Note from Lana | Lifestyle Queen Bee: I have anxiety. I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. A lot of people misinterpret worry for anxiety. Anxiety can really impact your life by always preventing you from doing the things you enjoy or even need to do. People with anxiety often feel embarrassed to let people know & suffer in silence. Personally, I have no problems sharing my struggles with anxiety with people (I also have OCD) so this post, shared with us by one of my regular guests Christine H, is for those who are struggling with anxiety & providing you with ways to cope with it.
All of us get nervous from time to time. However, for some of us, it’s more than nervousness, and it’s more than “from time to time.” Anxiety disorders affect 40 million American adults, and it’s getting more and more common in children under 18. Anxiety disorders include anything from panic attacks to depression, and they seem to be on the rise.
What’s the Difference between Worry and an Anxiety Disorder?
It can be hard to distinguish between the two. Many sources state that people with anxiety disorders spend about 5 times as much time worrying as people who are just “worriers.” The major way to recognize an anxiety disorder is whether it interrupts normal functioning, or keeps people from their plans and goals. Think about it: if you become a little more anxious because there’s actual danger around, like bad weather while you’re driving, it can help keep you alert and focused. It’s a benefit. If, on the other hand, anxiety keeps you from speaking up at work and getting the leads that you need in order to be successful, it can be a disorder.
Anxiety disorders also seem to affect people disproportionately. For example, about 20% of young adults report severe anxiety (between ages 18 and 32). Teens are even more affected, with 25% of them reporting anxiety. Women are 60% more likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder, and teen girls have the highest rate of severe anxiety, with 30% of them seriously affected at at least one point during the teen years. Anxiety disorders affect children, too: 1 in 8, in fact.
How Anxiety Disorders Affect Your Days
Anxiety disorders can affect people in a huge variety of ways, depending on the specific disorder, and the level of severity. However, many of the ways that it impacts daily life may be things that you never would have thought of.
- Stomach and digestive problems
- Muscle aches and tension
- Social discomfort, and avoiding social situations
- Reluctance to leave the house and get things done
- Major impacts on relationships
- Can contribute to perfectionism, obsessively double-checking things, and needing constant affirmation from others
On the Rise?
Many reports state that anxiety is severely on the rise. In fact, anxiety disorders are as much as 20 times more common than they were 30 years ago. There are many philosophies about why this is. Some believe it’s not actually a problem, citing the increase in diagnostic tools and awareness about the condition as the main reason for the increase. Some people say that heightened anxiety is a result of the discord between biologically-encoded safety measures (like fearing strangers or traveling at unsafe speeds) and the way that we conduct modern life. Thousands of years ago, humans had a better chance of surviving if they were wary of strangers and avoided travel at a pace faster than they could run. Today, these primal fears must be overcome every day just to function.
However, other clinicians and researchers believe that the rise in anxiety disorders is the result of much more recent adjustments to social norms. For example, the amygdala is instrumental in producing the fear and anxiety response in our brains. The amygdala works as sort of the mail room of the brain, sorting incoming stimuli and sending it to the appropriate place. Consider that modern life, with our hyper-connected technology, means that we’re receiving incoming stimuli that are specially formulated to catch our attention and evoke a response – ALL the time. It creates an environment specially formulated to excite anxiety. This can especially affect children and teens, who are more connected to media and pop culture, and also haven’t developed as many filters to preserve the peace of mind.
Tips for Managing Anxiety
- Avoid coffee and energy drinks. The heightened levels of caffeine don’t usually help anxiety disorders. However, if you have a hard time starting your day without a boost, consider a more calming stimulant, like matcha tea. Many teens and young adults also use energy drinks frequently, which can disrupt the normal patterns of energy and stimulation in the body.
- Exercise regularly. Did you know that in some studies, exercise was found just as effective as medication at helping subjects sleep? Exercise helps your body and mind in so many ways! Prioritize your health routine, and especially focus on exercises like yoga that encourage you to be mindful and meditate.
- Improve gut health with a healthy diet and probiotics. This might seem beside the point, but the truth is that anxiety is very closely linked with your digestive system. Keep your tummy happy with healthy foods and you may notice that it greatly improves your daily mood and anxiety levels as well.
- Practice gratitude. Thinking about everything you must do and everything you don’t have can drain your calm. Instead, focus on things you DO have and things you have already done.
- Try counseling. Many people are hesitant to try counseling, but it can be very effective, and if it can improve your life, what’s stopping you?
- Cut back on internet use. Many studies have found a direct correlation between anxiety and/or depression, and social media use. If your smartphone is often the source of panic and stress, eliminate notifications, or consider going off the grid for a while.
Medication is available to decrease anxiety, but it should be carefully managed by a doctor. Never self-medicate with mind-altering substances, even legal ones like alcohol. There’s a high correlation between alcoholism and anxiety disorders, and although it can soothe symptoms in the moment, it can also lead to a very problematic and more-anxiety-inducing lifestyle.
Thanks, Christine for sharing a post that silently affects so many of us.
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