According to WHO (World Health Organization), more than 300 million people around the world consequently suffer from an anxiety disorder. In the United States alone different forms of anxiety disorders are affecting more than 40 million adults – almost 1 in 5 people. This is kind of scary, don’t you think?
What does it really feel like to have anxiety and feel anxious? And what are some extremely effective ways you can manage anxiety if you are experiencing it on a daily basis?
It perfectly normal to feel anxious, stressed, worried, or fearful sometimes in your life. Anxiety and anxious thoughts are quite normal in certain life challenges.
Maybe you have felt nervous or anxious before a final in High School or in College? Or you have felt like a sweaty mess right before a job interview?
I assure you, I have felt like that too. Having nervous or anxious feelings like these are perfectly normal and nothing to be worried about.
However, if these feelings of nervousness and anxiety don’t go away after some time, and you have felt anxious on a daily basis for more than three weeks, it’s time to consult a doctor.
For some people, these feelings become permanent, and that’s something you want to avoid. Trust me. I wouldn’t wish for my worst enemy to feel like I sometimes do.
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What is anxiety?
Anxiety can be difficult to describe, as it feels different from person to person. There are so many different symptoms it can be pretty confusing to keep track of them. I don’t blame people for not being able to keep up. I barely can.
Generally described, anxiety is a feeling of unease. It can be such feelings like worry, fear, or restlessness. Once anxiety has become a daily thing, these feelings have become permanent feelings, and no matter what you do, you can’t seem to get rid of them.
They are also not necessarily associated with a stressful event, such as a final, job interview, new school, etc. They can simply occur as you are having dinner with your family.
Having an anxiety disorder can range from mild to severe, by which point it can start to interfere with your everyday lives. Severe anxiety can prevent people from entering a gym, a supermarket, an elevator, crossing a street or going to a social event like a wedding.
Hell, I went clubbing with some of my friends a few years ago, and suddenly I felt like the walls were closing in on me. I couldn’t breathe and I knew it was an oncoming anxiety attack.
One of my best friends pulled me outside, and I just started crying and gasping for breath. Even though I felt safe with my friends, an anxiety attack still happened to me. I had no control over it at the time.
It can even become such a huge problem that people become afraid to leave their houses.
General symptoms of anxiety are listed below:
- Worrying about future or past events
- Uncontrollable worries
- Muscle tension
- Tight chest
- Rapid breathing
- Thoughts of “what if…”
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
Anxiety can be experienced in different ways. Some people will experience anxiety through panic attacks, some will have sleepless nights because they are worried about every possible little detail and their mind just won’t shut up.
Trust me, I know this feeling extremely well. I have had many sleepless nights because of worried and anxious thoughts.
What happens when those anxious feelings become permanent?
If you feel scared, worried or restless all the time, it can be a sign of anxiety. Anger or frustration are typical feelings that will come to the surface when you are experiencing anxiety.
Mood swings are a daily experience, and sometimes you might want to laugh even if you feel like crying all the time. You can feel very low and then a few minutes later you have an incredible amount of energy and motivation.
When anxiety turns into a disorder it is an incredibly intense feeling, and it can cause headaches, migraines, shortness of breath and you can experience stomach aches almost daily.
Do you find that your knee is restless? Do you keep rolling that pen between your fingers? All of these are signs of anxiety.
Different types of anxiety disorders
You have probably heard of social anxiety or OCD? Those are among the most common types of anxiety. Anxiety is split into several different types of disorders. Below is a list of the five most common anxiety disorders:
Generalize Anxiety Disorder
Trouble controlling your worries
You often seek reassurance
Struggling with internal distress (often at night before you go to sleep)
Poor sleep/disturbed sleep
How you can manage GAD
A good start is to talk to someone you trust. Whether that is a close friend or a family member. Talking to someone you know will understand (or at least try to understand) what you are going through can be a huge help!
Having fun and laughing is extremely important when you have anxiety. Watch a comedy show, read a funny book or watch funny YouTube videos to get yourself laughing. Laughing is a completely natural way of treating GAD.
Practicing mindfulness can come in handy. Apps like Headspace is a good way to start if you are not sure how to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness coloring has been proven to reduce and relieve anxious feelings.
Learning your triggers
Learning your triggers is also an important step to take. Paying attention to situations that trigger your anxious feelings can help you manage them. If you experience anxious feelings every day, start by writing down the following:
Situation: what situation triggered your anxious feelings?
Thoughts: what thoughts are running through your head this exact moment? It could be thoughts like: “what if I did something to anger someone?”, or “what if they don’t want to be my friend anymore?”.
Emotions: what are your feelings at this exact moment? Are you feeling scared, worried, anxious, apprehensive, uneasy, etc.
Physical symptoms: is your heart racing, are you sweating, are you shaking or trembling, etc.
Writing this down for a few weeks you will most likely start to see a pattern in which situations trigger your anxious thoughts and feelings. This will help you manage anxiety better in the future.
Feeling like you are choking
Shaking or trembling
A feeling of not being connected to your body
How to manage panic attacks
Start by limiting your intake of caffeine if you drink a lot of coffee. Caffeine is a stimulant that stimulates your nervous system, which can make you more prone to panic attacks
Learning breathing techniques and exercises can help calm you down if you are starting to experience a panic attack. Breathe in slowly and deeply, while you are counting to five. Then breathe out slowly, counting to five.
Focusing your attention on counting will also pull your attention away from your current panic attack. Keep going until you can feel your heart rate slowing down and until you feel somewhat calm again.
Social Phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder
Typical symptoms of social anxiety can be difficulty:
Eating in public settings
Going to job interviews
Social gatherings like birthday parties or weddings
Talking with unfamiliar people
Joining a group with like-minded people is a great start. I know this might seem scary to you at the moment if you feel anxious in social situations. But the good thing is, that you will be in a group with people who feel exactly the same way as you.
Knowing that you already have something in common with people you meet up with can help manage your social phobia. You may even have common goals and interests.
The worst thing you can do to cope with social phobia is taking drugs or drink a lot of alcohol. Alcohol has been proven to actually worsen anxious feelings and panic attack. Something I have experienced for myself.
My 8 favorite books for anxiety in 2019
“Be Calm: Proven Techniques to Stop Anxiety Now” – by Jill Weber
“Retrain Your Brain: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in 7 Weeks” – by Seth Gillihan
“10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head” – by Dan Harris
“The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks” – by Barry McDonagh
“How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety” – by Ellen Hendriksen
“Don’t Feed the Monkey Mind: How to Stop the Cycle of Anxiety, Fear, and Worry” – by Jennifer Shannon
“Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief: A Revolutionary Approach to Understanding and Healing the Impact of Loss” – by Claire Bidwell Smith
As well as depression, anxiety can be treated both with medical prescriptions and with natural and alternative remedies.
Among the natural remedies are lifestyle changes, as this can relieve some of the stress and anxiety you may be experiencing. Natural remedies generally involve caring for your body, participating in healthy activities and eliminating unhealthy ones.
What is your history with anxiety and which form of anxiety do you have? I would love to hear from you below…
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