Understanding anxiety

Anxiety is an umbrella term for feelings of fear, nervousness, apprehensiveness or worry such as negative thoughts and seeing potential threats where they don’t exist. Everybody gets anxious at times and some anxiety helps us to function well.

But anxiety can become a problem when:

  • It happens too often;
  • It goes on for a long time;
  • It stops us from doing things that we want to

Symptoms can be psychological (frequently feeling worried, tired, irritable and weepy with difficulty concentrating) and/or physical (including rapid breathing, rising blood pressure and pounding heart, a sense of restlessness or feeling on edge, muscle tension, sleep disturbance and nausea/sickness).

There is no single cause for anxiety but there are several factors that may contribute to its development:

  • Brain Chemistry – most strongly implicated here are imbalances of serotonin and dopamine that regulate thought and feeling – makes for feeling depressed and anxious;
  • Heredity – anxiety disorders run in families. Children are at higher risk if parents have an anxiety disorder;
  • Life Experiences – any distressing or traumatic experience may be grounds for developing anxiety. Exhaustion and certain medications can also be triggers for anxiety;
  • Drug Use – stimulant drugs like amphetamines and caffeine can trigger anxiety. Prolonged amphetamine use can cause feelings of panic and anxiety that last for years after the drug is stopped.

Some tips that may help you deal with your anxiety include:

  • Self-awareness – identify the symptoms early. Ask yourself what is making me feel this way? You may be able to change the anxiety-making circumstances but if not, you can deal with it better if you acknowledge it;
  • Interpret it positively – anxious about a situation? Instead of viewing it as threatening put a positive interpretation which will reduce the anxiety to a more manageable level;
  • A little anxiety is a good thing – too much is damaging but too little can mean you may not perform to your best ability. View anxiety as a resource you can manage;
  • Diet – the gut flora can get out of balance i.e. use more probiotics and omega-3 foods. Research has shown maintaining a balanced diet can reduce anxiety symptoms;
  • Exercise – boosts levels of vital brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine that may reduce stress and anxiety;
  • Relaxation and meditation programs – can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression. You can find many resources for these online; i.e. progressive muscle relaxation;
  • Therapy – there are some good programs that are offered by psychologists and counsellors that help to re-program those unhelpful and negative ways of thinking that underpins anxiety.

Situations, or life events, can come from many places including relationship issues, financial burden, physical health, trauma, or just dealing with difficult times (like seasonal conditions). As these situations develop, we need to take steps to reduce anxiety for ourselves and for those close to us. Remember… before it all gets too much… Talk to a Mate®!

You can find out more here.