“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” (Corrie Ten Boom)
Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States. It affects 40 million adults every year, and can have a variety of symptoms, as the facts below will indicate.
That is a really, really high number, and a lot of people sadly suffer in silence. I myself live with anxiety and it can be irritating at best and unbearable at worst.
Chances are, you know at least 1 person with anxiety, if you do not suffer from it yourself. I personally know at least a dozen people in my close circle that suffer from some version of it. 1 in 5 people experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives, and many of them live with a form of anxiety.
What Is Anxiety?
What is anxiety? And what causes it?
I thought Healthline put it really well. They make a great distinction between everyday “nerves” and an anxiety disorder that requires treatment.
It’s normal to feel anxious about moving to a new place, starting a new job, or taking a test. This type of anxiety is unpleasant, but it may motivate you to work harder and to do a better job. Ordinary anxiety is a feeling that comes and goes, but does not interfere with your everyday life. In the case of an anxiety disorder, the feeling of fear may be with you all the time. It is intense and sometimes debilitating. This type of anxiety may cause you to stop doing things you enjoy. In extreme cases, it may prevent you from entering an elevator, crossing the street, or even leaving your home. If left untreated, the anxiety will keep getting worse.Everything You Need to Know About Anxiety
So, feeling nervous, or even slightly anxious can be a completely normal thing! We all get butterflies in our tummies sometimes, especially when we are experiencing major life changes. But there is a big difference between feeling nervous and having anxiety. Anxiety is thought to be caused by a combo of genetics, environment, and individual brain chemistry.
If it is impairing your everyday life, I would see a doctor ASAP.
Symptoms of anxiety
How do you know if you have anxiety? There are some really common symptoms you should be aware of.
- Racing thoughts
- Rapid heartbeat
- Changes in sleep
- Trouble concentrating
If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or your loved one, I recommend making an appointment with a primary care physician, to make sure there is nothing significant going on. A PCP can point you in the direction of a good psychiatrist or therapist if that seems necessary.
Related post: What You Can Expect at Your First Therapy Appointment
7 Interesting Facts About Anxiety
It can be very lonely.
When a person lives with anxiety, it can feel very lonely. For one thing, when our brains are in a state of mental illness, they tend to tell us a lot of lies. One such lie is that our suffering is unique. While each person is different, we are far from having a unique struggle. There is always someone else out there going through something similar to you.
For another thing, anxiety makes socializing difficult. You feel as if leaving the house will make the world crash down around you. This is why a lot of people with anxiety shy away from social situations.
What can you do? Find a friend you can trust to talk to about the way you feel. See if they will come to you. Invite them over for a cup of coffee, and just commit to 30 minutes of small (or big) talk. Doing this whenever you feel up to it can help re-establish a sense of normalcy.
It can affect your sleep.
Anxiety can affect your sleep in a couple of ways. Maybe the most common is the fact that it can keep a person up at night. The racing thoughts. The irrationality. The racing heart. The sweaty palms. This can make it hard to fall asleep. Or, if you do fall asleep easily, it can make you wake up repeatedly.
Another way that anxiety can affect your sleep is by making you want to sleep too much. This is my particular issue. The only thing that helps my anxiety sometimes is to shut my mind off by going to sleep. This leads to people sleeping too much, which is bad for your circadian rhythms. That can, in turn, exacerbate any existing mental health conditions.
What can you do? There are a few things you can do to help get a better night’s sleep when you are suffering from anxiety. I would recommend unplugging from social media earlier in the evening. I would also recommend cutting yourself off from caffeine and alcohol earlier as well. You could also try meditation or breathing exercises.
It can make you irritable.
This is one of the ways my anxiety presents, so I definitely relate to this fact. When I am feeling anxious and worked up about something, I tend to get cranky. When my mind is racing with too many thoughts, it has a tendency to all come exploding out.
Irritability is a common symptom of anxiety, so if you find that you are overly cranky, do an emotional inventory. Are you overworked? Do you have a lot on your mind? It could be the case that you are suffering from anxiety. Make sure to check with your doctor to confirm this.
What can you do? I would definitely recommend some breathing exercises. Counting backwards from 10 or even 100. You could also try a grounding exercise. The most common example of this is thinking of 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
It can make your stomach ache.
A lot of people know that their anxiety is flaring up because they find themselves getting stomach aches or other digestive issues. This can also include the frequent need for urination.
One of my triggers of anxiety is long car rides (anything over 45 minutes). I always feel like I need to go to the bathroom or feel like I have a stomach ache. This is very common in children also. If they are anxious about going to school, they might think they are physically ill, and attempt to stay home.
What can you do? If you get triggered by travel like me, bring things to distract you. It is all about distracting your brain. I bring books in the car, or have games to play on my phone. Make sure to keep your mind moving so that it doesn’t latch on to whatever thoughts are making you anxious
It can start in childhood.
My anxiety started in 6th grade. At least, that is the earliest I can remember. I would have to go to the bathroom constantly during school. It was difficult to get up and get ready for the day without my mom singing a song made up of positive affirmations to me. I was teased and just didn’t want to go.
This is very common in children. They might complain of frequent stomach aches. If you have ruled out a bunch of biological causes, it is possible that they are suffering from anxiety. Take them to a psychiatrist that works with children to get the most accurate diagnosis possible.
It can affect your job.
Because of all the facts I already listed, it can make work difficult. Either you are so tired that your performance suffers, or you find yourself getting irritable with customers. Whatever the case, anxiety can certainly affect you professionally.
What can you do? I would talk to a trusted supervisor about how you have been feeling and have a candid talk about your recent performance. If you are honest about how you feel, they may have some company sponsored resources that can help.
It can last a lifetime.
This is probably the most difficult of the facts. There is no cure for anxiety. Unfortunately, when you suffer from it, it is usually there to stay. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot live a rich, fulfilling life.
What can you do? Connect yourself with a therapist. That is a relationship that will benefit you more than you might expect. It is helpful to have someone to talk it out with. They can also offer you coping strategies so that your days are more manageable.
Anxiety can be managed
If you follow all my advice above, I truly believe that anxiety can be managed. These facts might seem scary, but they do not have to be. If you are having a hard time, try journaling. This is a really positive experience when done consistently, so I recommend giving it a try. A lot of people see immediate relief!
I also recommend reading as much as you can, and learning about anxiety and what it actually is. There are so many great resources out there, so grab a few books, and get reading. Knowledge about the illness can bring a lot of comfort.
Related Post: How to challenge negative thoughts- Yes, it’s possible!
I am also going to be expanding this post into a multi-part series, and turning it into an e-book for purchase. So, keep your eyes peeled.
There is hope.
I might have days that are very difficult, but I am still able to have a fulfilling life. I am married. We have two wonderful children. I am able to blog part-time. I work out a few days a week. Also, I have close relationships with my family.
Anxiety sucks, don’t get me wrong. It’s awful. But living with mental illness does not mean life is not, often, a beautiful thing.
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