Last week I met up with one of my old clients who works as a physician. As we were chatting, she suggested I blog about anxiety. After the past twelve months, it seems the whole world is on edge. While I’m grateful anxiety is not a constant in my life, I do have times when I feel anxious. For me, it’s a very chemical feeling. It feels like my body has overproduced adrenaline or some other hormone and I can feel it in my system. The best way for me to resolve the feeling is to either work out or go to sleep. Typically, either activity solves my problem. Thankfully, my personality type isn’t prone to anxiety. I often tell people I am a solid Type B. When I feel like I have too many tasks and not enough time, I do a good job prioritizing my activities and coming to terms with items on my to-do list that may not get done right away. I realize my Type A friends don’t have it quite so easy. Type A personalities are marked by ambition, competitiveness and rigidity, while us Type B’s are less competitive and a bit more fluid. If you’re not sure where you fit in, take the 2-minute test at this link: https://openpsychometrics.org/tests/AB.php
Whether you are A or B or somewhere in between, what happens when anxiety doesn’t wash away so easily?
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, there are five major types of anxiety disorders. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) manifests as unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Panic disorder is characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Social Anxiety Disorder is marked by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are many risk factors for anxiety disorders including childhood trauma and stress due to illness, work, financial worries or other issues. People with depression or other mental health disorders are often prone to anxiety disorder, and anxiety disorders can run in families. Drug or alcohol abuse or withdrawal can also cause or worsen anxiety. Because our mental and physical health are deeply connected, having an anxiety disorder can also lead to, or worsen, other mental and physical conditions, like depression, substance abuse, insomnia, digestive issues, headaches and chronic pain, social isolation, problems functioning at school or work, poor quality of life and suicide.
In other words, anxiety needs to be taken seriously. Most of us have had periods of anxiety. How do we prevent a run-of-the-mill anxious moment from turning into a full-blown disorder? Here are my recommendations:
- Take self-care seriously. Have a personal self-care regimen, and reach out to a professional if you experience symptoms that are unmanageable. You can access my self-care gifts to you at https://mindblowinghappiness.com/resources There you can find guided meditations, restorative yoga and yoga nidra practices for you to explore. You might also consider other ways to relax like reading, journaling, soaking in the tub or watching a movie.
- Stay active. Participate in activities that you enjoy that make you feel good about yourself. Whether you’re walking, running, skating, hiking or mowing the lawn, working up a sweat a few days a week helps keep anxiety at bay.
- Build Relationships. Enjoy social interaction and caring relationships to lessen your worries. Having a reliable community of support can make a big difference in your ability to manage stress and anxiety. You might find this through family, friends, your spiritual community or other social and volunteer groups.
- Pay attention to what you consume. The same indulgences used to make you feel better in the short term can cause or worsen anxiety in the long term. Whether you choose alcohol, cigarettes, refined sugar or any other substance that alters mood, quitting can make you even more anxious. Try a self-help book, find a support group or see your doctor if you need help curbing habits or addictions. I really enjoyed The Naked Mind by Annie Grace when I wanted to cut back on alcohol. The movie, Fed Up, is a good resource if you want to reduce your consumption of sugar. No matter what, pay attention to good nutrition. A diet rich in whole fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds is ideal. Limit processed foods as much as possible. (You’ll know it’s processed if it comes in a package.)
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. Even with the world on your shoulders, you are not responsible for the world. If a task is delayed, life goes on.
Some anxiety is par for the course with our busy, over-worked culture. While it’s rooted in the mind, anxiety can affect all parts of the body and overall health. Taking time to understand the source of your anxiety and manage your behavior can make all the difference in the world. Be kind to your whole self: body, mind and spirit to keep stress and anxiety at bay.
I will you passion, purpose and the realization of your fullest potential!
P.S. The photo is a quote from the writer, John Green. Giving yourself permission to not be great at everything is a great stress releaser. It allows you to move forward in the world with the wild abandon of children. Simply falling down and getting back up to try the next thing. Stumbling your way forward. Check out the link below for more resources to reduce stress and anxiety.