In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what anxiety is, how it affects the body and brain, and some practical strategies for managing it.
So take a deep breath, wear your comfiest sweatpants, and get started!
Do you ever feel like you’re constantly on edge and walking on a tightrope without a safety net? Do you worry about everything from the big stuff, like global pandemics and climate change, to the small stuff, like whether you left the stove on before leaving the house?
If so, you’re not alone. Anxiety is a common experience for many people, and it can be a real neck pain (if you’re prone to tension headaches). But the good news is that you can use plenty of strategies to calm your anxiety and bring more peace and tranquility.
Anxiety is a natural response to stress and perceived threats. It’s a result of a series of chemical reactions that occur in the brain.
When the amygdala, the brain’s emotional center, perceives a threat, it triggers the release of adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones prepare the body for a “fight or flight” response. In this state, your body becomes tense, and your heart rate and breathing increase.
The effects of anxiety are not limited to the mind. It can weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to illnesses. Stress can also have physical effects, including muscle tension, headaches, and digestive problems.
Here are some of the most common physical symptoms of anxiety:
When you’re anxious, your muscles can become tense and stiff. It can lead to headaches, neck pain, back pain, and other types of discomfort.
Anxiety can interfere with your sleep, making falling or staying asleep difficult. It can lead to fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating during the day.
Anxiety can also have cardiovascular effects. It can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, which can strain your heart and blood vessels over time. It can increase your risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems.
Finally, anxiety can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to illnesses. It is because the hormones released during the “fight or flight” response can suppress immune function, making it harder for your body to fight infections and diseases.
Anxiety can also cause digestive problems, such as stomachaches, bloating, and diarrhea. It is because the hormones released during the “fight or flight” response can slow down digestion and cause inflammation in the digestive tract.
Feeling anxious is okay, and you’re not alone in your struggle. One of the most effective strategies is acknowledging and accepting your feelings to calm anxiety. Talk to someone you trust, such as a friend, family member, or therapist. Sharing your feelings can help you gain perspective and feel less isolated.
Sharing your feelings with others can provide you with an emotional outlet and a different perspective. It can help you feel more grounded and provide a sense of belonging. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing your feelings with others, consider writing them down in a journal.
Practicing gratitude and positive thinking can also be effective in managing anxiety. Keeping a gratitude journal, where you write down things you’re thankful for daily, can help shift your focus away from negative thoughts. Similarly, repeating positive affirmations to yourself, such as “I am calm and centered,” can help retrain your brain to think more positively.
Another strategy is to practice deep breathing techniques. Breathing exercises can help slow your heart rate, decrease blood pressure, and increase relaxation. Start by inhaling deeply for four seconds, holding your breath for a count of seven, and then exhaling for eight seconds. Repeat this exercise for several minutes until you feel calmer.
Identifying negative thought patterns is also essential. Negative thoughts can trigger anxiety and make it worse. Try to identify any negative opinions you may be having and challenge them. Ask yourself if they are realistic or if they are exaggerating the situation. Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations, such as “I can handle this” or “I am strong.”
Accepting what you can’t change is also crucial. Some things are beyond our control, and worrying about them only adds to our anxiety.
Instead, focus on what you can control, such as your thoughts and behaviors—practice self-care, such as getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly.
Mindfulness is another effective strategy for managing anxiety. Practicing it teaches you to recognize and manage your anxious thoughts and feelings.
It is the art of being present at the moment and focusing on your thoughts and feelings together without judgment.
In recent years, there has been an explosion of mindfulness and meditation apps that can help you manage anxiety. Apps like Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer offer guided meditations, breathing exercises, and other tools to help you relax and focus your mind.
If your anxiety interferes with your daily life and prevents you from enjoying activities you once enjoyed, consider seeking professional help. A mental health professional can help you develop coping skills and strategies to manage your anxiety.
Thanks to the wonders of technology, it’s now possible to receive therapy from the comfort of your own home. Virtual therapy platforms like BetterHelp and Talkspace allow you to connect with licensed therapists via video chat, phone, or messaging.
It can be a great option if you’re not able to or comfortable with meeting with a therapist in person.
Remember, what works for one person may not work for another, so finding the best strategies for you is essential. With some experimentation and patience, you can find the tools and techniques to help you manage your anxiety and live a happier, more peaceful life.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, please know you’re not alone.
Anxiety is an ordinary and everyday experience, and there is no shame in seeking help or support. Remember to be kind to yourself, practice self-care, and reach out to friends, family, or a professional if needed.
Managing anxiety is an ongoing process, and it may not always be easy, but it is possible with the right tools and support.
So take a deep breath, focus on the present moment, and know there is hope for a more peaceful and fulfilling life. You’ve got this.