By Stephanie Camins – MA, LPC
When an individual is suddenly exposed to a threatening situation there is an increase in adrenaline levels resulting in rapid breathing and heart palpitations. These reactions integrate and activate stress hormones. Stress hormones in turn increase the blood glucose level, this is what activates the muscles for a flight or fight response. When an individual is suffering from anxiety disorder these responses are constantly active in response to everyday triggers.
Are Anxiety and Stress the Same Thing?
It is difficult to differentiate stress from anxiety. Both issues lead to exhaustion, lack of focus, sleepless nights, worrying too much and irritability. Even the physical symptoms match, such as headaches, rapid heart rate, and muscular tension. Their symptoms can be seen in people suffering from stress as well as those diagnosed with anxiety disorder. Stress basically is the way your body reacts to a certain trigger. Stress is not very long lasting, it is a relatively short term. Now stress doesn’t always have a negative impact. Stress can help you cover a deadline you’ve been dragging. Negative impacts of stress include insomnia, functional impairment in terms of daily activities and poor concentration. Hence stress is how your body responds to threats in a given situation.
Anxiety is a mental health disorder that stays; it’s not as short term as stress. Stress can trigger anxiety. Now when anxiety hits, it doesn’t just fade away after the threat that triggered it has been sorted out. Not only does anxiety stay, but it also hangs around causing visible impairment in occupational and social functioning of people. Continue reading in order to get an insight into ways to control anxiety.
Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
- Duration of Symptom prevalence:
- If the symptoms prevalence exceeds the duration of 6 months, it is recommended that you get yourself assessed by a relevant health professional for a timely intervention and treatment plan.
- Constantly lethargic
- Worried all the time
- Difficult to control stress and worry
- Impaired concentration
- Muscle tension
- Insomnia or disturbed sleep cycle
- Psychosomatic Symptoms; feeling pins and needles, headache, dizziness and stomach ache.
- Physical Symptoms: heart palpitations, shortness of breath, excessive sweating, pain in Chest, IBS, nausea and diarrhea.
What is Causing your Anxiety?
It is important to get to the root cause of anxiety in order to plan and implement an effective treatment plan. Anxiety can be due to a number of factors. It can be due to a medical condition or due to the trauma of past experiences or an unhealthy lifestyle. There are multiple risk factors when it comes to anxiety disorder. These include environmental factors, genetic markers, neurobiological factors, life experiences or a combination of these. A lot of research has been put into identifying and linking common risk factors and effective anxiety coping methods.
Environmental factors can include, parenting, children, peer pressure, workload, relationships.
Past experiences (psychological factors):
Other factors include traumatic or stressful past experiences such as physical or emotional abuse, the death of a loved one, separation or divorce and unemployment.
Medical conditions that are severe, chronic or frequently occurring can also cause anxiety. Medical conditions such as issues with thyroid, going through menopause, diabetes, substance abuse, heart disease and severe vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also cause anxiety disorders.
An unhealthy lifestyle which covers eating habits, sleep cycle, chronic life stress, use of social media, stress at the workplace and physical activity are also linked to anxiety.
Anxiety Management Techniques:
It is important to understand that the same formula does not work for everyone. Everyone is unique, and so is their anxiety. You can do is experiment with different anxiety management techniques and decide, what works best for you. It can be a single technique or a set of multiple coping mechanisms. We have put together our list of most effective ways to managing anxiety
1. Breathing Technique:
Make an effort to consciously slow down your breathing. Take a deep breath through your nose, count to five as you breathe in. Now let out the breath through your mouth just as slowly, counting to five again. Close your eyes while doing it and place the focus on your breath.
2. Muscle Relaxing Technique:
To focus on the activity, find a quiet spot and close your eyes. Now slowly tense and relax your muscles starting from the toes towards your head. Hold on to the tensed muscle for three to four seconds and release quickly after that.
3. Grounding technique;
Grounding techniques are a great way to keep yourself from detaching from your surrounding when anxiety hits you. It will help you focus on the present. Look around and name;
- 5 things that you can see
- 4 things that you can feel
- 3 things that you can hear
- 2 things that you can smell
- 1 thing that you can taste
4. Think Positively:
Focus on the good around you, push away the negativity. Think about how brave you have been for surviving and not giving up every time you got hit by anxiety. Don’t focus on the negative outcome of the situation, focus on the positive outcomes.
5. Just Stop, Halt:
Stop and give yourself a break. Let time pass. It is best to let time pass sometimes in order to lower anxiety.
6. Maintain a Workout Routine:
Go out for a run, do push ups, go cycling, skip rope; there are endless possibilities to a workout routine. Exhaust yourself with working out. Working out will release endorphins; this, in turn, will make you feel good.
7. Guided Imagery Technique:
This technique involves guiding your imagination to visualize a favorite image of a place, a person or memory in order to induce relaxation.
8. Practice Mindfulness and Yoga:
Yoga, meditation and mindfulness help you connect to the present. This will relax the muscular tension, improve breathing and heart palpitation.
Treatment Options for Anxiety:
There are a variety of treatment options to opt from these days. Mainly it can be divided into three broad categories;
There are a variety of psychotherapies that cater to the individual anxiety disorders of people. Psychotherapy is a therapeutic process which targets a wider range of issues. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a relatively short term therapeutic approach which aims at helping patients to not only identify but also cope with the negative and inaccurate triggers that are causing anxiety.
Medicines are sometimes used along with a therapeutic treatment for an effective outcome. Like any other drug, some of these medicines might have side effects, but most of these are safe to use. Most commonly used medicines for the treatment of anxiety disorder are;
- Beta Blockers
- Alternative therapies:
Complementary therapies such as stress management are also very effective when it comes to managing anxiety disorder. Not only are these therapies non-invasive, but they have also proven to be very useful for patients. Alternative therapies cannot replace conventional therapies. These are used parallel to other therapeutic treatments being carried out. Alternative therapies include:
- Stress Management
Other Emerging Therapies to Manage Anxiety:
With the passage of time and due to an increased number of people being affected by anxiety disorders, a number of experimental therapeutic studies have been conducted on ways to manage anxiety. Few of the most noticeable emerging therapies are:
Therapeutic Acupuncture for Controlling Anxiety:
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese practice that involves inserting very fine needles in specific pressure points.
Psychoactive drugs have been recently used in combination with psychotherapy to resolve and reduce anxiety disorders. Administering these drugs is however still controversial since these are psychoactive, which means it makes you high.
The rates of stress and anxiety are skyrocketing. For further information on how to control anxiety visit www.roadtogrowthcounseling.com