Anxious? You’re in Good Company
I don’t know anybody who has not faced anxiety. Odds are you have suffered from anxiety, someone in your family has anxiety, and your friends struggle with it as well. The truth is we all feel anxious during the day and at different times in our lives. Sometimes it is manageable, sometimes we need help.
On any given day, most of us travel through a wide range of feelings associated with four primary feelings: anxiety, sadness, anger and happiness. Anxiety tends to rear its head when you are going through major changes, such as moving or changing jobs, or when experiencing ongoing challenges, such as financial worries or family conflict. Sometimes you are not aware why anxiety has arrived, but there it is.
You may notice anxiety when it comes and be able to move through it. However, for many, anxiety is not a passing state. It can be frequent, unrelenting, and take a toll on your life. It can rob you of your ability to spend time with your family, perform at work, and generally engage in your life. And everyone says the same thing. Anxiety—It’s exhausting! Agreed.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety, in its most simple form, is a sense of fear that puts your mind and your body on alert. Biologically, anxiety is a heightened sense of awareness so that we can identify potential threats and take care of them. This fight or flight response can ideally be engaged and disengaged as needed to deal with threats.
So, what’s the problem? When anxiety is part of your everyday life your body simply does not turn off your fight or flight response. Living in a constant state of anxiety can cause dire physical and emotional effects. Long story short, anxiety is systemic: it’s in your brain and your body.
Many people who have anxiety will at some point face depression. Both anxiety and depression are thought to stem from the fight or flight response. This may help explain why so often people feel symptoms of both. It’s also why the same tools that help with anxiety also help with depression.
Do I Need Help for My Anxiety?
The National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) reports that over 40 million people in the United State over the age of 18 suffer from diagnosed anxiety. Bear in mind this is data for those who have been diagnosed. What does this mean? Millions of people suffering from anxiety go undiagnosed, which means they are not getting the support they so need. It’s time to address anxiety—to move past shame and into the light where help is waiting.
If you have any of the following symptoms fairly regularly, you may want to consider that anxiety is on the scene:
- Excessive worry
- Sleep problems
- Muscle pain
People often ask if they need professional help for their anxiety. There is no official marker for anxiety, no blood test we can take that tells us if our anxiety has become too much. Odds are if you are asking the question, anxiety has taken its toll, and you could benefit from seeking help.
Understanding anxiety and the toll it is taking is the first step to getting help. Rest assured: anxiety is real and you are not alone.
First Steps for Managing Anxiety
Good news. You have lots of options. There are things you can do for yourself to help with anxiety.
You can overcome fear, but you have to develop skills to manage anxiety. The best thing about developing these skills is that once you identify some things that help you, you can pull them out of your tool box whenever anxiety resurfaces.
1. Be gentle with yourself. The less gracious and kind you are with yourself, the worse your anxiety will be. What would you say to a loved one suffering from anxiety?
2. Occupy your mind. Have you ever noticed that when you engage in activities that require your focus, anxiety decreases? Be strategic. This could mean taking a run, playing a game of cards, or going to the movies. Whatever works for you.
3. Talk with a therapist. Research shows that talking with a therapist can lead to remarkable benefits when facing anxiety. Some report immediate relief knowing they have reached out for help and started to face their anxiety. A therapist can help you understand your anxiety and help you troubleshoot it.
4. Better yet, talk with a therapist and see a psychiatrist or nurse practioner to see if you are a candidate for medication. Because anxiety and depressions are so closely correlated, there is a good chance that medication may help. What’s more, research shows that taking medication helps clients get to a point where they can have more expansive conversations in therapy. Let your provider know your thoughts on medication and make an informed decision for yourself. This is your story; gather information and make a decision you believe is best for you. Remember, no decision is final. Revisions are important.
5. Learn. Then learn some more. Austin is full of opportunities to help you manage your anxiety. For example, NAMI provides information, education, and support groups that can help.
6. Tell your people. If you’ve been enduring anxiety quietly, consider telling those closest to you. Odds are they will be supportive. Maybe you don’t want them to troubleshoot for you? Let them know that the best way to support you is by being with you and lending an ear. Who knows, sharing your story of anxiety may free others to share theirs? You could be their light.
Practice self-care. Practice managing your anxiety. It’s all about The Practice.