Anxiety is a normal and often healthy emotion. However, when people experience regular bouts of high levels of anxiety, it could become a disorder.
“Anxiety disorders affect 40 million people in the United States. However, only 36.9 percent of people with an anxiety disorder receive treatment.” Adam Felman, MedicalNewsToday
Symptoms of anxiety are:
- excessive nervousness
- restlessness, a feeling of being “on edge”
These physical symptoms alter the way a person processes emotions and behaves. It is important to know the difference between normal levels of anxiety and an anxiety disorder that requires treatment.
It is normal to experience anxiety when triggered by a potentially harmful situation. The symptoms of this are, a raised heartbeat, sweating, increased sensitivity to one’s surroundings. But, we should not experience this regularly.
A person with an anxiety disorder usually presents with other intense symptoms, such as; nervousness, worry, fear, or even paranoia that are way out of proportion to the trigger.
The Five Major Types Of Anxiety Disorders
- GeneralizedAnxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder, GAD, is an anxiety disorder characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it.
- Obsessive-CompulsiveDisorder (OCD)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, OCD, is an anxiety disorder and is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Repetitive behaviors such as hand washing, counting, checking, or cleaning are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away.
- Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder and is characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat.
- Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder)
Social Phobia, or Social Anxiety Disorder, is an anxiety disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. (National Institutes of Mental Health).
How Do I Know If I Have Anxiety?
14 Ways To Manage The Symptoms Of Anxiety
Even if you do not find yourself in one of the categories above, these 14 ways to manage the symptoms of anxiety will still be useful for managing day to day stress. They will help to prevent anxiety and make you feel more balanced every day.
1. Try some deep breathing exercises – Meditate in a way that works for you, some people like to sit and meditate in silence, others use mantras. If walking helps you to relax, try that too.
We are all different, so find a way that works best for you. The key is to release the tension in your muscles, and by doing deep breathing exercises, you allow more oxygen into your lungs.
With shallow breathing, you constrict all your muscles, which causes tension in the body, and a lack of oxygen to the brain, which can make it difficult to think straight.
2. Self-care – good self-care is crucial for your well-being. What do I mean by self-care? It simply means taking good care of yourself, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually regularly.
This is your responsibility, no one else can take care of your health for you. This sounds obvious, I know, but you would be surprised how many adults can’t understand why they feel unwell and out of balance. It’s as if they had nothing to do with it.
Good health and well being is all about making good decisions and choosing what’s best for you in all areas of your life. This takes daily reflection and constant adjustments in your habits and choices.
3. Try to slow down your mind by staying in the present moment – When your mind is not focused, your body can feel uneasy. People with a racing mind can’t sit still, and they often end up pushing themselves too hard. Most of our anxiety stems from future and past thinking. We worry about the future, which we have no control of and feel upset by things in the past.
To be free from anxiety we have to take control of our thinking. If you have the power to correct some past mistakes or make an amend, then do what you can and let the rest go! The past is just that, the past, so leave it there and live in the present moment.
The same for the future, can you know your future? You can make plans and do all that you can to move in the direction of your dreams, but as we all know from experience, life has a way of surprising us and we don’t always end up where we had intended.
The secret is to keep adjusting your sails so that your life is flowing in the right direction with good, positive, loving energy.
4. Don’t worry! – for some of you, this seems impossible because perhaps you have formed a habit of worrying. Maybe your mother or father was a worrier, and you just took it on. You think it’s good to worry, that it shows concern. Well, this is far from the truth, it is not caring, or loving to worry about your life or others’ lives.
When you catch yourself worrying, remind yourself that you are not trusting God in that moment and you are being driven by fear. What does the bible say about worry? …. “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” No, you can’t, so why worry?
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6: 25-27)
5. Journal – I always recommend journaling as a way of managing your anxiety because it’s pro-active and you are moving your anxious thoughts from your mind onto the paper.
The best way to journal is to write without editing. It can be messy and untidy. If it’s full of emotion, it may be hard to stay all neat and tidy.
Remember, it’s for you and no one else. If you are afraid someone will read it, then you may have to tear it up after or hide it well!
6. Watch something funny, something that makes you laugh – many people say this works well for them as it lightens your mood and takes your mind off yourself and your problems. I tried this a few times, but it’s not my favourite way of de-stressing. I prefer to be more active as some sort of movement seems to help me more. But, it’s one way that helps many people.
