The American Psychological Association defines Anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure”.
Anxiety is a normal reaction to various events and situations occurring in our lives. It is one of the internal warning systems that alerts us to danger or other threats and prepares the body to fight back or get out of a dangerous situation. A manageable amount of anxiety can help in situations such as providing motivation to prepare for an exam or completing a task at work.
However, anxiety becomes a concern when it is overwhelming or unmanageable and it comes up unexpectedly. Anxiety disorders are mental illnesses that have a big impact on an individual’s life. They may avoid going about their daily lives, experience uncomfortable physical sensations and have physical health problems.
Individuals with anxiety disorders may experience recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns, avoid certain situations out of worry, and may also experience physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat.
Although anxiety is not based in reality, it can cause individuals to feel ‘trapped’ by their thoughts and feelings. It is important to know here that anxiety disorders can be treated and that it is important to seek help if you are concerned about the anxiety you are experiencing.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
People can feel butterflies in their stomach, a racing heart, feel out of control, or feel a disconnect between one’s mind and body, a general feeling of fear and worry, or fear about a specific place or event. It can also cause nightmares, panic attacks, and painful thoughts or memories that cannot be controlled.
Individuals may also experience symptoms such as:
increased heart rate
feeling nervous, restless or tense
rapid breathing (hyperventilation)
feeling weak or tired
Being unable to think about anything other than the topic of worry
difficulty falling asleep
experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
feeling like there is an impending danger, panic or doom
Anxiety feels different to each person. One person’s symptoms might be completely different from another’s, making it important to know the ways in which anxiety can present itself.
What are the types of anxiety disorders?
The following types of anxiety disorders generally seen in indivudals:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: individuals with this disorder experience chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry and tension, even in situations where that does not necessarily provoke it.
Panic Disorder: individuals with this disorder experience unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms such as chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress.
Phobic anxiety disorder: this disorder is characterized by intense fear of a specific object or situation, such as public spaces, social situations, or specific things like heights, animals or flying.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): individuals with this disorder experience recurrent, unwanted thoughts called obsessions and/or repetitive behaviors called compulsions. They may engage in repetitive behaviors including hand washing, counting or cleaning, to prevent obsessive thoughts or making them go away. Individuals engage in these so-called “rituals,” to reduce their anxiety, but it only gives them temporary relief, and not performing them leads to increased anxiety.
Individuals can also experience anxiety with symptoms of mood disorders, separation anxiety or a medication-induced anxiety disorder. These are all conditions that can be managed, but do require working with a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist.
What are the techniques that can be used to calm down when you’re home alone?
Breathing is a very effective technique for reducing anger and anxiety quickly. Taking long, deep calming breaths disrupts that loop and helps people calm down. There are various techniques that can be used, such as Three-part breathing which requires a person to take one deep breath in and then exhale fully while paying attention to their body. Once comfortable with deep breathing, the person can then change the ratio of inhalation and exhalation to 1:2 (slow down exhalation so that it’s twice as long as inhalation).
Anxiety causes a lot of energy to be spent on irrational thoughts. Finding a “centering object” such as a small stuffed animal, a polished rock, or a beaded chain, and touching it when experiencing anxiety or frustration, can help calm one’s thoughts.
Giving yourself nutrition and/ or hydration
When an individual is hungry or not properly hydrated, many calming techniques won’t work. This makes it important to slow down and get something to eat, even if it is just a small snack.
Eating foods naturally rich in magnesium (such as nuts, seeds, and whole grains), and zinc (foods like oysters, cashews, liver, beef, and egg yolks) in the daily diet may also help with reducing anxiety. Foods rich in antioxidants, such as berries, beans, fruits and vegetables may help ease symptoms of anxiety.
When should a person consult a doctor or a therapist?
It may become important to visit your doctor if the worry is interfering with an individual’s daily life (including hygiene, school or work, and social life). It is also important to see a doctor if the anxiety, fear, or worry is very distressing and hard to control.
In case you feel like you are experiencing an overwhelming amount of anxiety, reach out to us at HEAL with Shivtensity, to connect with doctors, therapists or counselors who can help you better address what you are going through.