Anxiety is among the most prevalent psychological problems seen by mental health professionals and is known to be a major component of many medical conditions as well. Living with anxiety is so much more than getting nervous before a presentation or test. Living with anxiety is often living with the (false) knowledge that people don’t like you, you are going to fail, something terrible is going to happen, or you or someone you love is going to die. When people feel anxious they often feel irritable and find themselves snapping at the people closest to them. Others feel so stuck in the ‘what ifs’ that they can’t make any of the decisions they need to make to move forward.
Anxiety doesn’t just live in people’s thoughts. Untreated anxiety can have a profound impact on your ability to work, socialize, travel and generally cope with the demands of everyday living. Anxiety is exhausting. People who live with anxiety are often tired and overwhelmed because they spend so much of their day ‘keyed up’ trying to avoid the worst. Additionally, constant anxiety floods the body with stress hormones that increase your blood pressure, heart rate and even causing headaches, stomach trouble and physical pain.
Living with anxiety can be incredibly painful, but people living with an anxiety disorders often report they cannot get others to really understand just how severe their fear and physical symptoms really are. This is why it can be so frustrating when loving friends and family members advise them to “just get over it” or “just stop thinking about it”. So if you can’t stop thinking about it, what can you do? Start by validating yourself. Anxiety makes everyday tasks take twice as much time energy and thought. That is why you should be your own cheerleader. Get excited about small successes.
The next thing someone with anxiety should do is find a way to engage in everyday mindfulness. You might download one of the popular apps like “calm” or a “simple habit” to guide you through walking, sitting on the train or finding your breath. Other people anchor themselves in the moment through yoga, dance, or other types of exercise.
Finally seek out therapy if you need extra help. Luckily Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness are evidence based approaches to increasing control over your anxiety. These approaches teach you how to clap back at untrue or unhelpful thoughts so that they don’t take over. These methods also help you think about ways to re-organize your life to reduce stress so that you are less vulnerable to anxiety in general.