All About Anxiety
Worry and stress are normal parts of life. It’s a typical response to pressured situations – maybe a big presentation at work or university, an upcoming deadline, or you might be nervous to meet your partner’s parents. For most, that worry and anxious tension disappears when the stressor does. Anxiety is when the tension doesn’t disappear. It persists without any reason and can impair the way you function on a day to day basis.
There are several different anxiety conditions that have unique symptoms, however, there are common symptoms that may develop over time. The main features involve excessive worries and fearfulness, overthinking, and catastrophising situations by picturing the worst-case scenario. These thoughts can lead to panic attacks, increased heart rate and breathing, tension, and restlessness, and sometimes the avoidance of certain places or situations.
There can be many reasons a person can develop an anxiety condition. Often a range of factors interact. Some who experience anxiety have a genetic predisposition or personality traits that may put a child at risk of later developing anxiety such as perfectionism, timidness and inhibition. Stressful life events and long-term challenges (e.g., losing a job, trauma, chronic medical illness, the death of a loved one, relationship problems) may also act to ‘trigger’ anxiety if you’re already at risk. Substance use may also contribute, as can other mental health conditions such as depression.
Here are some tips to help manage anxiety:
- Practice mindfulness with meditation: Meditating allows you to use deep breathing to anchor you in the present moment. This can help you to bring yourself back to the moment and clear your mind of worries about the future. Using deep breathing also sends a signal to your nervous system that it’s okay to calm down as anxiety can put your body in high alert. This may help to relieve tension and counteract your body’s tendency to breathe quickly and shallowly when anxious.
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle: There is a reason doctors always talk about eating a healthy, balanced diet, having a good night’s sleep and regularly exercising. While maintaining a healthy lifestyle may reduce stress levels by providing you with something distracting or enjoyable to do, it also helps create an environment in your body that is ready and open to change. Nourishing your body can help your immune system operate more effectively, help change the balance of chemicals in your brain that contribute to happiness and pleasure, and help to equip your body to cope with stress.
- Plan and keep track: Sometimes it helps to give yourself some time to worry. Setting aside a short amount of time to identify and address your worries can help them from bottling to the surface and dominating your mind. Try to keep track of the ebb and flow of your anxiety with a journal to determine the best times to do this – you can plan your week and organise your days around your anxiety so it doesn’t affect your routine or daily life.
- Challenge unhelpful thoughts: Be aware of when your mind is trying to tell you that a situation may be overwhelming or that you can’t deal with it. Identifying these thoughts can give you a chance to counter them. Trying to reconsider your original interpretation of a situation and going through the facts can stop you from immediately jumping to the worst case interpretation.
- Talk to someone: Speaking to a professional can help to change your thinking patterns, improve your coping skills, and provide you with support through recovery. Psychologists can help you to identify unhelpful thoughts and behaviours, boost mindfulness, and help you learn more about the condition. All forms of therapy are based on scientific evidence, and have shown great success in reducing and eliminating symptoms, reducing stress, and improving quality of life.
- For more tips, see: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety
Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy. – Leo Buscaglia