Anxiety...What is it? And, How to Deal with it


Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, unease, or worry that usually occurs in the absence of an imminent threat. It differs from fear, which is the body’s natural response to immediate danger.


Anxiety is part of the body’s natural reaction to stress, so it can be helpful at times, making you more alert and ready for action.


Anxiety disorders and normal feelings of anxiousness are two different things though. When feelings of fear or nervousness become excessive, difficult to control, or interfere with your daily life, an anxiety disorder may be present. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental disorders in the United States.


It’s common to think about anxiety in a way that may hinder our ability to overcome it.

Negative emotions such as sadness, anger, and fear are important to our survival, and emotional discomfort is very normal.


What Causes Anxiety Disorders?


Researchers think that the following may influence whether you develop an anxiety disorder:

  • Brain Structure: Changes in the areas that regulate stress and anxiety may contribute to the disorder.

  • Genetics Anxiety: Disorders are known to run in families.

  • Traumatic Events: Experiencing a stressful or traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one or childhood abuse, may trigger the condition.

People can learn to be anxious in various situations. This can occur through experiences in which anxiety or fear becomes associated with a specific stimulus or a stressful or traumatic event, by learning about something fearful, and through vicarious conditioning.


Vicarious conditioning occurs when you watch someone else experience a stressful and traumatic situation and come to see certain situations as dangerous.


How Does Anxiety Relate to Depression?


Depression and anxiety are different mood disorders, but it’s very common for someone with an anxiety disorder to suffer from depression too.

Anxiety may trigger depression or vice versa. Those who suffer from both anxiety and depression tend to have more severe symptoms and an earlier onset of symptoms of both.


If you have both anxiety and depression, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Apprehension

  • Decreased energy and increased fatigue

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Problems sleeping

  • Rumination

  • Worry

But, will it ever stop? Yes, Queen! It is possible to get rid of anxiety with therapy. It may also take changing your mind a bit about the power your mind has over you.


What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety?


Your heart beats fast, and your breathing speeds up. Your chest may feel tight, and you might start to sweat. If you’ve ever felt it, you know that anxiety is just as much a physical state as a mental state. That’s because there’s a very strong biological chain reaction that occurs when we encounter a stressful event or begin to worry about potential stressors or dangers in the future. Other physical symptoms include sweating, headaches, and insomnia. Psychological symptoms may include feeling restless or irritable, feeling tense, having a feeling of dread, or experiencing persistent or obsessive thoughts.


There are several different anxiety-related disorders such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder). Some symptoms overlap across many of these disorders, and others are more specific to a single disorder. In general, however, all anxiety-related disorders feature worry, nervousness, or fear that is ongoing, excessive, and has negative effects on a person’s ability to function. It can be tricky to decide when anxiety is typical or linked to a disorder.


A helpful approach to distinguishing normal anxiety from an anxiety disorder is to identify the cause of the anxiety, and then assess whether the anxiety symptoms are a proportional response to it. Worries, fears, and intrusive thoughts that are extreme, unrealistic, or exaggerated and interfere with normal life and functioning could constitute an anxiety disorder.


There are many anxiety-related disorders, and they are divided into three main categories:

  1. Anxiety disorders

  2. Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders

  3. Trauma- and stressor-related disorders

Nevertheless, if you are struggling with symptoms of an anxiety disorder, it is not uncommon to feel alone and misunderstood. Because the fear that people with an anxiety disorder have is not experienced by others; they may not understand why, for example, being in a crowd of people, not being able to wash your hands after meeting a new person, or driving through the street where you got in a car accident can be really anxiety-provoking for someone with an anxiety disorder. People may say that there's no reason to worry about it or that you “should just let it go.”


Not everyone understands that someone with an anxiety disorder cannot just “let things go.” This makes the struggle with an anxiety disorder even harder and may prevent one from looking for help. However, it is very important to talk about these anxieties with someone as soon as you experience these symptoms.

Prevention and Coping with Anxiety


Everyone experiences anxiety. In many cases, anxiety can have some beneficial and adaptive qualities. Although experiencing some anxiety with life stressors and worries is normal, sometimes, it can be difficult to manage and can feel overwhelming. Learning strategies to aid in relief from anxiety and to manage the “normal” anxiety experienced in everyday life can help you live the life you desire, Queen.

  1. Learning Relaxation Strategies. Relaxation strategies, such as deep breathing, have been shown to lower blood pressure, slow the heart rate, and reduce tension that is commonly associated with stress. Engaging in relaxation strategies regularly can equip you to reduce anxiety when it occurs by allowing your body to switch from its anxious state to a more relaxed and calm state in response to stressors. Guided imagery is another relaxation strategy that can help reduce or prevent overwhelming anxiety. Guided imagery involves directed mental visualization to evoke relaxation. This could involve imagining your favorite beach or a peaceful garden that can distract you from your anxious state and allow your mind and body to focus on the positive thoughts and sensations of the imagery exercise. Learning to utilize relaxation strategies as a coping strategy for anxiety can boost your confidence that you will be able to cope with anxiety during distressful situations. Relaxation strategies are a great tool for anxiety prevention because they are free, simple, and can provide instant results.

