We all feel nervous and worried from time to time in different situations. The feelings vary from “having butterflies in the gut” to “I feel I cannot breathe”. Anxiousness is a normal human reaction to many situations. But for some, it’s not that temporary or once in a while, but it gets worse over time.
According to a scientific brief, released by WHO, 301 million people were living with an anxiety disorder including 58 million children and adolescents, in 2019. It also shared that the prevalence rate of anxiety and depression increased by 25% and more, during the Covid-19 pandemic, worldwide (2022).
It’s not possible to eliminate anxiety, as it’s a crucial human response, which keeps us alert and alive. But anxiety disorders are treatable and manageable. There are different types of anxiety disorders i.e. Generalized anxiety, panic, phobias etc. But research suggests that most of them are driven by similar underlying processes such as increased activity in the amygdala, a region of the brain that is involved in processing emotions, and changes in neurotransmitter levels and even similar environmental factors that can contribute. However, each anxiety disorder also has its specific features, like specific triggers in phobia, and patterns of avoidance behaviour in a panic attack and/or generalized anxiety.
WHAT CAN ANXIETY FEEL LIKE TO SOMEONE?
USUAL SYMPTOMS OF ANXIETY
To each, their own, anxiety can feel from alertness and worry before an exam to a situation of panic, which feels (and is often misinterpreted) like a heart attack. As we said earlier, occasional moments of anxiety are entirely normal, but when it becomes frequent, it starts to disturb your day-to-day work, makes you avoid situations that may trigger discomfort, it may be a sign for you to track and treat your ‘worry’, and try therapy.
To cope with it, people often try to avoid situations and experiences that bring them anxiety. But this can backfire and feed the anxiety in the long run. This is because avoidance behaviour prevents an individual from learning that the feared situation is not as dangerous or harmful as they believe it to be. When someone avoids a feared situation, they miss out on the opportunity to experience that the situation does not actually lead to the catastrophic consequences they have imagined, and this reinforces their belief that the situation is dangerous. Additionally, avoiding feared situations can also result in decreased confidence, and increased helplessness towards an anxiety-provoking situation, further contributing to the maintenance of anxiety.
WORKING THROUGH ANXIETY
“You do not have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.” - Dan Millman
Psychologists and clients can work together to understand their thoughts and emotions better and practice effective ways of managing and coping with anxiety. Psychotherapy, mainly Cognitive-Behavioural therapy (CBT), has been widely worked with and is highly effective in treating anxiety. Understanding how your thoughts contribute to your anxiety symptoms, working on thought patterns, reducing undesired behaviours and adapting healthier behaviours, is what CBT contributes.
Mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and breathing techniques are some common and effective additions along with psychotherapy that help in managing your anxiety. Based on the severity of the condition, a diagnosis may be required by a Clinical Psychologist or Psychiatrist that’s when medications are used to help relieve symptoms of anxiety, in combination with therapy practices.
5 TIPS TO MANAGE YOUR ANXIETY
Apart from therapy and assistance required techniques, there are some techniques that can be practised and encouraged for the management of anxiety.
1. IDENTIFY THE TRIGGERS
One can identify the triggers on their own or with a therapist. Some can be financial concerns, work stress, and deadlines, adding to that can be an intake of caffeine, alcohol or smoking, Disrupted sleep and diet etc. Some problems, such as work-related or relationship situations, may take some time to figure out. When you do figure out your trigger, you can try to limit your exposure to it, think rationally through it, or seek help.
2. PRACTISE FOCUSED DEEP BREATHING
When in a state of anxiety, or when it might be accelerating, one easy way to calm the nervousness is deep breathing. One can use the 4-7-8 technique for the same. You can also try to focus on your present environment, by involving different senses. The 5-4-3-2-1 technique is recommended. Focusing on calming sound, music, and imagery can be some other ways or everyday practice.
3. GO FOR A WALK, TAKE SOME FRESH AIR
Sometimes, the best way to stop anxious thoughts is by walking away from them for some time. Taking some time to focus on your body and not your mind may help relieve your anxiety. Getting some quick exercise can help boost your mood and calm your mind.
4. SHARE IT OUT
often gets difficult when under worry. Talking to someone or sharing with someone can burst your cloud of anxious thoughts, help you think straight and rationally, and make your work better in the present.
5. PEN DOWN YOUR THOUGHTS
Writing down what’s making you anxious can help you get it out of your head and can make it less daunting. It can be helpful to create a habit of writing down your thoughts and emotions in a journal. The process of writing down thoughts itself can be calming for some. Further, it can also help you keep track of when you experience anxiety, how it makes you feel, and what sort of things trigger it.
Anxiety and anxiety disorders are very much manageable and treatable to bring your anxiety down, if not completely eliminated as it's a natural emotion. Many have been able to reduce and even eliminate symptoms of severe anxiety with the help of psychotherapy.
All the above options can work well as temporary solutions but in the long run, we need to understand our thoughts and emotions better to be able to work through our anxiety. If you have read through this, you already have taken your first step towards letting go of your worry. Check us out at MentAmigo and book our services to embark on your journey of healing. We understand the need for the comfort and safe space that you may be looking for, to rediscover yourself, ignite the conversation with yourself and get more in touch with yourself. Consider checking out our services and finding a therapist that’s right for you.