How to Deal with Anxiety
Anxiety is a natural reaction necessary for survival when a person is faced with danger. While not classified as a medical condition, if this reaction becomes exaggerated to whatever triggers it, an anxiety disorder develops.
There are various types of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, separation anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder. Knowing the difference between normal anxiety feelings and an anxiety disorder that requires medical or professional attention can help an individual identify and treat the condition.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotion defined by thoughts of worry, feelings of tension and physical symptoms like increased heart rate, excessive sweating and raised blood pressure. These feelings and thoughts cause a rush of adrenaline in your body by releasing a chemical in the brain that activates the fight-or-flight response.
The activation of the fight or flight response is normal if someone is faced with impending danger. It prepares them to confront potential threats physically or flee to safety. But in the absence of real danger, an anxiety disorder might be the culprit.
Anxiety leads to excessive fear, worry and nervousness. Mild anxiety might be disturbing, but severe anxiety will seriously affect the quality of your day-to-day living.
What Causes Anxiety?
Typical anxious feelings can be caused by money, work, health, family and other elements that demand your attention. And it’s normal to feel anxious from time to time. But chronic anxiety to the point of physical symptoms should be addressed in a quick and efficient manner.
Anxiety disorders are complicated and there are many possible causes which include:
- Family History. If you have family with anxiety disorder, you are more likely to experience it yourself.
- Environmental factors. Relationship problems, difficulties at work or unresolved family issues can all cause anxiety disorder.
- Brain chemistry. Research reveals that anxiety disorders can be caused by misalignments of electrical signals in the brain as well as hormones.
- Medical elements. Stress of prolonged recovery of invasive surgery, side effects of medication or symptoms of another disease.
- Withdrawal from drugs. The use of unauthorised substances can intensify anxious feelings.
The severity or duration of anxious feelings can sometimes be exaggerated to the original stressor. Anxiety is a normal response to the stresses of day to day living. However, if these feelings of anxiety start to interfere with daily life and become bigger than the event that triggered them, it could signal an anxiety disorder.
In most cases, physical symptoms like nausea and increased blood pressure may develop moving your response past anxiety and into an anxiety disorder.
A person that suffers from anxiety disorder will have constant intrusive thoughts and worry. Once anxiety reaches the level where it interferes with daily activities, it’s classified as an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety Disorder Types
Generalized anxiety disorder: GAD is the most common anxiety disorder affecting nearly 7 million adults worldwide. Being a chronic disorder, it involves long-lasting, extreme anxiety about various situations, objects and life events. Most people who suffer from GAD aren’t able to identify the causes and triggers of their anxiety.
Panic disorder: Panic disorder is characterised by sudden, brief attacks of intense fear and dread. These attacks can lead to confusion, breathing difficulties, dizziness, shaking, and nausea. Panic attacks typically happen quickly, peaking after about 7-10 minutes. However, in severe cases, they can last for hours. Panic disorder generally happens after prolonged stress or terrifying experiences but sometimes happen without any trigger. Someone experiencing a panic attack may misinterpret it as a heart attack or other life-threatening conditions.
Separation anxiety disorder: If you experience high levels of anxiety after separating from a place or person who provides a sense of safety or security, you might have separation anxiety. This disorder can sometimes lead to panic symptoms.
Social anxiety disorder: Also known as social phobia, this anxiety originates from the fear of public embarrassment or being judged negatively in social settings. It includes feelings like stage fright, fear of rejection and humiliation as well as a fear of intimacy. This disorder might cause people to avoid human contact and public situations to the point where their daily living becomes extremely lonely and challenging.
Specific phobia: Phobias are different from other anxiety disorders since they correlate to a specific cause. A phobia is an irrational fear of a particular situation or object, causing complete avoidance. While a person might recognise their phobia as an illogical fear, in most cases they can’t control their anxiety when facing their trigger.
Agoraphobia: This phobia stems from a fear of situations, events or places from which it might be challenging to escape from. Fears might include using public transport, elevators or even leaving home.
Selective mutism: This anxiety disorder generally affects children in which they are not able to speak in specific places or circumstances. While their verbal communication skills might be excellent around familiar people, they simply can’t form the words in these situations.
