Most of us know what anxiety feels like. That creeping feeling of worry and fear, but you can’t really pinpoint a reason. Frequent headaches, cold, sweaty hands, a dry mouth, short breath, increased heart-rate, sleeping problems and many other unpleasant sensations…
Many of us suffer from anxiety at least once in our life. That doesn’t mean you can’t experience worry and fear without having anxiety: it is completely normal to dread a meeting with your boss, feel butterflies in your stomach when you’re about to speak in front of an audience or feel frightened when your teen breaks the news that she plans on spending her gap year backpacking the globe.
Anxiety is something different, though. Apprehension in an anxiety disorder is related to perceived or future threats and includes the feeling of excessive and persistent worry and/or fear. These negative emotions don’t go away over time. Quite the opposite – they usually get worse, disturbing people’s everyday life. Moreover, if not treated on time, anxiety can cause further mental health conditions like depression or other mental disorders.
How Do We Get Anxious?
Where does that unpleasant feeling of anxiety come from though? The science still doesn’t have a straightforward answer to this question. Numerous studies show that life experiences like traumatic events or inherited personality traits can play a role in generating anxiety in people who are prone to it.
In many cases, anxiety is triggered by an underlying health problem. Some examples of medical issues that may initiate anxiety include diabetes, heart disease, asthma and other respiratory disorders, chronic pain and withdrawal from drug or alcohol abuse.
Other risk factors that may trigger anxiety include one or a combination of following:
- An illness initiated stress. Having a serious or life-threatening health condition usually makes people significantly worried about issues like treatment and recovery and their future.
- Accumulated stress. Smaller stressful life events like ongoing work-related stress may cause anxiety.
Accidental life crisis. A major stressful event like death of a family member, divorce or move may trigger extreme anxiety.
- Trauma. Both, children and adults who experienced a traumatic event or abuse are at high risk of developing anxiety at some point in their life – especially if the person’s emotional reaction to trauma or abuse has not been treated on time.
- Character traits. Some people are simply more prone to anxiety than others.
- Family history of anxiety. Sometimes anxiety disorders can run in families.
- Other mental health disorders. People suffering from other mental health issues may develop anxiety as a reaction.
How to Overcome Your Anxiety?
Anxiety is a serious, but highly treatable condition. Here are some helpful tips on how to cope with your anxiety.
- Study Your ‘Enemy’
A very important part of handling anxiety is learning about what you are dealing with. Get as much information about anxiety so you can understand it. Learn to recognize the symptoms of anxiety and possible causes of it. Be aware of situations that usually provoke feelings of apprehension and fear. Find out about different ways to successfully cope with your symptoms and reduce them.
- Relaxation and Meditation
There are many relaxation techniques that you can learn and practice. Techniques like deep breathing will help you attain peacefulness and help you feel relaxed. Also, don’t forget everyday things that make you happy and relaxed like reading a good book in the quietness of your home, a walk in nature or meeting with friends or family; small everyday rituals are very helpful.Both science and practice have proved the benefits of meditation in dealing with anxiety. Mindful meditation can help you ease anxiety symptoms by helping you to stay focused, boost your self-esteem, and increase optimism.As research proved, mindfulness exercises can actually reduce the activity in the part of our brain that is called amygdala. This cluster of neurons in the limbic system of our brain plays a key role in the processing of emotions. It is a starting point for our anxiety reactions. So, when environmental or emotional stressors convince our amygdala that you are in danger, amygdala reacts preparing us to fight or flight and we feel stressed and anxious as a result. Reducing amygdala’s activity, mindfulness practice reduces our background level of stress and anxiety.
- Make Lifestyle Shifts
Small life changes are a good way to handle your anxiety. For example, change some habits. Start exercising regularly, eat a balanced diet and get enough sleep. Do things and spend time with people that make you feel good.
- Live Boldly
Don’t be afraid to push your limits or step out of your comfort zone. Try things that will broaden your horizons and give you new perspectives. Try sports that you haven’t tried before, travel to some new and exciting places, try new foods or meet new people. Challenging yourself may increase your productivity, creativity, and make it easier to deal with new and unexpected changes in future.
- Seek Psychotherapy
Psychotherapy, and especially Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) proved to be a very effective way of treating anxiety. If you feel that you can’t cope with your anxiety symptoms on your own, seek the help of a professional mental health counselor.
Did you like it? Then you will find my article on how gratitude can change your brain interesting, too!