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  • Sara

Anxiety 101: What does it look like?

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

For those of us that have experienced anxiety, we know that it can be all-consuming. Anxiety can leave you feeling uneasy, nervous, distraught, distracted, and carrying around so many other icky feelings that makes it difficult to focus on a task or feel comfortable in a social situation. At a certain level, occasional anxiety can be helpful for staying alert and safe; it is part of the body's internal fight or flight response that allows us to sense when we're in fear and react accordingly. However, when it becomes a constant, intrusive part of everyday life and makes it difficult to function, professional help could be needed to get “unstuck.”

Just like many other mental health conditions, there is a scale that measures the difference between fleeting moments of instability and continuous distress that affects one’s ability to live a full, happy life. When a person develops an anxiety disorder, it can wreak havoc on their everyday functioning; chronic anxiety can lead to avoidance of people and social situations, a fear of trying anything outside of a designated comfort zone, phobias, compulsions, and more.

There are a number of anxiety disorders and they look a bit different for everyone. Some people may have generalized anxiety, others might have obsessive-compulsive disorder. Still others may develop phobias and symptoms of these phobias themselves can present in different ways. One person may have an innate fear of spiders, for example, while another may not be able to drive for fear of an accident occurring. Still others may suffer from agoraphobia and find it difficult to leave their homes. Again, no matter how anxiety presents, the common connection is fear, and it takes addressing this fear (or fears) in order to ease symptoms.

Once an individual's fears are identified (usually with the help of a counselor), interventions can be put into place to help manage these. There may be a need to limit triggers in come cases, while in others, exposure therapy works best. A professional therapist will know how to work with a person to best be able to best cope with their anxiety. Empowerment and a sense of self-control are typically elements that are also encourages and incorporated into treatment plans. Having a sense of control over one's emotions and reactions helps to empower them and allow them to better manage symptoms.

Some days may be better than others, but generally the bad days for someone who suffers from chronic anxiety are incredibly tough on both the individual carrying the weight and their loved ones. It can be difficult for this person to describe what they are experiencing, especially to someone who hasn’t had a personal experience with it. If healthy coping mechanisms are not established and used to self-soothe symptoms, anxiety may lead to isolation and self-harm.

It is important to recognize that there are effective ways to manage anxiety. The first step should always be to start voicing concerns and asking for help. From there, working with others to find a professional that can develop a treatment plan tailored to one’s experiences can be extremely beneficial. Practicing the strategies outline could reset the brain and the nervous system, reteaching the body to better handle stressful situations.

Anxiety: Self-Help Tips

While it is a great idea to seek professional help for chronic anxiety, there are also some ways that you can help yourself manage these symptoms at home. Anxiety can become unmanageable in a fleeting moment, such as in the case of a panic attack, or it can show up as prolonged rumination or worry. Regardless of where you fall along that spectrum on any given day, try out the following anxiety-fighting tips:

· Create Small Habits to Celebrate Mini Victories – When you begin to work on developing small habits, you will be allowing yourself to celebrate the mini, everyday victories. Experts say that it takes 21 days to develop a new habit, so make sure to keep up with it for almost a month! Some examples of small habits that can create big changes over time include creating routines, list-making, taking a few minutes out of your day to focus on self-care, eating healthier and making a point to exercise at least a few times a week. When you accomplish what you’ve set out to change, take a pause and allow yourself to relish in this victory. It may seem small but small steps often lead to big rewards.

· Make Everyday Choices Easier – Have you ever felt completely overwhelmed by the number of choices you have to make every day? You are most definitely not alone! We are surrounded by choices constantly; find a way to make the small ones a bit easier so that you have more energy to focus on big decisions. For example, meal prepping ahead of the week alleviates the choice of deciding what to eat every day. You could also try writing down activities on slips of paper that you can pull from a jar whenever you want to do something fun.

· Stay Active to Boost Your Mental Health – Staying active has enormous health benefits for your body, mind, and soul. Whether it is going for a walk or attending a spin class, there are so many opportunities to release endorphins and give your body the boost it needs. Exercise is directly connected to positive mood. Try to carve out at least 30 minutes of your day to be active.

Each of these tasks can be taken one day at a time. Remember to give yourself some grace and appreciate yourself for taking these steps towards having more control over your life! These small changes can make you feel better equipped to handle anxiety moving forward.


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