  2. Mindfulness, Meditation, and Yoga. A simple definition of mindfulness includes the practice of being aware in the present moment—just being. When feeling anxious, often times, you might feel that you don’t have control over your mind or your body’s reaction to stress. You also might feel that anxiety causes you to focus and dwell on past mistakes or future fears. Mindfulness practice, meditation, and mindfulness yoga can increase one’s awareness of the world around you and increase your control over how you experience situations and how you respond. Loss of feelings of control is often a symptom of anxiety when a person is feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Practicing these strategies can help you live life in the present moment and enjoy the present things in your life that bring you joy.

  3. Exercise, Healthy Diet, and Rest. Another important prevention strategy for anxiety is to incorporate exercise into your every day life. Exercise can also help you disengage from worry and stress and focus on the current task of exercising. Exercises such as light jogging or brisk walking that can be incorporated into your daily activities can help reduce the impact of anxiety when it occurs. A healthy diet is also important to reduce and prevent anxiety. It seems counterintuitive that you can “eat your way to peace,” but sustaining a healthy diet can really help you feel more at ease on a regular basis despite stressors. (We recommend doing a 14-day fruit fast to get you back on track…more to come on that later.) Avoid greasy, sugary, high-fat, and processed foods. Additionally, avoiding caffeine when feeling anxious as well as unhealthy substances like alcohol can also be beneficial. Drinking alcohol might seem like a good way to calm down, but it can lead to sustained anxious symptoms. Incorporating a healthy diet into your lifestyle is fundamental to preventing and reducing anxiety. Not getting enough restful sleep can trigger anxiety. Stress and anxiety can also interfere with sleep and cause you to stay awake at night. It can be a frustrating cycle when the stressors of the day and future worries cause you stay up at night. Take some time to wind down before bed such as utilizing some of the above relaxation and meditation strategies. Also, instead of letting your mind continuously race at night, try putting your thoughts, worries, and plans for the next day down on paper before bed. This will ease your anxiety about forgetting something you need to accomplish in the future and allow you to relax and rest.

Awareness and Identifying Triggers


A key component to the prevention of anxiety is awareness. Learning to recognize your anxious thinking patterns when they arise can help you manage and reduce them quickly. Awareness of anxiety begins with trying to identify the cause and/or trigger of anxiety and gaining an understanding of how it affects your mood and behaviors. Awareness of the source of your anxiety is the first step to finding out the best way to relieve it.


Sometimes, there are things in your life that you already know trigger anxiety. Once you identify your triggers, you can start to practice coping strategies that can help calm your anxiety before and as it occurs.


It can be helpful to have a journal that you use to track your stressors, mood, thoughts, and behaviors that are impacted by anxiety. This will further help you identify the cause of your anxiety and notice when you may be engaging in unhelpful thoughts that only increase your anxiety.


Supportive Friendships & Family


People who have close and supportive friendships have a greater ability to fight mental and physical diseases than people who are isolated. The mind can be our worst enemy when feeling anxious and having a supportive network that you can discuss and decompress your deepest worries to can help prevent anxiety from consuming your life. Find trusted friends during times of anxiety who you can open up to and know that they will provide a listening ear and supportive feedback about your experiences.


What is an Anxiety Attack?


An anxiety attack is a feeling of overwhelming apprehension, worry, distress, or fear. For many people, an anxiety attack builds slowly. It may worsen as a stressful event approaches.

Anxiety attacks can vary greatly, and symptoms may differ among individuals. That’s because the many symptoms of anxiety don’t happen to everyone, and they can change over time.


Common symptoms of an anxiety attack include:

  • apprehension and worry

  • chills or hot flashes

  • distress

  • dry mouth

  • fear

  • feeling faint or dizzy

  • numbness or tingling

  • restlessness

  • shortness of breath

  • sweating

A panic attack and an anxiety attack share some common symptoms, but they’re not the same.


Prevention


There are ways to reduce the risk of anxiety disorders. Remember, anxiety is a natural emotion that is vital for survival when an individual finds themselves facing danger. An anxiety disorder develops when this reaction becomes exaggerated or out-of-proportion to the trigger that causes it. Treatment involves a combination of different types of therapy and counseling alongside self-help measures.


Finding the right strategy that works for you to control your anxiety is important. A friend or therapist can be a great resource to turn to if you believe you need help with finding the right strategies to reduce your anxiety. And, remember...just breathe. Happy healing, Queen!


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