Anxiety and stress are the body’s way of responding to being in danger. Adrenaline is rushed into our bloodstream to enable us to run away or fight. This happens whether the danger is real, or whether we believe the danger is there when actually there is none. It is the body’s alarm and survival mechanism. Primitive man wouldn’t have survived for long without this life-saving response.
Do you find that you spend large periods of the day worrying? Do you often feel nervous, apprehensive or on edge? Do you feel that things are getting on top of you? Do you find it hard to relax and ’switch off’? Do you often experience unpleasant physical sensations such as ’butterflies’ in your stomach, muscular tension, dizziness or breathlessness?
Learning about your problem can give you the comfort of knowing that you’re not alone and that others have found helpful strategies to overcome it. You may even find it helpful for family members and friends to learn more about your problem as well. Some people find that just having a better understanding of their problems is a huge step towards recovery.
Worrying can be helpful when it spurs you to take action and solve a problem. But if you’re preoccupied with “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios, worry becomes a problem. Unrelenting doubts and fears can be paralyzing. They can sap your emotional energy, send your anxiety levels soaring, and interfere with your daily life.
But chronic worrying is a mental habit that can be broken. You can train your brain to stay calm and look at life from a more positive perspective.
A common – and natural – response to anxiety is to avoid what triggers your fear, so taking any action might make you feel more anxious at first. It can be difficult, but facing up to how anxiety makes you feel can be the first step in breaking the cycle of fear and insecurity.
Learn whether you match the symptoms and problems of generalized anxiety. Also read a summary about specialized treatment with a mental health professional. Anxiety is an unpleasant feeling that we all experience at times.
While anxiety is natural, yoga and breathing techniques can help students handle the pressures associated with peers, workload and making the grade. Some people may have a thinking style that lends itself to experiencing anxiety. For example, anxious people have a tendency to expect that the worst possible scenario will always occur.
They also feel like they must constantly be on guard in case something bad happens.
Since the 1970s, meditation and other stress-reduction techniques have been studied as possible treatments for depression and anxiety. One such practice, yoga, has received less attention in the medical literature, though it has become increasingly popular in recent decades. One national survey estimated, for example, that about 7.5% of U.S. adults had tried yoga at least once, and that nearly 4% practiced yoga in the previous year.
By reducing perceived stress and anxiety, yoga appears to modulate stress response systems. This, in turn, decreases physiological arousal — for example, reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration. There is also evidence that yoga practices help increase heart rate variability, an indicator of the body’s ability to respond to stress more flexibly.
Our habitual responses to the world around us are often the source of our suffering; we go through the same reactions time and time again, apparently unable to change. For people who experience extreme anxiety states, such as phobic anxiety, life is indeed a cage; they are unable to act freely, hedged about by terrors which, while they appear to be externally caused, most often come from within the mind.
These people often despair, avoiding the situations which trigger the anxiety, and even coming to rely on the anxiety to secure the support and energy of others.
Today, the 20th century phenomenon known as ’burn-out’, which is an important concomitant of stress, has become a common experience amongst members of the helping professions such as teachers, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, nurses and welfare workers. Burnout means to deplete oneself; to exhaust one’s physical and mental resources.
People can simply wear themselves out by excessive striving to reach some unrealistic expectation set by themselves or by society. Often an individual, who sets out with great energy and enthusiasm to help people, eventually becomes disillusioned, exhausted and depressed. He or she becomes irritable,’ moody, and a clock watcher or work dodger. Later, chronic absenteeism is apparent.
Stress, strain and anxiety, which lead to the condition of burnout, result in social and emotional distress and pain and unhappiness in the individual. Psychosomatic diseases are also linked with stress. As modem researchers have shown, stress is a product of major life crises (e.g. a death or divorce) as well as the minor but constant worries in life. The latter have a cumulative effect in terms of excessive ill health.
What is also becoming evident from psychological research is that certain individuals and groups in society are more vulnerable than others given similar situations of stress.
People who get anxious tend to get into scanning mode – where they’re constantly on the lookout for danger, hyper-alert to any of the signals, and make it more likely that the alarm system will be activated.
