your thought process. When you assess situations that you may feel anxious about, you realize how small they are. Your life is more significant than any instance of stress, worry, or fear. Focusing on that can help you create a positive thinking strategy and transforms that helpless feeling into something that you feel you have control over.
4. Take Some “Me” Time
Everyone’s brain needs a break to give themselves a mental escape, especially if they deal with anxiety regularly. Reading, taking a walk-in nature, or meditation all allow your mind to wander without worrying. Relaxation is key to achieving a balanced life, and it’s critical to work a mental break into your everyday schedule, even if it is just for a few minutes. Even a tiny bit of time of listening to music or doing yoga can take you out of your heat and stop the constant worry you may be experiencing.
5. Consider Getting Therapy
Getting therapy for anxiety may be the answer to your problems. A therapist has likely worked with someone who has anxiety like yours and knows the specific strategies that can work for you. When seeing a therapist, you are in a safe place that you won’t be judged, and you are free to talk about the anxiety you are experiencing openly. No one should face overwhelming anxiety on their own, and a therapist can provide support to you and walk alongside you as you combat your anxiety. When left untreated, anxiety and anxiety disorders can significantly negatively impact your well-being both emotionally and physically.