What is Anxiety?
Most of us experience anxiety at some point in our lives. With the everyday stress of family, work, and personal commitments, anxiety can become a common experience for some. Especially around project deadlines or during stressful times at home. Anxiety is a natural feeling to have. Sometimes, however, anxiety can be a persistent disorder requiring medical treatment. Whatever the cause is for anxiety, it’s important to understand anxiety so that if you or a loved one are experiencing it, you can be prepared to handle and cope with it.
The 5 Different Types of Anxiety Disorders
According to the Department of Human and Health Services (HHS), there are 5 major types of anxiety disorders. They have varying causes and symptoms, and each requires individualized treatment, and include:
Generalized anxiety disorder is a long-term, sometimes even lifelong struggle with anxiety. Patients feel stress, worry, and tension, often when there is nothing to be worried or stressed about. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 3.1% of Americans experience GAD, with less than half receiving treatment. GAD affects women at twice the rate of men and is often associated with Major Depressive Disorder.
2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD affects 1% of Americans, according to the ADAA, and is characterized by obsessive, unwanted thoughts and behaviors. These behaviors can include constantly cleaning, washing hands, or checking on things, and often provide a temporary relief from anxiety. Symptoms typically begin to show at an average age of 7 which are closely related to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
3. Panic Disorder (PD)
The HHS states that Panic disorder is “an anxiety disorder and is characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress.” This severe form of anxiety affects 6 million adults, about 2.7% of the US population, and is more common in women than in men.
When someone experiences any form of trauma, such as sexual assault or military combat, they are likely to develop Post-traumatic stress disorder. According to PTSD United, 70% of adults experience trauma during their lives, and 20% of these adults develop PTSD. At any given time, 8% of Americans struggle with PTSD. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, fear, and extreme anxiety when recalling the traumatic event.
The ADAA states that Social anxiety disorder is the most common of the major anxiety disorders, with nearly 7% of Americans suffering from it. Patients struggling with SAD often feel anxious and overwhelmed in normal daily social situations. Some patients only experience situations in very specific settings, like eating in public, while others may be unable to be around other people.
Anxiety is a form of stress that can include a racing heart rate, uncomfortable thoughts, fatigue, and more. The Anxiety Centre says that “acting in an overly apprehensive manner creates the physiological, psychological, and emotional state of anxiety. Anxiety activates the stress response, which stresses the body.” This chain of stress means that anxiety often creates a positive feedback loop, where you become more prone to stress and anxiety if you are already stressed out. Paying attention to the physical symptoms, as well as emotional symptoms like fear, discomfort, or unnecessary stress are key to determining if you have anxiety.
What Causes Anxiety?
According to Mayo Clinic, there aren’t any exact causes of anxiety. While trauma, stress, and lifestyle choices can impact people already prone to stress, everyone reacts differently, and some people get anxiety without these factors. Some studies show that anxiety is related to genetic traits and personality, as well. Major indicators of anxiety disorder include stress, trauma, and other mental health disorders, so all of these factors must be accounted for when diagnosing anxiety.
Diagnosing and Treating Anxiety
The most common way to diagnose anxiety disorders is through an in-depth evaluation with a mental health professional. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) outlines the diagnostic criteria for psychiatric evaluation of anxiety disorders. Patients must show signs of anxiety, along with symptoms unique to a specific form of anxiety, for a significant number of days. For example, if a patient feels nervous almost every day, has trouble relaxing most days, and is irritable on some days can be diagnosed with mild Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Treatments for anxiety disorders range from lifestyle changes to medication. For the most part, it is not possible to treat the anxiety disorder specifically. Instead, the symptoms of anxiety are treated to minimize the impact that it has on the patient’s daily life. The most effective way to manage anxiety is to understand it and incorporate lifestyle changes to combat and cope with it.
20 Natural Remedies for Anxiety
Apart from medicine, there are a number of holistic, natural ways to cope with anxiety. If you feel that you may be experiencing it, try these natural remedies for anxiety:
1. Drink Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea is an age-old method to combating stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that teas, including chamomile, can relax your nerves, reducing stress.It’s a method of fighting anxiety that goes as far back as the Roman Empire.
2. Exercise Regularly
Exercise is an excellent way to combat stress. By making your body healthier, you naturally improve your body’s response to stress. By being in better shape, you can improve your self-esteem and develop a stronger work ethic, making you more likely to tackle your work and home responsibilities. This will cut your stress load down, making you less prone to anxiety.
Cutting back at work can feel like giving up, but it definitely isn’t. By cutting down on the number of projects you have, you’ll be able to better focus on those you do have, and will be better able to relax in your off time. Your work quality will go up, making you less stressed and anxious.
4. Take a Vacation
Going out of town for a couple days on the weekend can be fun, but it doesn’t have anywhere near the benefits of a 2-week trip abroad. By getting away from your routine for a while, you remind yourself that life exists outside your usual barriers. A trip like this can give you the rest you need to cut back on stress and anxiety.