7. Be creative – this is an excellent way of managing your anxiety as it requires you to focus and in doing the creative work, you have less time to worry. The added benefit of being creative is that you get a nice feeling of accomplishing something new.
This method of managing your anxiety can be a difficult one to do, as it’s usually the last thing we want to do. People who suffer from anxiety, tend to want to dwell on the thought or situation that’s causing anxious feelings to occur.
But, I encourage you to try to push through and do something creative as many artists’ best work comes from a place of darkness or even anxiety!
You might say, but I’m not creative, I can’t paint or sing, etc. But, there are so many ways to be creative such as playing a musical instrument, writing, dancing, cooking, gardening, decorating your home, making jewelry, pottery, knitting, etc.
8. Get active – walk, cycle, swim, dance, hike, stretch, go to the gym, whatever exercise you like best. Exercise is one of the best ways to alter your mood.
It doesn’t matter how you choose to get active, it’s about moving your body, changing your environment, and distracting yourself from dwelling on the negative.
As with being creative, there is the added benefit of looking and feeling good after the exercise, which in turn makes you feel happy.
9. Eat healthily – this is essential to living a stress-free life. Food plays a very important role in our mental and emotional well being. Think about what you eat daily and ask yourself, is this helping me?
The basic rules are, not too much sugar, fat, salt, or caffeine. Everything in moderation is a good way to start, but there is so much information on healthy eating on the internet, so it’s easy to educate yourself on this.
10. Don’t run from your anxiety – stay with it. When you feel anxious, it feels uncomfortable, right? This is where people often act out to get rid of the anxious feelings, but to turn to an addictive habit will not get rid of the anxiety.
Drinking, taking drugs, or acting compulsively are not the answer. Instead, try to go for a walk, talk to a friend or counselor, or join a support group.
11. Go for a medical check-up – Go see your doctor, you may need to take anti-anxiety medication for a while. There is no harm in taking medication, but I recommend you work with your doctor on trying to live without medication, if possible. But, get a full check-up because there could be something physical going on that could be depleting your energy, causing you to feel low or anxious.
12. Practice gratitude – learn to count your blessings every day. It’s very easy to complain, and compare yourself to others. Instead, learn to thank God for everything you have now, and in time, God will add to your life.
Keep a good attitude. Focus on the positive aspects of your life. The bible says, be of good cheer. A grateful heart is a happy heart.
13. Connect with others – Attend a social gathering if you are isolating. If you’re prone to social anxiety, it’s important to make time to go to social gatherings. It doesn’t have to be a party or a noisy place, there are so many different groups nowadays, to suit everyone’s tastes. The Church is a great place to connect with others and get support.
14. Visit a therapist, coach, or join a support group. Sometimes, you just feel too fragile to work or attend social groups. During times like this, it may be best to go for one-to-one therapy. It’s so much easier to share your problems with one trustworthy person. I encourage you to find someone you feel safe with if you are feeling this way right now.
How Anxiety Can Affect Your Relationships
Everyone wants to be happy and have good, healthy, fulfilling relationships, but millions of people around the globe have not found it. People are still seeking love and connection, yet few are finding it.
People with happy, healthy, fulfilling relationships tend to have good self-confidence and awareness. They like themselves and work at managing their unhealthy attitudes and behaviours.
So how can anxiety affect your relationships?
Are you overly dependent or avoidant?
Overly dependent people need others for validation and have an intense need for closeness to their partner or friend, so much so, that it makes the other person feel smothered.
Because they fear the worst and expect rejection, they’re often driven to over connect and feel unloved when the people in their lives are not giving them what they think they need.
It is possible to overcome this dependency, by learning to love yourself more and practicing new ways to manage your anxiety.
On the other hand, if you are avoidant, it means you are afraid of opening up and expressing your feelings in your relationships. So, even though the avoidant person wants to be close, they also fear it.
There are ways of dealing with being avoidant of close relationships, by educating yourself and maybe discussing these patterns with a trained counsellor or psychotherapist. There is hope, so don’t give up.
This article explains what anxiety is and how to know if you have an anxiety disorder. It also goes through the different types of anxiety and its symptoms. It shows you how you can manage your emotions and points you to a path of recovery and healing.
If you think you have an anxiety disorder, it is best for you to consult your doctor and they will recommend a treatment plan for you.
Anxiety doesn’t have to be something you have for the rest of your life. There is usually a cause which I discuss in my next blog. Remember, it is always God’s will for you to be healthy and whole.