“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.”
– Charles Spurgeon
Anxiety, Our Protector
We recognize anxiety within us as emotions that cause fear or worry. It is the part of us that reacts to threats in our environment, that gets nervous before the big presentation, that wonders about the future, and about what others truly think of us. Our feelings of anxiety are initially formed in pursuit of self-protection, in an attempt to keep us safe, but become problematic when they take over our experience of life.
Fight or Flight
In order to help us deal with potential threats, our brains are flooded with chemicals that activate our sympathetic nervous system, which in turn increases our heart rate and breathing.
This fight-or-flight mechanism that prepares our body for action is important for our survival. However, it can become an issue if it is triggered too frequently, is felt too intensely, or causes a reaction out of proportion to what triggered it.
What Causes Anxiety
You may be genetically predisposed to anxiety, model your anxious worldview after a parent, or your anxiety may stem from your experience of a distressing event. Losing a loved one or a job, or feeling stressed at home or work all contribute to anxiety.
Anxiety will also grow if we learn to cope with it by avoiding all that makes us feel anxious rather than to face and feel it.
How Anxiety Affects You
Anxiety becomes a problem when it prevents you from functioning or enjoying your life. Anxiety disorders take many different shapes and range from Generalized Anxiety (GAD) to Panic Disorders.
The associated symptoms, like irritability, for instance, may also strain your relationships. Difficulty sleeping and concentrating can also lead to problems at school or at work.
Below you’ll find a list of symptoms associated with anxiety. You may experience a few or several, but always remember that only a trained professional can correctly diagnose anxiety.
Cognitive Symptoms Include:
Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
Having trouble focusing or concentrating on anything other than the present worry
Racing thoughts or difficulty ‘quieting the mind’
Feeling tense or on edge
Feeling weak or tired
Physical Symptoms Include:
Gastrointestinal upset and discomfort
Shortness of breath and hyperventilation
Sleep disturbances and restlessness
Types of Anxiety Disorders
When your anxiety starts to affect your daily life and frequently prevents you from enjoying yourself, you may have an anxiety disorder. Below are some of the most common anxiety disorders.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Worrying about parts of our lives is common, but if you worry constantly when there is no reason to worry, you may be experiencing GAD. Usually, people with GAD cannot identify the source of their worry. Excessive worrying that comes with GAD can affect relationships and daily activities.
Experiencing repeated and random panic attacks often means you have panic disorder. People with panic disorder have sudden rushes of fear without knowing specifically where it’s coming from. It can be scary to live with and treating it is often necessary to once again achieve a sense of normalcy.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
After exposure to a traumatic event, the event may linger in a person’s mind on constant replay. They may struggle with their desire to avoid the world that has become a dangerous place, others, as they have proved themselves untrustworthy, and even may seek to avoid themselves or the memories of what happened.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
People with OCD often experience intrusive thoughts based in unreasonable thoughts or fears that have corresponding behaviors or urges tied to them. This may involve physical or mental rituals for disinfecting against contamination, creating order, or checking for safety.
When these thoughts arise, anxiety and stress surge.
Also called social phobia, social anxiety occurs when individuals experience discomfort with different social situations like participating in conversations, making direct eye contact, dating, or speaking in front of a group. Humans are social creatures, so social anxiety can affect and hold us back in many aspects of our lives.
Alternative treatments for anxiety are becoming more popular, and they often work best in conjunction with more traditional forms of therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a problem-solving technique more interested in finding solutions to the symptoms rather than the cause of the anxiety. By running through how anxiety presents itself in your life, and focusing on changing the thoughts and beliefs that keep you stuck, you and your clinician can discover ways in which certain skills or techniques might help you control and manage your anxiety.
Mindfulness & Meditation
Both mindfulness and meditation involve developing your awareness of yourself and your body in its surroundings and paying attention in particular ways. Practicing mindfulness can be as simple as spending time noticing your breath, or involve diving deeper into your established meditative practice. Both can have incredibly positive impacts on your mental and physical health.
The physical and mental benefits of yoga have long been understood and widely promoted. For those dealing with anxiety, yoga can be like a mental workout. When practicing a difficult posture and maintaining focus on your breath, you’re also practicing letting go of external fears and maintaining an internal sense of calm.
Our diet and what we put in our bodies end up having immense effects in our mental and physical well-being. Stay away from sugar, caffeine and alcohol and make sure you’re eating nutritious meals, with fiber and “psychobiotics”, which will help to detoxify your gut, and in turn, make your symptoms decrease in intensity.
Techniques to Regulate the Nervous System
In order to get our brains to halt our anxious response, to wrestle back control from our sympathetic nervous system (Fight, Flight, or Freeze), we need to encourage the parasympathetic nervous system (Rest and Digest) to take over. Deep mindful breathing, guided imagery, focusing on a soothing word, or repetitive prayer are all good places to start.
There are many different types of supplements that have effects on stress and anxiety, including vitamins, minerals, and different types of herbal products like ashwagandha, passionflower, or licorice root. Several clinical trials demonstrate their effectiveness to equal or greater success in overcoming anxious symptoms than those who were prescribed psychotropic medications.
Here at IntraBalance, we believe in treating anxiety through a holistic lens. If you experience anxiety and want to reduce your use of psychotropic medications and instead employ the non-medication remedies described above, call us to set up a consultation where we can talk about your needs in specific detail and create a path to overcome the anxiety.