5. Write Down Your Schedule
It’s hard to stay organized, and trying to remember your daily events can be impossible. Write them down on paper, in your phone, or on your laptop, and you’ll free up some mental space for more important things. This cuts down on stress, as well as the fear that you’ll forget a critical meeting.
6. Find a Therapist
When you’ve been experiencing the symptoms of anxiety for more than a couple weeks, it’s time to see a professional. Therapists are highly trained, empathetic people who can help you understand what’s causing your anxiety. They can help you to manage your stress, and even help you completely overcome it.
7. Practice Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises are an underrated form of self-care. By breathing methodically, you train yourself to control your breathing at all times. This helps make sure that when you feel stressed out, you won’t breathe too hard or too little, helping keep you calm and relaxed when it counts most.
Yoga is a common and popular eastern holistic health practice. By holding your body in certain positions, you improve your blood flow. This helps you relax more often, and you can even take the time to concentrate and meditate.
Meditation is a powerful tool when it comes to coping with anxiety. Inward inflection and contemplation will let you understand yourself better, which helps with reducing stress. Meditation is relaxing, and can easily fit into your schedule.
10. Eat Right
A healthy diet is vital to maintaining mental health. You are what you eat, so make sure you’re eating a full and balanced diet. Mineral deficiencies can directly impact your mood and stress, while too much sugar can cause higher blood pressure. Eating a healthy diet will give you more energy, making you naturally more able to manage anxiety.
Sleep is often the first thing we sacrifice to meet a deadline. This can be detrimental, raising your stress levels and having longer-term health effects. Ensure you’re getting a full night of sleep, and keep a consistent sleeping schedule. When you’re well rested from sleep, you’ll be equipped to handle the stress of your daily life.
12. Find a Friend to Talk to
Talking to a close friend about your experience with anxiety is key to coping with it. By expressing your thoughts, you can calm yourself down while also letting those around you know that you need their support. Your friends can help you manage your anxiety, and they’ll be eased knowing they’re helping you out.
Writing out your thoughts will calm you down during stressful times. By taking thoughts out of your head and putting them on paper, you can reflect on them, finding out what you actually think about a situation. You can use this insight to better judge and manage your daily life, making coping with your anxiety much easier.
14. Pick Up a Hobby
Finding something to pursue in your free time will give you more control over your stress and anxiety. Whether it’s learning an instrument, creative writing, or gardening, you should carve out a portion of your time to dedicate to a hobby. This will let you grow as a person while also giving you something to relax with.
15. Distract Yourself
When anxiety becomes too much to face head-on, try to take a break. Throwing on the TV, doing some dishes, or going out to dinner will take your mind off of the stress, letting you recoup. Once you’ve had time to rest, you’ll have the mental fortitude to take your anxiety head-on.
16. Cut Out Caffeine
Caffeine is one of the most common stimulants in the world. Despite the nice pick-me-up you love in the morning, caffeine can raise your heart rate and blood pressure. This combination sets you up for a stress spiral or even a panic attack. Cutting caffeine out of your life sets you up to keep your stress and anxiety under control.
Smoking, alcohol, junk food, or any other unhealthy habit will make you more prone to anxiety. Your body is naturally responsive to outside substances and can react with stress and fear when it’s taking in these outside pollutants. By cutting these unhealthy habits out, you’re less prone to stress and anxiety, in addition to the health benefits of cutting them out.
18. Take Things One Step at a Time
Don’t try to plan out your next 6 months of self-help when you’re trying to overcome anxiety. You’ll see the long road ahead of you and be overwhelmed. Instead, take things one step at a time to make sure you don’t take on too much. Talk to a friend, or take a day off from work. Even something as simple as going to bed early for a few nights can kickstart the healing process.
19. Stay Optimistic
With mental health, perspective is key. If you become pessimistic and believe it won’t get better, you may have a hard time handling your anxiety. Staying optimistic will motivate you to work towards happier times, and remind you that you can learn to manage your stress and live a full, enriching life with anxiety.
20. Don’t Blame Yourself
It can be easy to fall into the rut of blaming yourself. Overworking, not being able to handle your responsibilities, or not keeping a healthy diet all seem like reasons to take the blame, but it’s crucial to remember that anxiety is no one’s fault. Stress is a natural part of life, and everyone deals with it in different ways. By taking the blame off of yourself, you’ll be motivated to take action and recover from your anxiety.
Living With Anxiety
Anxiety is the most common mental illness in America, and most people are capable of managing and coping with it. By adopting certain lifestyle choices, you can reduce your risk of developing or worsening it, making you more capable of living your life to the fullest. In addition to medical treatment, natural, holistic remedies are some of the most powerful preventative treatments and can make managing anxiety easier on you and those around you.