What is Anxiety?
Many people don’t recognize anxiety for what it really is. For some people, they focus on the physical symptoms of anxiety which can often include; muscle aches, tension, headaches, stomach aches, feeling sweaty, feeling like they can’t catch their breath, feel that their heart is pounding away too fast, dizziness and lightheadedness.
Others may think that they must be stupid, weak, weird, or going crazy. They may feel they should be able to handle their stress and anxiety and that in some way all of these problems must be their fault in some way. Unfortunately, these thoughts can make anxiety become and grow worse.
The truth is that anxiety is a common problem and one of the first things you can do to help reduce it is to learn more about it so that it doesn’t seem to be controlling you.
Think of anxiety as an overly sensitive smoke alarm, but in your body. A smoke alarm helps to protect in the case of a fire but when they are overly sensitive they go off even when there isn’t a fire. Remember last time you burnt toast? Do you want to get rid of your smoke alarm? No, we need it to be safe. Anxiety is kind of like that. When it’s working correctly it is a warning but when it isn’t, it can be overwhelming.
Here are some facts to help you learn how to begin controlling your own anxiety.
1. Anxiety is normal. Yep, it’s normal. Everyone experiences anxiety at some times. A good example of normal anxiety would be to feel nervous before a job interview, or to ride a roller coaster for the first time, or seeing a snake where you least expected.
2. Anxiety is adaptive. It is a system in our body that helps us to deal with real dangers in life such as jumping out of the way of a fast moving car. Anxiety can help one prepare for job interviews, or to do our best on tests. Anxiety is the body’s “fight or flight response” that is used to prepare to defend itself.
A problem with this can be when something feels dangerous but in reality it isn’t. Such as going into that job interview. Some physical symptoms are feeling jittery and on edge. Some people feel overwhelmed and start avoiding places such as crowds because the feel overwhelming symptoms of anxiety.
3. Anxiety is not dangerous. There are times when it’s severe that it feels dangerous but it’s not.
4. Anxiety won’t last forever. When you are anxious, you may feel like the anxiety is going to last forever. But anxiety is temporary and will eventually decrease.
5. Anxiety is mostly anonymous. Most people (except those close to you) cannot tell when you are anxious because it does not show on your face.
6. Anxiety can become a problem. Anxiety is a problem when your body reacts as if there is danger when there is no real danger.
7. Anxiety problems are common. In fact, anxiety is the most common reason for people to seek therapy in the United States.
8. When people suffer from anxiety they unknowingly are practicing what we call “unhelpful” or “negative” thoughts. This means they are training their brains to be in a constant state of feeling like they are in danger. Doesn’t practice make perfect? The trick is to practice new, “helpful” or “positive” thoughts.
9. In time, our body has got used to this intense sense of danger and it’s difficult to start retraining our mind to think differently. It’s like the exercise routine, or the walk you take every day. It’s easier to do it the same way every time. Even when you change it up a bit, you will usually go back to doing it the same way. You can train your brain, with practice, to take a different path, a more productive one. This new path will help you to feel safer and be able to cope to stresses in a more healthy way.
10. Anxiety is an on/off system which is actually called the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. It is physically impossible to be both relaxed and anxious at the same time. So another way of helping yourself is to learn how to relax. If you can learn how to relax when you are stressed then you will have a great deal of your anxiety problem in check.
For more information on Anxiety please check on a previous post Living with Anxiety and Why are college students feeling more stress and anxiety today?