Living with Anxiety and Tips for Improving Mental Wellness
Anxiety is more than just worrying about a personal or work problem it can affect a person’s overall health and wellness. Living with anxiety and depression is a bigger challenge to manage than the typical stresses that occur in daily life. While ordinary stresses are often resolved within a short time, anxiety tends to be much longer lasting. Anxiety can be connected to major life changes, stress-inducing or unexpected situations, and underlying medical conditions, or it may not be connected to anything at all. Though anxiety may feel inescapable, there are plenty of methods for coping with and minimizing anxiety so you can improve your quality of life.
There are a range of anxiety disorders. Some are caused by specific triggers, such as those linked to phobias or stressful situations like social anxiety. Anxiety can be a symptom of another condition, like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder. General anxiety and panic disorders involve worries and fear out of proportion with your current situation. When you’re living with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety, whatever the cause, is recurring and chronic and you may feel your anxiety is interfering with your health and wellness. Common symptoms associated with all anxiety disorders may include:
- A pervasive feeling of fear, nervousness, restlessness, or tension
- Worry that feels constant
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate
- Rapid breathing and hyperventilation
- Difficulty with sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lack of appetite or unhealthy eating habits
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Low self esteem
Anxiety levels often heighten with negative global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and countries experiencing war or political conflicts. These types of events have the potential to trigger anxiety or worsen the effects of the anxiety some people are already dealing with.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder - The most common diagnosis where the root cause is not always able to be identified. It often involves experiencing excessive and non-proportional worry over non-specific or everyday life events. You may hear it described as “stressing about stressing.” Generalized anxiety disorder can also be caused by medical conditions and made worse by caffeine and tobacco use.
- Separation Anxiety Disorder - This occurs when a person is away from another person or place where they felt secure. There may be an uncomfortable feeling combined with the anxiety until the person can return to their safe environment. Separation Anxiety Disorder is most commonly diagnosed in children.
- Specific Phobias - A fear of a particular object, person, or situation. The anxiety relates to a certain trigger such as a fear of spiders or agoraphobia, a fear of feeling trapped, helpless, or embarrassed.
- Selective Mutism - A person with selective mutism may feel anxious around certain people or in certain locations, making them unable to speak as normal. Selective mutism only occurs in certain situations, and those affected may be perfectly able to talk in other areas of their life.
- Panic Disorder - A disorder involving sudden panic attacks, which cause a person to shake, struggle for breath and become intensely scared or anxious. Panic attacks can also cause heart palpitations, uneven breathing, a feeling of doom, and chest pain.
- Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder - When use of prescribed or recreational drugs causes feelings of anxiety. This can be from misuse of drugs or normal medication side effects, as well as drug withdrawal and exposure to a toxic substance.
- Anxiety as part of another condition - Anxiety can come as a symptom of many different mental health conditions. Mental illnesses such as PTSD, BPD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Anxiety also coexists with many conditions. It’s often found together with conditions like depression and ADHD.
Change that affects mental wellness
Life brings many challenges and changes. Those changes can be good or bad, planned or unexpected and may be a conscious decision or a decision made by another. Changes, especially unplanned or sudden changes, can be difficult for people with anxiety disorders. If you have an anxiety disorder, learning coping mechanisms to deal with changes as they happen can help you minimize your anxiety when things take an unexpected turn.
Examples of events that have life changing consequences include:
- Death of a loved one
- Relocating to an unfamiliar area
- Job loss
- Health decline
- Criminal record
Tips for Improving Mental Wellness
Whether you have an anxiety disorder or just feeling the pressure right now, experiencing symptoms of anxiety can affect your health and wellness. Once you recognize that you are not feeling your best, you can start to identify what triggers your anxiety. When you know your triggers, you can start working on coping mechanisms to avoid them and to deal with anxiety when you can’t avoid them.
For example, some people get anxious about workload pressures, feeling overloaded in and out of work. Anxiety can interrupt your sleeping pattern, making it even harder to deal with your triggers. Creating a strong schedule for time management, making a plan to talk to your boss about your workload, and creating a strict sleeping schedule to help you replenish energy are all coping mechanisms you might use. Here are some general tips to cope with stress and anxiety:
- Talk to someone - It may sound obvious, but people with anxiety disorders often find it difficult to tell someone how they really feel. You may think no one will understand or that you will be made fun of. It is important to know that talking is a beginning to recognizing a problem and finding a solution. Start the conversation with someone you trust, whether that’s a professional healthcare provider, a friend, or religious leader. It just might give you some initial relief to express your feelings.
- Get more sleep - Lack of sleep affects concentration levels and causes fatigue. Healthy amounts of sleep also help rest and reset your brain to deal with any daily problems. Review your routine to allow for additional sleep time and try to go to bed at the same time every night. Find ways to wind down from the day, such as listening to soothing music, taking a relaxing bath, or getting some quiet time before you go to bed. Don’t feel bad if you need a nap to feel rested, but try to limit it to about 30 minutes. Remember to refrain from screen time before going to bed and decrease your caffeine consumption.
- Address your concerns - When something in your day-to-day life is making your anxiety worse, it’s important to address those causes. If you have been working too many hours at your job, plan a day off. Stuck in the house for days as self-esteem ran low? Go sit outside, take a stroll, start a new exercise plan, or simply take in the view in your backyard. Worried about a family member? Try setting up a regular time to check in with them and see how they’re doing. A small positive change can help you feel more in control. If you have trouble identifying the cause, try keeping a daily journal.
- Give your mind a break - It’s hard to stop worrying and hearing “just let it go” or “just stop worrying” can be more annoying than helpful. Try to find calming remedies to ease anxiety and give your mind a break. You might try taking up a new hobby or having a positive area or task to shift your focus to. Diet changes such as limiting caffeine late in the day or increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables can improve your health and wellness levels.
- Make lifestyle changes - Something as simple as getting regular exercise; quitting smoking, alcohol, and drug use; and eating healthy can help reduce your anxiety levels.
- Celebrate small wins! - Achievements are important for reducing anxiety and depression, but you don’t need to conquer everything at once. If social situations trigger your anxiety, try practicing with a trusted friend, or in the mirror. If the number of tasks on your to-do list stresses you out, clear just one before taking a break.
- Seek professional help - Making decisions can be hard, especially if you have trouble finding something that works for you. Seek professional guidance if you are feeling very overwhelmed.
Treatment and Coping Mechanisms
You may decide to seek medical guidance to cope with your anxiety and depression. Tests can be done to ensure you don’t have an underlying health issue linked to your anxiety. Medications and therapy can help to alleviate symptoms on a short term or longer term basis. Healthy friendships can encourage you to feel a part of the world again. Healthcare providers can supply information about support groups, phone helplines, and where to look online for further education or resources. It’s completely possible to live with your anxiety and manage it so you can enjoy life fully again.
Looking for online treatment? Check our list of clinicians for licensed therapists, psychiatrists, and social workers who can help.