How to Manage Anxiety
Updated: Jul 1, 2021
Mental health is only one component of our overall well being. There's a correlation between physical and psychological conditions and thus, it's important to have an understanding of how all aspects of our life intertwine and work together to create harmony. At times, physical issues resulting from accidents or alterations in the body result in psychological issues and vice versa. Symptoms of anxiety can develop due to both internal and/or external non-physical factors. This may eventually lead to complicated psychological disorders.
Anxiety and stress are a normal part of life. People experience different degrees of anxiety or stress in their lives in one form or another. Similarly, everyone has their way of coping with stress. Healthily releasing stress is vital for overall health, and leaving it untreated may lead to critical psychological conditions, including anxiety disorders, depression, and sometimes physical disorders.
What Happens When A Person Experiences Anxiety?
A person with anxiety is in a state of worry, tension and has intrusive thoughts. Such feelings initiate the body’s fight and flight mechanism.
Under the fight or flight response mechanism, the blood pressure of the person experiencing stress or anxiety increases, breathing rate increases, the pupils dilate, sweating increases, the heart beats faster, and the individual may feel dizzy.
Other changes include dryness of the mouth, excessive adrenaline production, hands and feet getting cold, nausea, an upset stomach, and increased urination.
Fight and flight responses are effective when an individual is in a critical situation. These responses alert the body of possible danger. However, under normal conditions, a short-term stress alert system reaches balance quickly. Some people can understand the situation and control their response to stressful circumstances.
Yet, other people find it challenging dealing with the crisis as they cannot understand the situation and are unable to control the stress response. As a result, such people react more than needed as their body remains on high alert status beyond the point that it is healthy.
Anxiety Causes And Impact On Mental Health
When the body of an individual is more responsive to sudden changes or crises than is necessary, it is likely that the person will develop anxiety disorders or stress disorders.
Treating anxiety and managing stress levels is vital for overall well-being and success in personal and professional life.
Overlooking or omitting anxiety management can result in the occurrence of anxiety attacks leading to panic attacks. An anxiety attack is minor to a panic attack.
However, an increase in heartbeat, elevation in blood pressure, difficulty in breathing, irrational thoughts, lightheadedness, nausea, chest pain, the sensation of fear, and stomach upsets, are experienced by people during both panic attacks and anxiety. But the extent of symptoms and duration of panic attacks is severe and longer.
Moreover, the uncertainty of when and where anxiety and panic attacks occur increases fear in people with stress issues. It affects their job, work performance, social interaction, and overall health. Repeated fluctuations in heartbeat and blood pressure weaken the heart muscles. Stomach upsets lead to abnormal food absorption, weakening of the muscles and immune system of the body.
The severity of anxiety symptoms varies from person to person. Some people develop minor symptoms of anxiety, while others may develop moderate to severe symptoms.
Usually, the symptoms go away by the end of a panic attack and anxiety attack. Moreover, if the symptoms persist, it indicates the presence of an underlying disorder.
The mental and physical condition of the individual suffers due to recurrent anxiety occurrence. Thus, every individual needs to learn how to manage their stress levels before they lead to anxiety development and, in severe cases resulting in panic attacks and other disorders.
Managing Anxiety For Better Mental Health And Well-Being
Short and long-term anxiety management through various steps is essential for overall well-being. Treating it holistically is important, as it enables us to improve physical and mental health through a well-rounded approach. Effectively managing anxiety may involve mindfulness and bodily awareness, cognitive interventions, and behavioural changes.
It is crucial to understand the origins of the anxiety, how it presents itself, and the impacts that it has on one’s life. It’s important to start with being aware and curious with the anxiety - the thoughts and sensations that arise. By practicing gentle and compassionate inquiry into one’s inner world, we can then start to listen for messages or feedback from the physical sensations. For example, if the anxiety manifests as neck tension, notice that discomfort and how it affects the body. Release any judgement that might come up and simply be curious about the sensation.
People who experience anxiety usually have distorted thoughts or beliefs. If one situation does not work out as planned, they will think of the worst outcomes. This is called catastrophizing. In order to not let negative intrusive thoughts take over control, we can find “evidence” to disprove those negative thoughts or beliefs by asking ourselves, how realistic is this thought and how likely is it to happen.
Another step for managing stress and anxiety is to practice present moment awareness. People who experience anxiety tend to hyper-focus on the past or future. This may come up as worries, fears, and/or rumination. When we’re constantly thinking about everything except for the here and now, we aren’t able to enjoy life fully in the moment. In order to practice present moment awareness, it is important to shift our focus and attention to the current experience and sense into the present physical sensations, become aware of the breath, and notice the details of the environment.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle, balanced diet, getting sufficient sleep, and doing regular exercise is effective for managing stress and for better self-care. In addition, self-care improves the overall well-being of people while enhancing body performance, thinking, and immunity.
Anxiety can also be managed by abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing. In abdominal-breathing, breathe from the lower part of their lungs and pull air in the abdomen, take in as much air as you can hold, and count till 7. Then exhale the air slowly and repeat the process twice or thrice to relax.