Me: What could possibly go wrong?
Anxiety: I’m so glad you asked.
Do you ever feel like your world is caving in, hands start to sweat, panic starts to rise, an overwhelming need to breathe comes over you but you can’t because you’re too anxious about….well everything? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Anxiety happens to be the most common mental illness in the US with 40 million people over the age of 18 being affected by it; that’s 18 percent of the population. Crazy right; to think that that many people could be going through similar situations as you.
Of course there are times where people will experience temporary anxiety due to some added stress in their life, but think of those people who live with anxiety disorders day in and day out; those symptoms don’t go away. It influences their lives, their ability to socialize, work, even do the simplest tasks such as walk outside.
To be able to help subside anxiety symptoms, I think we first need to understand a bit more about it. There are a few different types of anxiety disorders:
- General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – Most common of the disorders, it produces excessive worry about a number of things: Money, Health, Family, Work, etc. People with this disorder may worry more than seems necessary or expect the worst when there is no reason to. Symptoms are: Restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability and muscle tension.
- Panic Disorder (PD) – This is when people experience spontaneous panic attacks and are fearful of recurring ones. Symptoms: Pounding heart, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, feeling like you’re choking, chest pain, nausea, dizzy or faint, cold or hot spells, numbness, feelings of unreality or loss of control.
- Social Anxiety Disorder – Tremendous fear of being judged by others in social situations; this is not just shyness. People with social anxiety disorder often feel powerless, alone or embarrassed that they cannot have strong social or even romantic relationships and are terrified they will humiliate themselves.
- Phobic Disorders – Not to be confused with fears that make us uncomfortable such as new places, creepy old elevators or heights as most people can manage and control those fears daily. This is when there are strong unreasonable fear reactions that cause people to avoid common places, situations or objects even though they know there is no danger. They could focus on: Animals, insects, germs, food, public transportation, medical procedures, the list goes on. **Has anyone ever watched the TV Show Monk?
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – Unwanted thoughts they can’t get out of their heads and become obsessions often causing them to perform ritualistic routines to ease the anxiety, such as: Hand-washing, counting, touching an object a certain number of times.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Reacting to a traumatic event that happened in one’s life. This occurs when people have experienced or witnessed a serious accident, terrorist incident, sudden death of a loved one, war, violent personal assault, natural disasters like some that we’ve experienced this year. This could cause flashbacks, nightmares or intrusive memories.
- Depression – Major Depressive Disorder is the most common form of depression. Symptoms include: Overwhelming feeling of sadness or loss, decrease in appetite, insomnia, slowing down of thought and reduction of physical movements in an individual, constant fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, reoccurring thoughts of death or suicide. These symptoms persist for two weeks or longer and are a extreme change from previous.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia) is another type of depression. Feelings of low, dark or sad mood that is present for most of the day and on most days for at least 2 years. Symptoms: Poor appetite or overeating, insomnia, fatigue, low self-esteem, poor concentration, feelings of hopelessness. Symptoms are not as severe as with Major Depressive Disorder.
Here are some ways that can help you start the process to lessen anxiety if you or someone you know is suffering from any of the above. Anxiety is a difficult thing, and people who struggle with it have a daily battle they go through. The suggestions below might not cure it or make it go away over night, but if you practice them diligently everyday, you can help lessen your anxiety.
Some of the most common ways are breathing techniques and surrounding yourself with those who make you genuinely happy. Let’s dive in a bit more though:
- Color (adult coloring books) or work on an art project. When was the last time you worked on something creative, just to escape your mind?
- Go workout, take a walk or go for a jog. As the great Elle Woods once said: “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.” I mean the last part isn’t important here, but exercise does give you endorphins and endorphins do make you happy so….
- Take a long hot bath and treat yo self! Fill up that tub with some delicious smelling bath bombs, maybe a few candles and just take a moment for some true you time.
- Say positive affirmations to yourself. “You is kind, you is smart, you is important”. Whether this is to yourself on your way to work or in the mirror in the morning, writing in a journal or writing down on little post notes and putting it as little reminders around the house, make sure you know your worth.
- Set a time for your worrying. Don’t let it overtake your entire day. Schedule it during some downtime in your day. Allot no more than 10 minutes to dwell on it and then accept your feelings and get back to living your life. Think about all the great things you have going for your (those positive affirmations above) and really hone in on those in order to accept your feelings.
Some people are often afraid or embarrassed to tell anyone, so they suffer alone in their own mind space. They distance themselves from any loved ones or doctors that could be able to help support them. With support, and letting someone in, you’ll be able to control things in your life and become a stronger person because of it. You need to know that, “You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously.” ~ Sophia Bush.