Have you ever been in a stressful situation, where your heart starts racing, your palms are sweaty and you feel tense or irritable? Anxiety effects all of us at some point in our lives. While it’s normal and can sometimes be a good thing, like when we’re in danger and need to act fast, when it’s constant and we can’t seem to get away from it, there can be severe effects to our health and wellness in the short and long run.
Symptoms of Anxiety
While anxiety can come in many different forms, there are still common symptoms of most types. You may be dealing with anxiety if you are experiencing any of the following:
- feelings of tension, irritability or worried/racing thoughts
- feeling shaky, restless or extremely tired
- nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness,
- increased heart rate, sweating, sweaty palms
- shortness of breath, chest or abdominal pain
- chills or hot flashes
- brain fog, trouble concentrating or remembering things
- feeling afraid that something bad is going to happen
Types of Anxiety
Many people who deal with anxiety may experience symptoms of more than one type of anxiety as well as depression. If you are dealing with any of the symptoms listed above on a consistent basis, it’s important to seek help to make it more manageable.
The most common types of anxiety are:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – This is where a person will experience consistent worry and feel anxious regularly for a period of 6 months or more.
- Social Anxiety – A person with social anxiety will experience anxiety in social situations and have intense fear when out in public when they have to give a speech, make small talk, eat in front of others or in a large social gathering.
- Panic Disorder – Where a person will have panic attacks, which can feel incredibly overwhelming and scary. When having a panic attack, a person can have chest pain, excessive sweating, shortness of breath and/or dizziness. If a person has one or more panic attacks a month, they are said to have a panic disorder.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – A person with OCD will try to relieve their anxiety through carrying out certain rituals or behaviours. A fear of germs, for example, can lead to excessive washing of hands.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – This disorder can happen after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event, such as war, abuse, an accident or disaster. A person with PTSD can experience symptoms such as flashbacks or nightmares, difficulty relaxing or sleeping, or avoiding anything relating to the event, such as avoiding driving after being in an accident.
Who it Affects
As I mentioned above, anyone can experience anxiety at some point or another in this fast-paced world we live in. Women are more likely to experience anxiety than men, but there are many men who experience it as well, especially those who have been through some sort of traumatic event in their lives.
Some people get occasional anxiety, like when they have to give a speech or write an exam. For others, anxiety can be constant and can affect the quality of their life. It can affect behaviour, thoughts, emotions and health. Because of this, it can make relationships difficult and can be challenging keeping commitments and performing tasks to the best of your ability. Approximately 12% of the population is affected by anxiety disorders.
If you are suffering from anxiety, it is so important to find ways to deal with it. Some people may need medication, either for the short or long-term. This can be so helpful to get a handle on anxiety symptoms while finding other ways to heal as well. Others may not be able to tolerate medication and need to make lifestyle changes to cope.
What is wellness? Wellness is defined as the active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. Incorporating wellness into your life can greatly help to manage symptoms of anxiety.
Making lifestyle changes such as eating healthier, getting enough sleep, cutting down on caffeine and alcohol and exercising can all go a long way to feeling better. Journaling is another great way to cope with stressful feelings. Getting all your feelings out on paper is a great release.
Having a trusted person to talk to is also important. Whether it’s a close friend or family member, someone from your church or place of worship, or a counselor or therapist. Being able to talk about how you’re feeling instead of suppressing it is a great step to healing. When we don’t talk about our feelings and push them down, thinking it’s no big deal, the problem usually ends up getting worse and harder to handle. Anxiety can come from not dealing with our feelings in a healthy way.
Tips to Relax
It is so important to find ways to relax and unwind when feeling anxious. What one person finds relaxing may be very different from the next person, but here are a few tips or suggestions:
- Meditate – on your own or with an app as a guide
- Take a long, hot bath – soothe your tense muscles in an Epsom salt bath for at least 20-30 minutes. Try to do this at least twice a week.
- Listen to soothing music – either classical music or nature sounds can be relaxing. Do this in the car if that’s a stressful place for you, or before bed when you need to unwind.
- Take a Yoga or Pilates class – or just do on your own with a YouTube video.
- Practice deep breathing – focus on your breath and take deep, long breaths.
- Get a massage – try to make a point of going for regular massages. You can also ask your partner to massage you or give yourself a self-massage.
- Go for long walks – this is great for your health and to clear your mind. And getting out in nature is an added benefit!
While anxiety can be very challenging to live with at times, there are positive steps we can take to make it more manageable. It’s so important to try different things until you find what works for you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts below. If you have found other ways to manage your anxiety, please feel free to share your tips.