Racing heart, dizziness, tightness in the chest, nausea, shaking, difficulty sleeping, chills yet sweating….sounds like a heart attack, right? It could be a heart attack, yet if you are one of the 40 million adults (18.1% of the adult population!) or 25.1% of the 13-18 year old population in the United States, it could also be related to symptoms of anxiety.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health diagnosis in the United States and people who experience symptoms are 3-5 times more likely to seek treatment with their family doctor and 6 times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric care than those who do not experience or have anxiety disorders according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). These statistics are quite an eye opener and hopefully makes anyone who experiences anxiety feel less alone.
Many people say that they have anxiety and likely they do experience anxiety from time to time, such as before taking a test, before a job interview, or driving during a snowstorm. However, for those who have an anxiety disorder, it goes way beyond having short term and temporary period of feelings of nervousness. For them, anxiety instead encompasses much of their lives and affects many aspects of their lives such as relationships, work, schooling, and health. Anxiety never seems to be too far from a person’s mind when they have an anxiety disorder. It often feels as if people are in a constant state of increased stress, what is called “fight or flight” mode, where they feel as if they need to be ready to defend themselves or quickly get out of any situation. One such example is if you are afraid of spiders and see a large one in a room, you feel a sense of panic and feel the need to either remove the spider quickly or run out of the room screaming. As Jody Aman said “Ask your anxiety this question: Why don’t you just leave me alone?” If it was only that simple.
How to manage and get through feelings of worry or nervousness requires constant work, but don’t give up! Try the below strategies, and also check out this previous blog post on other ideas to reduce your anxiety:
1. Talk to someone, such as explaining what you are feeling and telling them what you need… whether it is a hug or for them to simply listen to you and talk to you about how you are feeling.
2. Listen to soothing music. As I have mentioned in past blog posts, I like Orla Fallon and Chicago, but choose what music is calming for you.
3. Cuddle with an animal. Animals are non judgmental and very accepting….the sound of a cat purring is so very relaxing, at least for me it is!
4. Focus on your breathing….feel yourself breathe in, feel the breath held in your lungs, feel the release of your breath and keep repeating this breathing exercise.
5. Get active….take a walk, cook, clean, or whatever you like to do.
6. Practice self talk such as “yes I am feeling anxious, yes I don’t like this feeling, yes I will be ok”.
7. Enroll in and participate in therapy…therapy is so beneficial, including for those who provide therapy.
5 tips to help a loved one who has anxiety:
Many people do not understand anxiety and what people who experience anxiety are going through. Many people who experience anxiety have often been asked “Why don’t you just stop being anxious and calm down like I am?” Well, wouldn’t that be nice for it to be that easy?!?! It is not like anxiety is a light switch that one can turn on and off with a flick of a wrist. Heck, those who experience anxiety would be very grateful for it to be like a dimmer switch that they could at least lower the intensity of worry! Charles Schulz once said “My anxieties have anxieties”. How true is that?!?! And, Lauren Elizabeth stated “Just because I can’t explain the feelings causing my anxiety, doesn’t make them less valid”. This explains why your loved one might not be able to verbalize how they are feeling.
Living with and being in relationships with people who have anxiety disorders can be very challenging also. Often, family members and others involved with those with anxiety disorders wonder what to do, how to help, and what to say. This can be tricky, for often attempts at helping like saying “Please calm down. Everything is ok and you will be ok” often increases the anxiety level of those experiencing anxiety. Instead, try these suggestions:
1. Reassure the person experiencing anxiety that you are there for them and that you are available to talk such as “I am here for you and that I am always willing to listen and talk.”
2. Encourage the person experiencing anxiety to take their time and to work through the stress and anxiety together such as saying “I am not in a rush. I am here for you and we will work through this together.”
3. Offer some physical comfort such as a cup of hot herbal tea, a hug, or draw a hot bath.
4. Reassure them that you know and understand that they are not choosing to feel or act this way such as saying “I know this is difficult and that you don’t like or want to feel this way or experience this.”
5. Reassure them that you will still like and love them no matter what, such as saying “I love you in good and bad times.”
What are some ways that you manage anxiety? What do you need from others when experiencing anxiety? We would love to hear your strategies to manage anxiety and what you need from others to help you through your worry. If you are struggling with controlling your worry, please reach out to us. We care and are here to help!