Anxiety is a menace that plagues almost every other individual in today’s world. As alarming as it may be, many a time it is taken for granted and pretty much shrugged off as something temporary and insignificant. With the growing recognition of mental illnesses as nothing less than physical illnesses, there is still a desperate need to realize the importance of addressing these issues. A lot of our problems tend to aggravate because of our own inability to exercise care and remedy them. As with many other mental illnesses, anxiety is often times ruled out as nothing worth worrying about or paying heed to.
But let’s start with the simplest question; what exactly is anxiety?
According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is defined as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” Anxiety is a normal bodily response to a stressful situation, but one must know the difference between anxiety and anxiety disorder that is a condition that needs medical assistance.
When we come face to face with a situation that could potentially be worrisome, stressful, or scary, feeling anxious is normal. Your body is designed to function in a way so as to respond to such stressful situations by triggering the “fight or flight response”. This mechanism helps prepare your body for either fighting the situation at hand or fleeing from it. This kind of anxiety attack does not need medical assistance, and your symptoms will go away once the situation is under control. In today’s world, work, family, money, education, relationships, exams, meeting deadlines, prepping for a party, and day-to-day tasks may also cause people to stress out, feel anxious, nervous and worried.
Whereas in the case of anxiety disorder, the potential sufferer may feel anxious about things that should otherwise not concern a healthy person. The triggers and stressors will get worse, and people suffering from the anxiety disorder will have difficulty functioning and carrying out their day-to-day activities. Physical symptoms like increased heart rate, blood pressure, stomach upset and other such anxiety symptoms will surface and will play a key role in the diagnosis.
Anxiety and anxiety attacks are of various kinds. It is important to be able to distinguish what type of anxiety plagues you. The types of anxiety are;
1. Generalized anxiety disorder: this type of anxiety is characterized by a prolonged state of worrying and nervousness, often times without any specified cause. It is a chronic condition and also the most common kind of anxiety.
2. Panic disorder: this type of anxiety is characterized by panic attacks and a sudden feeling of fear and panic. They are usually triggered by certain factors and can cause behavioral and physical changes.
3. Post-traumatic stress disorder: this particular type of anxiety attack is due to some traumatic experience in the past that may trigger a person to have flashbacks and feel anxious under certain given situations.
4. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): it is a condition where a person is compelled to repeat certain actions and feel obsessed with certain thoughts and acts. This vicious cycle of obsessions and compulsions causes difficulties in daily lives.
5. Social anxiety: social anxiety is a condition where sufferers dread social interactions and feel uneasy and uncomfortable while trying to socialize. They are considered to be shy, quiet, introverts, unfriendly but in actuality, it is the anxiety and fear that disables the person from going on to make friends. It affects around 7% of the population worldwide.
Now that we have worked our way past a little background information regarding what anxiety is, let us discuss a few easy ways you can control your anxiety better and possibly prevent yourself from indulging in the use of harmful medications that tend to cause eventual dependence and tolerance, and make you susceptible to various side effects and adverse events.
Here is a little guide on how to control anxiety;
1. Recognize your triggers:
First thing’s first; you must recognize what causes or triggers your panic attacks. If it is something that has been happening very often and following a repetitive pattern and is being triggered by certain stressful events, you can find ways to tackle the situation better. After all, you can’t cure something you don’t know of. Whether it’s work, family, school or whatever; it is essential to identify the stress factors. Your anxiety may not even have a cause, in which case, there is a chance you might be suffering from GAD. It could help to create a journal to note down your triggers and look for a pattern.
As much as we try to run from this, exercise plays such a crucial role in our lives that we just can’t do without it. Exercising isn’t just related to our physical wellbeing but is also mandatory for a healthy mind and positive mental health. Yoga and breathing exercises, for instance, have proven to play a vital role in helping people ease their mind, calm their nerves, and see the light. Exercises help in various ways in controlling anxiety and panic attacks; by making you feel tired so you can fall asleep easily, by regulating hormonal balance in the body, by reducing the release of stress hormones, and by stimulating the release of chemicals that soothe the brain. Jogging, as simple as it may be, can do wonders too. Just set some goals for yourself and dedicate yourself to the cause. You are sure to see the difference for yourself!
3. Maintain a journal:
For anyone with a mental disorder, it is always recommended to maintain a written record of your progress. Not just your progress, but also your daily thoughts. Many times, mental illnesses aggravate due to lack of proper guidance or the scarcity of people to open up to and talk to. A lot of people don’t recognize your anxiety as a dire situation and aren’t ready to help you through it. it is thus essential to voice your thoughts, or better yet, pen them down. Whatever it is that you feel, write it down. Letting out all these thoughts somewhere can be super helpful in giving your mind a little much-needed break. You should also note down every good thing that happens to you and all the events that have proven to make you feel better. That way, you’ll know what to stay away from, and where to go more often.
4. Find distractions:
A lot of our ill thoughts are a product of us having too much time on our hands to over-think. Sometimes, busying ourselves with various, productive tasks can do wonders to help you through a difficult phase. Find activities that interest you. For example; painting, drawing, writing, singing, listening to songs (although you might want to avoid sad songs), hanging out with family and friends etc. People suffering from anxiety tend to become isolated and spend more time alone, but going out, meeting people and finding stuff to do can really help you in the long run. Just try to look for things that interest you, but don’t be instantly discouraged if you aren’t motivated enough at first.
5. Eating right:
Although diet does not play a very significant role in helping reduce anxiety per se, it is still very important to have balanced diets and to not skip meals; especially breakfast. Breakfast is our fuel for the day and often times the most neglected meal. It kick starts your metabolism to help release the right kinds of chemicals and hormones for a bright day ahead. Magnesium plays a vital role in relaxing the mind and many people that consumed magnesium supplements felt an improvement in their anxiety symptoms.
6. Drink water:
The simplest way to cleanse your body of all negativity? Drinking lots and lots of water! Dehydration tends to worsen anxiety symptoms, so make sure you keep yourself hydrated.
7. Alcohol and caffeine:
When you’re suffering from anxiety, you must limit your alcohol and caffeine consumption, as they are known to aggravate your symptoms. Caffeine increases your blood pressure and heart rate; a common feature of the fight or flight response. Alcohol increases blood glucose levels.
8. Get enough sleep:
Stressful thoughts and panic attacks tend to make sleeping difficult. One of the major downfalls of anxiety is the inability to let your mind rest and constantly being in a state of nervousness and worry. Make sure you get enough sleep and regulate your sleep cycle accordingly.
9. Breathing exercises:
When you come face to face with an anxiety attack, make sure you take deep breaths. They will help you calm down.
10. Welcome positivity:
It is easy to get bombarded with negative thoughts when you’re battling it out with a mental disorder. Try to replace those thoughts with positivity.
Lastly, you should realize that not everything is under your control. Some things will happen and you might not be able to tackle it. You should just try to do your best; talk to people, distract yourself, look for humor, and seek medical advice if need be.