Being wary of people, places and situations is not an inherently negative behavior. If you really think about it, giving yourself the chance to think things through may actually be one of the best ways to avoid or remove yourself from situations that do not serve you. Anxiety is a completely acceptable reaction to stressors, and can be beneficial in certain situations.
Anxiety disorders are unrelenting, immense feelings of fear and worry that have the tremendous capacity to debilitate your mind and body. They appear to be unmanageable and potentially interfere with everyday living. There are many different types of anxiety disorders, and collectively, they are the most common mental illness affecting adults. Additionally, women are over fifty percent more likely to experience an anxiety disorder than their male counterparts, and this may be important to consider when contemplating how to alleviate the effects of an anxiety disorder. Some common anxiety disorders are Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Panic Disorder. Specific phobias also make up the list.
There are a smorgasbord of physical and mental manifestations of having an anxiety disorder. These range from heart palpitations, chills, excessive sweating, unexplainable trembling, to dizziness and a feeling of being disconnected from reality. “Normal” anxiety manifests itself largely in the present moment with worries about a current life event, such as bills that are due, or a sense of sadness after a traumatic event that has just occurred. With an anxiety disorder, individuals experience recurrent flashbacks and nightmares about a personally traumatic event that has occurred months or years prior. These individuals tend to harbor irrational fears that actually do not pose a threat of harm. This pairs commonly with the complete avoidance of these objects, places, or situations, as well as an avoidance of social situations for fear of embarrassment, judgement, or humiliation.
Anxiety disorders are actually quite treatable, yet many do not receive treatment. This may be due to people not realizing that having these recurring thoughts and worries is an indication of a larger problem. There are many different ways to treat anxiety disorders, which include prescription medications, however, many are not comfortable with that option.
Here are four tips that will help you create a solid foundation for managing persistent anxiety:
You may be so deep into your experience of persistent anxiety that you cannot pinpoint what the cause of your anxiety-ridden days are. It may feel, for some, that as soon as you wake up in the morning, your heart starts pounding, and your palms begin to sweat. Your mind is so muddled that there doesn’t seem to be one particular stressor that is worrying you. In order to begin breaking down the effect of an anxiety disorder, you need to start identifying the things that spur these episodes.
Do you find yourself on a Sunday afternoon not being able to enjoy this opportunity to relax, because you are extremely aware that in about eighteen hours you will have to be sitting in your tiny cubicle staring at your computer screen? You are already thinking about what response you will have to give to the inappropriate coworker that rudely makes advances towards you.
Are you sitting in your first class of the semester already dreading the midterm that is two months away? Thoughts of failing the class, then ultimately failing your whole academic career taking over your mind? Do you constantly picture yourself living in a cardboard box for the rest of your life, not knowing how, when or where you will be able to eat on a daily basis?
Does the sound of a car backfiring in the middle of the street instantly have you spinning into a state of panic? The loud bang reverberates throughout your body in a way that transports you to another time and place where you are convinced that you are in immediate danger?
In order to figure out what your trigger is, there needs to be some conscious effort. Writing a journal would be a great way to piece together the root of your worries. Another way to identify specific triggers is to utilize some great resources that can easily be found on the internet. There are numerous helpful sites which provide easy-to-use worksheets, for example, which help you to map out the times that you get overly anxious, as well as rate how intense the anxiety is and what symptoms are manifested.
It is much easier said than done, however, the mind is more powerful than we usually give it credit for. I am a fervent believer that each person is entitled to their own experience, and their own unique feelings of these experiences. For the most part, a lot of how we navigate ourselves, and the world around us, begins in our mind and the power that we place on objects, people, and situations. We cannot control everything. We do not hold the world and all of its processes in our hands. The ebb and flow of the universe occurs on its own course, and whether we like it or not, we are but a small piece in a gargantuan puzzle. That’s not to say that we have absolutely no power. Quite the contrary actually.
The power we have is within ourselves, and the first step in harnessing the full potential of that power, is understanding and finding peace with the fact that you cannot control other people, nor can you control the happenings of the world outside of ourselves.
What we can control is the lens which we use to perceive these objects, people, and places which cause us to feel triggered. Changing your perspective on the magnitude of power that these triggers have, helps you to begin stripping away its hold. Think about it, if you really go ahead and make that presentation in front of your lecture hall, what is the worst that could possibly be happen? You know what I think would happen? You will do so well that you will shock yourself. There won’t be any tomatoes or pencils thrown at you from the audience.
Tackling your persistent anxiety head-on will take work. Changing your perspective is only one great piece to help you to lay that foundation to stand on, and as long as you keep working at it, your experience in and of the world will change significantly.
You may feel like you are all alone in this world of quickened heart rates and feelings of hyperventilation. You oftentimes want to just burrow into a corner, and isolate yourself from others. The thought of being around others may incite even greater feelings of anxiety. Even though you may not want to seem like a bother to others, you have to come to terms with the reality that this feeling is something that is rooted in your own feelings of inadequacy. You may not think that you are not important enough for others to give you their support, but there are many people that are willing to lend a listening ear.
When the feelings of being overwhelmed are taking hold of you, find a friend or family member who is willing to help. Also, it is important that you consider going further and getting professional help from a wellness coach, a therapist, or even your regular physician to start. Sometimes just talking through your feelings can help you to calm down, and clear away some of the rubble in your mind.
Persistent worrying, incessant sweating, recurring headaches and elevated heart rates will no doubt take a major toll on your body. Not only do you feel mentally frazzled, but your body is also exhausted from the rigamarole of physiological changes that anxiety disorders cause. Your mind and body need to be treated kindly and given opportunities to be rejuvenated. Your triggers perform the role of stressors, which incite an anxiety attack. Your anxiety attack, in turn, begins to take a toll on your long-term physical well being.
Take a step back from your anxiety, and give yourself the chance to rest. It could be as simple as making sure to get enough sleep, listening to your favorite music or exercising to increase your endorphins.
I know that it will take a lot of work to overcome the effects that persistent anxiety has on you, but every small step towards that goal will make a great difference.
Originally published at medium.com