Everyone struggles with anxiety at some point in their life. Maybe you feel anxious before a test, when making an important life decision, or over situations at work. Most people think that having a reasonable amount of “worry” is normal. However, for about 40 million people in the United States each year, anxiety is more than just a little worrying. These people may struggle with restlessness, fatigue, and difficulty controlling feelings or worry. They miss work, school, or activities of normal life because of the symptoms of anxiety.
When anxiety strikes, one of the most common causes is stress. Stress happens when the everyday demands of life are too much for the coping mechanisms you currently have. It’s essential to know that not all stress is bad. It helps protect you when faced with danger. The “flight or fight” mechanism sends a signal to your brain to let you know that you need to respond to a dangerous situation. Some people may experience this mechanism too quickly, causing them to feel stressed more often, impacting their mental and physical health.
You are a physical, mental, and spiritual being. Wellness requires a balance of all three aspects of health. Chronic or severe physical conditions can impact mental wellness and lead to anxiety and depression. Too much stress can damage your mental and physical health and lead to other conditions, such as depression. Mental health disorders are commonly diagnosed and can lead to an overprescription of opioids and other drugs.
Before discussing ways to minimize your stress levels, let’s cover a few of the basics of anxiety disorders. There are several different types, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobias.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive worry nearly every day for at least six months. GAD can be triggered by a health condition, interactions in social situations, or everyday life routines. Common symptoms are feeling wound-up, having difficulty concentrating, being irritable, or having trouble sleeping.
Individuals with panic disorders suffer from unexpected and recurrent panic attacks. These intense feelings of fear come on quickly and can be brought on by many triggers, such as objects, situations, or people. During a panic attack, you might sweat, shake, feel a sense of impending doom, or have a rapid heart rate.
Phobias are characterized by an intense fear of, or aversion to, specific situations or objects. If you have a phobia, you might struggle with irrational worries about a feared situation or object and take active steps to avoid them. Phobias can cause people to feel intense anxiety about certain situations. Common phobias include the fear of heights, flying, or receiving medical treatment such as injections or having blood drawn.
Anxiety and Depression
You might think that depression is just sadness, but it’s far worse than some sadness brought on by life’s situations. Depression causes feelings of sadness or loss of interest in activities that last at least two weeks. It negatively affects how you feel and is treatable with medications or therapy.
Depression and anxiety are different disorders. However, researchers have found that they are linked and often happen at the same time. There isn’t any evidence that one disorder causes the other, but it’s clear that many people suffer from both. In fact, nearly half of all people with anxiety show signs of depression too.
How to Minimize Your Stress
Have you ever seen images of people doing yoga and looking overcome with a sense of peacefulness? If you felt envious of their look of relaxation and centeredness, it might be time to try a few strategies to minimize your stress.
Try to Relax
Easier said than done, right? With any luck, a plan structured in specific relaxation techniques might be able to help. There are a number of practices that fall under the umbrella term of relaxation techniques, such as guided imagery, biofeedback, deep breathing, and progressive relaxation.
Relaxation techniques are safe for most people. However, there have been reports of these techniques causing increased anxiety and other negative experiences. Just to be safe, before you start any new relaxation methods, be sure to speak with your primary provider to discuss the risks and what might be the best strategy for you and your anxiety symptoms. These techniques can be taught by physicians, nurses, and complementary health practitioners. You can also learn many of these strategies on your own or find an app that can help guide you through the activities.
Does the thought of going to the gym for hours on end stress you out? Well, we have some good news. Any form of exercise can act as a stress reliever. You don’t have to run a marathon to get the mental health benefits of exercise. Take a brisk walk, attend a yoga class, or go for a swim. Any physical activity that increases your heart and breathing rate will help keep your mental health in check.
Today’s world is full of hustle and bustle. When you start feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed, it’s time to find time to de-stress. Self-care is the practice of putting your mental and physical needs first.
Here are a few simple ways to practice self-care:
- Wake up 15 minutes earlier each morning to drink a warm cup of coffee in silence
- Plan a trip to the spa once a month to spoil yourself and enjoy a little TLC
- Book a massage with a friend
- Keep a gratitude journal and add three things each day that you’re grateful for
- Take a walk in the middle of your work day to escape
Your mental health is critical to your overall well-being. Use these strategies to add balance to your life and watch the signs of anxiety fade away.