Anxiety symptoms may be different for every person but, more often than not, the body reacts to anxiety in a specific way. Your body goes on high alert when you feel anxious. It tries to find impending danger, triggering your fight-or-flight response. As a result, you’ll experience the following symptoms of anxiety:
- feelings of tension, restlessness or nervousness
- feelings of dread, danger or panic
- increased heart rate
- breathing difficulty or hyperventilation
- excessive sweating
- muscle twitching or trembling
- fatigue and weakness
- difficulty thinking clearly and focusing
- digestive issues like diarrhoea, constipation or gas
- Repetitive behaviours
- Obsessive behaviour which is also a sign of OCD
- anxiety about a specific experience or past life event indicative of PTSD
Panic Attack Symptoms
A panic attack is an unexpected rush of distress or fear that peaks in 7 – 10 minutes. It usually and includes at least 4 of the following symptoms:
- heart palpitations
- trembling or shaking
- shortness of breath
- choking sensation
- chest tightness or pains
- gastrointestinal responses like diarrhea
- feeling hot or cold
- paresthesia (tingling sensation or numbness)
- feeling separated from reality or oneself
- fear of losing control or “going crazy”
- fear of dying
How to Overcome Anxiety
In severe cases, anxiety is treated with medication. A psychiatrist might prescribe medicine that controls some of the mental and physical symptoms including antidepressants, beta-blockers, tricyclics, and benzodiazepines.
For a more natural approach, anxiety can be treated with psychological counselling. This can include psychotherapy or cognitive-behavioural therapy. With this treatment method, the aim is to recognize and correct distressing and anxious thought patterns. In the process, practitioners of cognitive-behavioural therapies – like Integrative Coaches – work to limit damaging thoughts and feelings by changing the way people react to their triggers.
Treating Anxiety Naturally
In mild cases, an individual can treat their anxiety disorder without in a more natural way. There are various actions and exercises that can help you deal with short-term, milder anxiety disorders which include the following:
- Follow a healthy diet. By following a nutritious diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, meats, whole grains and nuts, you can reduce the risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Additionally, eating fermented foods and taking probiotics have been linked to improved mental health. However, only changing your diet isn’t enough to make permanent changes.
- Abstain from alcohol. Alcohol abuse and anxiety disorders are firmly connected. Refrain from consuming alcohol until you have your anxiety disorder under control.
- Limit caffeine intake. Extreme caffeine intake may heighten anxiety feelings in some individuals, especially those with anxiety disorders
- Quit smoking. Aside from all the other negative side effects, smoking increases the risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
- Regular physical exercise can lower the risk of developing an anxiety disorder as well as reduce the symptoms. When you move your body, it releases ‘feel-good’ endorphins in the brain, plus spending time in nature will help shift your focus.
- Stress management. By learning how to manage stress better, you can limit the effects of potential triggers. An executive coach can help you develop the skills needed to manage your stress efficiently.
- Meditation has shown significant results in reducing symptoms in people who suffer from an anxiety disorder. By incorporating meditation in your daily routine, you can become more focused on reality, instead of perceived danger activated by your triggers.
- Replace negative self talk with positive support. Make a list of all self-talk that is negative and a source of anxiety. Now make a list of positive replacements. Creating a mental representation of facing and overcoming fears successfully can help dealing with your anxiety symptoms.
*Please be advised that this may not be sufficient for long-term or severe anxiety disorders.
Distinguishing between a period of time where you feel constantly unsettled or worried and anxiety disorder that needs medical or psychological attention can be challenging. If it is, in fact, an anxiety disorder, it won’t go away if left untreated and it could escalate over time. It is easier to treat mental health conditions such as anxiety early on that when symptoms intensify.
No matter how long you’ve been dealing with anxiety symptoms, if you feel like your feelings and thoughts are preventing you from living a healthy, fulfilled life, we advise you to seek professional help.
An executive coach knows exactly how anxiety functions. By listening to your concerns, they are able to give helpful advice and tools that will help you regain control in stressful, anxiety-inducing situations. An executive coach will also hold you accountable for your goals while offering guidance and support.
Get in touch with an Integrative Coach for help with managing your anxiety and reducing your symptoms as swiftly and safely as possible.