What is Anxiety and When Should You Seek Help?
What is Anxiety? Generally, anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, worry and dread about something over which you have no control? In psychology, anxiety is defined as a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension. Mental side-effects of anxiety include insomnia, embarrassment or a rapid heartbeat, while physical side-effects include trouble eating, nausea, tension headaches, light-hotheadedness and difficulty concentrating. If you focus on any of these symptoms too much, you can enter into a never-ending cycle of worrying about worrying.
It’s important to realize that being nervous before a presentation or date is a normal feeling that everyone experiences. This state is a natural reaction to real stresses. However, excessively worrying about an issue over which you have no control is not normal and is characterized as anxiety. It’s as if your nervousness is amplified and you have no way of turning it down. Anxiety appears in many forms, such as anxiety or panic attacks, social anxiety, or phobias. You may repeatedly tell yourself to stop thinking so much and to think positively, neither of which are effective.
Does your head sometimes feel as if it were spinning? Do you lay in bed at night, worrying about the same issues over and over again, unable to get them issues out of your head? Are your nervous thoughts keeping you trapped, leaving you to feel suffocated, with no hope of relief? If this sounds familiar, it may be caused by anxiety.
Effective Coping Techniques
The good news is that there are a variety of coping techniques that you can use in an effort to relieve some of your anxiety. Some of these techniques include:
- Setting Aside a Specific “Worry Time.” Unfortunately, our worries often show up announced and we feel as if we need to tend to these feelings right away. But, what if we don’t respond immediately? Try picking a time during the day and give yourself a specific time limit for worrying. Let’s say you want to let yourself worrying for 20 minutes after dinner. In the meantime, whenever an anxious concern pops up, jot it down to look at during that designated time. When that time comes around there is a good chance that these troubles may not matter as much anymore.
- Concentrating On Your Breathing: When our bodies are tense, we tend to hold our breath, which is a sign that our body needs breathing retraining; specifically, special diaphragmatic breathing. Mindful breathing is an effective tool for calming your nerves. If you focus your mind only on your breaths and the in and out flow of oxygen into your lungs, your body becomes relaxed and your mind quiets down. Practicing meditation and yoga are also effective strategies for coping with your anxiety, especially panic attacks.
- Challenging Your Negative Thoughts: When a worry pops up in your head or you sense your mind getting stuck on the same issue, it is important to ask yourself if these thoughts are productive. Chances are that they are not, meaning that no good can come of them. Continuing to dwell on these worries means you are thinking negatively and the resulting anxiety can paralyze you. Instead, when you feel yourself starting to focus on a worry, tell yourself to Stop. It may be hard to do at first, but with practice though-stopping becomes easier.
- Avoiding Anxiety Triggers: Many people don’t realize when they are unintentionally feeding into their anxiety. By keeping away from anxiety-fueling behaviors, you can help to reduce your feelings of dread and worry. Some anxiety-fueling mistakes include moping over your negative thoughts, consuming too much sugar, caffeine and alcohol, and avoiding stimuli which can trigger your anxiety such as horror movies, dark alleyways and reckless behaviors. By avoiding these pitfalls, you are in a better position to cope with your anxiety.
When Should You Seek Counseling?
How do you know it’s time to seek professional help for your anxiety? If your worries frequently interfere with your daily activities and your anxiety keeps you from doing things or going places, it is best to seek counseling. These are effects of a bigger concern called generalized anxiety disorder, and require help. Generalized anxiety means constantly worrying about something all of the time, as if there is a “worry machine” in your head. It can lead you to procrastinate to the point that you don’t do something or cause you to be so nervous about going somewhere that you avoid going altogether. Unfortunately, when we are experiencing so much anxiety, we are not good at making rational decisions and are unable to rise to the occasion because of our worries.
At Family Restoration Counseling, our therapists seek to serve the community by helping individuals and families regain and maximize their ability to function well in life. We offer individual, couples, family and group therapy in the Greater Dallas area for children, adolescence and adults. To learn more, contact us!