What is anxiety? It is a often discussed topic in the mental health community. However, many people may not have a clear understanding of what it actually is.
I have suffered from anxiety to a varying degree since I was about 11 or 12 years old. I was teased a lot in school and it caused a lot of common symptoms of anxiety to emerge.
So, what is anxiety?
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is defined by Mayo Clinic as:
Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. However, people with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks).
So, while some anxiety is normal, the degree to which people with a diagnosis experience it is not normal.
What are the symptoms?
Common anxiety signs and symptoms (according to the above linked article) include:
Feeling nervous, restless or tense
Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
Having an increased heart rate
Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
Feeling weak or tired
Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
Having trouble sleeping
Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
Having difficulty controlling worry
Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
Who does it affect?
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety is the most common mental illness. It affects 40 million people in the US. That is 18.1% of the population!
It is most common among those 13-60, and is more likely to affect women, but can be common in older adults as well.
How do you treat it?
There are a lot of really effective ways to manage anxiety, although sadly it is common for it to go untreated. This is why we need to talk about it and share resources openly. We need to do our part to erase the stigma so that those fighting this illness find the courage to speak up.
If you think you are suffering from anxiety, make an appointment with your primary care physician. They can likely refer you to a psychiatrist who will be able to further assess the situation.
Once you get in to see the psychiatrist, you will discuss the symptoms you have been facing. He or she may prescribe medication to help you cope. This could be medication that you take daily and proactively, or it could be just on an as needed basis. Whatever the case, there are a lot of great options out there.
Once you see a psychiatrist, they may recommend also meeting with a therapist. I went back to therapy a couple months ago and I already see so much improvement in my symptoms.
The therapist (or social worker, or psychologist) will listen to your issues and based on that, come up with some coping strategies that you can use to manage your anxiety.
I firmly believe in the power of exercise. It releases feel-good chemicals that act as a powerhouse to fight anxiety and depression.
I recommend making it a priority to break a sweat at least 3 days a week for at least 30 minutes. You can do whatever you enjoy: power-walking, jogging, lifting weights, martial arts… The key is to find something you enjoy!
I have been using essential oils for about 3 years and have found them greatly beneficial for my anxiety and depression.
Types of essential oils you can try:
- Citrus oils: Oils like orange smell happy and bright and can often distract your brain from whatever you are feeling
- Lavender: This one is famous for its soothing properties. Try adding a few drops to some epsom salt and enjoying a relaxing bath.
- Roman chamomile: This one would be great in the diffuser at bed time or rubbed on the soles of your feet.
I recently wrote a blog post about this. To sum up, journaling has a lot of great benefits. It can rid your brain of negative thoughts and get you on the path to a better mindset.
What can you write about? There are lots of ways you can get started if you are unsure! You can write down a list of daily positive affirmations, or things you are grateful for. You could try writing down a stream of consciousness, like a mind dump. There are a lot of options.
There are supplements that have been shown to be effective for helping those with anxiety or depression. You could try:
- B complex
- Valerian root
- Omega 3 fatty acids
Finding an ally
Finding someone you can be vulnerable with is critical. Apart from a therapist, you need someone in your close circle that you can talk to about your anxiety.
I recommend setting aside time to talk to them like an appointment on your calendar. Set a daily reminder on your phone to check in via text if that is okay with them. Just being able to talk to a friend can make a world of difference.
You are not alone.
The important thing to remember is while your symptoms can feel debilitating and isolating, you are by no means alone. The statistics above prove that is far from being true. You are surrounded by people with their own journeys and battles, and many of them walk the same path as you.