“Anxiety was born in the very same moment as mankind. And since we will never be able to master it, we will have to learn to live with it—just as we have learned to live with storms.” – Paulo Coelho
Anxiety is an emotion characterised by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like sweating and shortness of breath. Occasional anxiety is a part of everyday life, it is a natural response to stressors and is also considered healthy. However, pathological anxiety is associated with persistent apprehension about negative future events, and it can have a wide range of effects on cognitive performance.
Anxiety is often classified as emotional distress rather than a mental disorder, the key difference between the two being that emotional distress can be treated through self-help methods and without anti-anxiety medication. Moderate levels of anxiety are considered healthy since they are emotional responses to threats and keep the individual motivated by the flight or fight response. It is functional and part of the problem-solving mechanisms. But this differs from pathological anxiety which is an exaggerated and dysfunctional state. If you experience symptoms of anxiety constantly and intensely, even without the presence of a trigger, and when it disrupts your daily life, then it is termed as an anxiety disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders (DSM) categorises anxiety disorders into several types such as post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, obsessive/compulsive disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, and agoraphobia.
There are two types of anxiety, one is external, which is caused by external factors in the environment, such as work-related pressure, traffic, or an argument with someone close to you. Internal anxiety, on the other hand, is internally generated, it begins with a thought, a what-if thought, and develops into a chain of more scary thoughts.
When it comes to anxiety, a number of elements come into play. It could be genetics, and it varies by age group, gender, and demographics. However, research has revealed that environmental variables, rather than genetics, are more likely to create widespread sensations of worry. Stress is caused by big life events such as the death of a loved one, work-related stress, and environmental stressors such as traffic. Furthermore, it is believed that patients with anxiety disorders have high catecholamine levels, which makes them nervous. The fourth factor that contributes to anxiety is personality, where particular personality qualities make a person more anxious. Perfectionist tendencies and the drive to be in charge of everything are examples of these
Physical symptoms such as sweatiness, sweating, dizziness, shortness of breath or insomnia or restlessness, muscle aches, dry mouth, hot flashes, or chills are common characteristics of an anxiety disorder. Other symptoms include cognitive symptoms where anxiety may impair spatial short-term memory performance, however, research has shown that it has no effect on long-term memory, feelings of depression or hopelessness, feelings of bewilderment and unreality, scary, uncontrollable thoughts, nausea, upset stomach. People who suffer from an anxiety disorder often tend to worry about heart attacks, going insane, embarrassment, losing control, fainting, and hurting someone or themselves.
Anxiety can limit our lives in a number of ways. People with severe social anxiety may avoid social situations at all costs while OCD may make it difficult for people to perform basic activities like eating, drinking, or going to work. Excessive worrying may also lead to bad relationships with others.
It can be treated to some extent through self-help. The key is to change the way you think about it.
- Meditation- Research shows that consistent meditation reprograms the brain which helps deal with anxiety better and is also linked to a reduced level of stress hormones
- Mindfulness- Fear is all about losing control, so it is important to be present. Engaging all five of your senses is essential when dealing with anxiety. Five questions to bring you back to the present are Who am i here with, what am I touching, What do I smell, what can i hear and What can I see.
- Compassionate Self Talk-Any words or phrases that make you feel good about yourself, strong, cheerful, and confident are considered compassionate self-talk. Accept that you are a negative thinker and that you may need to change this. Replace negative thoughts with caring self-talk and affirmations. This process may be difficult, and you may encounter resistance and discouragement along the way, but remember to be patient with yourself.
- Take responsibility- The ability to respond in a circumstance with control and tranquilly is defined as responsibility. Taking responsibility, as difficult as it may seem at first, turns out to be the only path to peace. We must individually claim our own power and realise our own role in the development and recovery from anxiety illness. In the end, each person's healing is entirely up to them.
- Nutrition- The food we eat plays a major role in anxiety. Food rich in magnesium and zinc has been linked to lower anxiety. Examples of such food include leafy greens, legumes, nuts, oysters, cashews, beef, and egg yolk. On the other hand, caffeine is one of the most common substances that will trigger stress in the body.
It is important to realise when anxiety starts affecting the normal well-being of an adult and to seek the right help. The subtle art of Mindfulness will help you with mindfulness for anxiety