Anxiety. You’ve felt it before. The sound of your heartbeat billowing to new levels; the tightening in your chest; your mind racing; and the pending doom of the unknown.
People can feel anxious about many things; the current state of the world, relationship struggles, social situations, instability in your job, difficulties at home or school. Anxiety sneaks into our lives, tightening its grip on our minds and bodies, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and powerless. But what if I told you that anxiety doesn’t have to control your life? What if there was a way to reclaim your inner peace and find strength in the face of anxiety’s relentless onslaught?
In this blog post, we’ll delve into the depths of anxiety, exploring its origins, its effects, and most importantly, the transformative strategies that can help you break free from its grip.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural response to stress or potential threats. It is the body’s way of preparing us for a perceived danger, activating the fight-or-flight response. That lump in your throat feeling you get when you are about to go down a rollercoaster? Normal. That discomfort in the pit of your stomach you feel when embarking on a new business venture? Normal. You can picture the benefit of situational anxiety, as it can indicate the importance of a particular day, decision, or new phase of life, and can help us prepare and perform. The problem arises when that feeling does not pass, but follows you for more days than not.
Persistent or intense bouts of worry that get in the way of your day-to-day functioning is anxiety. Anxiety triggers physiological changes, such as tension in your body, increased heart rate, sweating, or changes in appetite (American Psychiatric Association, 2021). Experiencing intense worry or fear can lead to avoidant behaviour. Your performance at school begins to drop because you cannot think straight whenever you step into your classroom; you begin to check out mentally at work because remaining engaged is too daunting; and you begin to retreat socially from your loved ones. Before you know it, anxiety can feel like it is hijacking your life.
When anxiety interferes with your daily life, it may indicate an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders, affecting approximately 30% of adults across their lifetime, and women are more likely to develop them than men (American Psychiatric Association, 2021).
What Causes Anxiety?
Anxiety can be triggered by various factors, including genetics, brain chemistry imbalances, traumatic life events, chronic stress, and certain medical conditions. Additionally, environmental factors such as work pressure, relationship difficulties, financial problems, and societal expectations can contribute to the development and exacerbation of anxiety.
Understanding the causes of anxiety is crucial for developing effective coping mechanisms. While anxiety disorders can have a genetic component, they are often influenced by a combination of biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Chronic stress, traumatic experiences, imbalanced brain chemistry, and a family history of anxiety are among the factors that can contribute to the development of anxiety disorders.
One primary cause of anxiety lies in our genetics. Research suggests that individuals with a family history of anxiety disorders may be more predisposed to developing it themselves. Genetic factors can influence the balance of neurotransmitters in our brains, impacting our mood regulation and stress response.
Another significant contributor to anxiety is our environment. Traumatic experiences such as abuse, neglect, or witnessing violence can leave lasting imprints on our minds, leading to heightened anxiety responses. Additionally, ongoing stressors like financial difficulties, work pressure, or relationship conflicts can wear down our resilience, making us more susceptible to anxiety.
Our thought patterns and beliefs also play a crucial role in anxiety development. Negative self-talk, perfectionism, and catastrophic thinking can create a vicious cycle of worry and apprehension. These distorted thinking patterns amplify our fears, leading to heightened anxiety levels.
Certain physical health conditions and substances can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Chronic illnesses, hormonal imbalances, and substance abuse can contribute to the manifestation or intensification of anxiety disorders.
Lastly, societal factors such as the pressure to succeed, social expectations, and the constant bombardment of information in the digital age can add to the anxiety epidemic.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Strategies for Managing Anxiety
Here are some tips to help you through the symptoms of anxiety.
Self-care: Taking care of oneself is paramount in managing anxiety. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, sufficient sleep, and engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation can significantly reduce anxiety levels. Mindfulness techniques such as meditation and deep breathing exercises can promote calmness and inner peace.
Cognitive-behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT is a widely recognized therapeutic approach that helps individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns and irrational beliefs. It aims to reframe negative thinking and replace it with more rational and positive thoughts. CBT equips individuals with effective coping strategies to manage anxiety triggers and gradually overcome their fears.
Support Network: Seeking support from trusted friends, family, or support groups can make a significant difference in managing anxiety. Sharing feelings and experiences with others who can offer understanding and empathy can provide a sense of validation and reduce feelings of isolation.
Stress Management Techniques: Learning effective stress management techniques can decrease anxiety symptoms. These may include time management, setting realistic goals, delegating tasks, practicing relaxation exercises, and finding healthy outlets for emotions like journaling or engaging in creative activities.
Professional Help: Speaking to a mental health expert can be very helpful and may be a necessary step towards gaining control over anxiety and embarking on your journey to improved mental wellness.
Finally Overcoming Anxiety
Overcoming anxiety is a gradual process that requires patience, self-compassion, and perseverance. There is no shame in seeking help. Have realistic expectations and celebrate small victories along the way. Anxiety can be an incredibly debilitating condition, but it does not have to define your or your loved one’s life. By understanding the nature of anxiety, recognizing its symptoms, and implementing effective coping strategies, individuals can take control of their anxiety and live a fulfilling life. Remember, you are not alone in your struggle. You can always hope for a brighter and calmer future. Reach out and seek help.
We would be happy to walk alongside you in your journey. Feel free to book a 20-minute free consultation or schedule an appointment with one of our trained psychotherapists to manage and overcome anxiety.