What Exactly is Anxiety?
Let’s just admit it; most of us experience anxiety from time to time. It’s expressed through tension, uncertainty, and sometimes through fear. When it hits us, these worries can affect our sleep, our appetite and our ability to concentrate. Let’s talk a bit about it and about how to lose your anxiety.
The reality is that anxiety and fear are important for your survival because they act to protect your body against stress or danger. They trigger the release of hormones like adrenalin and cortisol. As a result of the release of those stress hormones, you breathe more quickly which increases your energy and helps you “run away from the tiger”.
There are other physical changes which are produced as a result of anxiety or fear:
- You sweat to prevent overheating
- Your mouth becomes dry
- Your digestive system slows to allow blood to be deflected back to your muscles which means you will be able to react more quickly to danger
- Your brain becomes more alert, and your senses are heightened
These changes need to occur for your body to take action and protect itself in a dangerous situation, either by running away or staying and fighting. Known as the fight or flight reaction, once the danger has passed other hormones will be released to help you lose your anxiety and begin to return to a more relaxed state.
What Causes Anxiety?
Anxiety can be triggered by a number of factors. Something distressing may have happened to you which may have triggered emotions that you couldn’t really handle at the time. You may become anxious thinking you’ll find yourself in the same situation again and will experience those same feelings.
If you don’t feel in control of different aspects of your life, it’s not unusual to feel anxious about events. One person may succumb to anxiety more easily than another because of a mixture of personality, current circumstances and childhood experiences.
You may feel anxious because you dread feeling the symptoms of anxiety; you then experience those symptoms because you’re having anxious thoughts about them. Kind of a circular problem isn’t it?
What are the Different Types of Anxiety?
Anxiety occurs in a number of different ways, and you may experience one or more different types of anxiety or panic disorder.
Some of the main types of anxiety and panic disorders are:
Panic disorder: You experience sudden and unexpected panic attacks. Some of the symptoms include:
- heart palpitations
- shortness of breath
Agoraphobia: You fear having a panic attack in a public or unsafe place. This can lead to avoiding situations where you feel you can’t escape quickly should you experience feelings of panic; you avoid places like shops, restaurants, buses, trains and so on. You prefer to stay in the house where you feel safer and not venture out into the world.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: You experience chronic anxiety. You worry excessively and unrealistically about everything! You are anxious about finances, relationships, work and/or school performance and so on.
Social Phobia: You fear embarrassment or humiliation in social situations, particularly those where you fear you will have to endure the scrutiny of others. This can result in avoiding social situations and interaction with others.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: You experience recurring thoughts, images or impulses that intrude on your mind.
These thoughts compel you to perform “rituals” to try and get rid of the anxiety brought by these obsessions. These rituals can manifest as repeatedly washing your hands to dispel a fear of being contaminated or constantly checking to see if the lights are switched off. Feeling compelled to have the volume on your remote set to an odd numbered level or insisting on arranging your dishwasher in a certain way are two other examples.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): You experience a range of distressing symptoms following a traumatic event.
These symptoms can include:
- constantly thinking about the event
- avoiding activities or objects associated with the event
There are a number of ways to help control or reduce anxiety. Learning controlled breathing is useful for controlling panic, and gradually facing the situations and things you fear (exposure) that bring on your anxiety is particularly useful for phobias. Other anxiety solutions include:
Relaxation techniques – symptoms can be controlled by breathing and relaxation techniques and by replacing distressing, negative thoughts with positive, peaceful ones. Try what I’ve been using; the Balance app. At the time of this writing, it’s still free for the first year.
Assertiveness training – for some people, learning how to handle difficult situations and how to stand up for yourself can make you feel more confident and more relaxed.
Complementary therapies – can help some people relax, sleep better, and deal with their anxiety symptoms. Yoga, meditation, aromatherapy, massage, reflexology, homeopathy and hypnotherapy are methods that can be useful.
Exercise – can help you cope with anxiety and feelings of tension and can improve your sleep. Exercise uses adrenalin and other hormones which are produced when you’re under stress thus allowing your muscles to relax. Exercise also raises your level of serotonin; serotonin is a “feel-good” chemical.
Good methods of exercising are walking and swimming as they allow you to be active at your own pace and choose whether to exercise alone or with others.
Healthy living – a healthy diet and plenty of sleep are always a benefit. Avoiding excess sugar and processed foods and avoiding the excess use of stimulants like coffee and cigarettes is beneficial as well.
Talking – can help relieve feelings as you may find others have had similar experiences. There are different types of counseling and psychotherapy available which will either look at how you are feeling or the reasons why you may be experiencing anxiety if it becomes a persistent issue for you.
Although there are a lucky few among us who seem pretty bulletproof to negative challenges, most of us experience anxiety at some point in our lives. Some of us live with it on a daily basis. I think the key is to recognize it and face it head on. Taking steps that will support a less anxious you like eating well and getting off the couch and moving are key to helping you lose your anxiety and living a more relaxed and comfortable life.
Helping You Achieve Major Wellness!
Cheryl A Major, CNWC
I’m author, health coach, and entrepreneur Cheryl A Major, and I would love to connect with you. If you’re new to the world of creating a better mindset for yourself, please check out my training on how to do just that at Embrace Optimism. Learn how to improve your mindset and create a happier and more positive life for yourself and those around you.
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