Most people experience anxiety on occasion. You know the feeling: Your chest tightens, your breathing shallows, and your mind starts racing with worst-case scenarios. No matter how hard you try, you can’t calm down.
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older … yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.”
As someone who has lived a relatively stressful life as an entrepreneur and freelance writer, I have personally experienced the physical symptoms (sweating, muscle tension, abdominal pain and nausea) commonly associated with generalized anxiety.
Generalized anxiety disorder is when the intensity of the worry is out of proportion to the likelihood of the anticipated event. The excessive worry or anxiety occurs more days than not for a period of at least six months. (psychcom.net)
Like many children growing up, I worried unnecessarily about many things such as: the boogeyman under my bed, getting good grades, my first sleepover, and being struck by lightning.
According to psychologists, fear can appear at different times during development. For example, toddlers are often extremely stressed about being away from their parents, even if they are safe. “Although fears and worries are typical in children, persistent or extreme forms of fear and sadness could be due to either anxiety or depression”. (CDC.gov).
Anxiety may present as fear, but can also cause children to be irritable and angry.
This is also true for adults. Other anxiety symptoms may include trouble sleeping, fatigue, headaches, diarrhea. In some cases, individuals may even break out in hives.
What you may not know about stress is that it’s not all bad. In fact, anyone can experience eustress or positive stress.
Clinical psychiatrist Dr. Michael Genovese explains, eustress is a chemical response in the body which can be brought on when faced with a fun challenge.
“Eustress helps us stay motivated, work toward goals, and feel good about life,” he says. (Healthline.com)
When a child fails to outgrow ‘normal’ age-related fears which interfere with school, home, or play activities, it is time to seek advice from a mental health professional.
Unrelenting feelings of doom are often the result of biochemical root causes, just like diabetes or heart disease. Thus, those exhibiting longer than ‘normal’ bouts of anxiety may find relief through behavioral changes, talk therapy or medications.
Physical activity, a healthy diet, regular sleep, and meditation may reduce feelings of anxiety. Experts also recommend avoiding caffeine, alcohol and nicotine for managing symptoms. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do to keep my anxiety in check was give up coffee. Now, even if I have just one cup of Joe, I can feel my anxiety levels starting to rise.
You are probably tired of hearing how exercise is the cure for everything that ails you. Well, don’t blame the messenger. According to the Mayo clinic, “doing 30 minutes or more of exercise a day for three to five days a week may significantly reduce anxiety symptoms.”
Meditation can help lower stress by helping individuals pay closer attention to their emotions and provide the means to relax before things get worse. (Heathline.com)
To learn more about treatment options for anxiety such as diet and prescription medications, talk to your doctor.