Safety Behaviors: Go to the feared situation, but use coping behaviors to get you through, such as: holding a drink, smoking more, fiddling with clothes or handbag, avoiding eye contact with others, having an escape plan, taking medication. Safety behaviors can also help to keep your anxiety going. Whilst you depend on them to help you cope, you don’t get to find out that without them, the anxiety would reduce and go away on it’s own.
Whilst avoiding people or situations might help you feel better at that time, it doesn’t make your anxiety any better over a longer period. If you’re frightened that your anxiety will make you pass out or vomit in the supermarket aisle, you won’t find out that won’t actually happen, because you don’t go. So the belief that it will happen remains, along with the anxiety.
Physical symptoms of phobic anxiety, which worsen during the acute stages of panic attack, include: chest pain, palpitations, drop beats, flushing, feeling faint, sighing, choking, yawning, dyspnoea, dry mouth, ’butterflies’, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, frequency/hesitancy of urination, sexual dysfunction, tension headaches, blurred vision, sweating, ringing in the ears, shaking, dilated pupils, teeth clenching and chronic jerks.
Psychological symptoms include: feelings of impending disaster, worry, inability to relax, not being able to cope, restlessness, sense of ’not being yourself’, insomnia, nightmares, depression and panic attack. Some of these symptoms are also experienced in chronic ongoing anxiety or stress. The person often believes they have a physical condition such as heart disease, and this contributes to their anxiety.
Tips to Manage Anxiety and Stress
Eat well-balanced meals. Do not skip any meals. Do keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand.
Recognise whether you may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety. Understand what anxiety is, what causes it and what keeps it going. Find ways to understand, manage or overcome your anxiety.
Learning how to relax your body can be a helpful part of therapy. Muscle tension and shallow breathing are both linked to stress and anxiety (and sometimes depression). So, it’s important to become aware of these bodily sensations and to regularly practice exercises to help you learn to relax.
Ask yourself if the problem is solvable. Challenge the reality of anxious thoughts. Accept uncertainty. Be aware of how others affect you. Focus on the present rather than the past or future. Confine your worrying to one time period during the day.
Talking to someone you trust about what’s making you anxious can help. You may find that they have encountered a similar problem and can talk you through it. It may be that just having someone listen to you and showing they care, can help in itself.
You may find it helpful to shift your focus or distract yourself from the anxiety you are feeling. Look at a flower, a picture or something that you find interesting or comforting. Really notice the details, the colors and any smells or sounds.
Repetitous, unproductive thoughts are one of the central problems of generalized anxiety. Here you will learn how to sort through those thoughts and receive suggestions to bring control to unnecessary worries.
During times of tension, you need to learn how to relax in a brief period. These skills will help quiet your thoughts and loosen your muscles. There are also medications used to treat the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
A type of controlled breathing with roots in traditional yoga shows promise in providing relief for depression. The program, called Sudarshan Kriya yoga (SKY), involves several types of cyclical breathing patterns, ranging from slow and calming to rapid and stimulating.
Although many forms of yoga practice are safe, some are strenuous and may not be appropriate for everyone. In particular, elderly patients or those with mobility problems may want to check first with a clinician before choosing yoga as a treatment option.
Detached observation leads to selfless involvement, and is the core of karma yoga practice. Naturally, you continue to draw your salary, for instance, but gradually selfless service involves having no expectation of rewards, attention, praise or suchlike from the results of your endeavours. You merely do your work, but you become more mindful of everything you do.
Until you realize that it is your own emotional response which transforms stress into anxiety, you are merely covering up or ignoring the origins of the problem. Stress resides in the individual’s response, and karma yoga can effectively neutralize its effects. As the individual becomes aware of his responses to the game of life, tensions no longer lodge or manifest in him.
Get enough sleep. When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest. Accept that you cannot control everything. Put your stress in perspective: Is it really as bad as you think?
Learn what triggers your anxiety. Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and look for a pattern.
Learn to embrace your feelings. This may seem scary at first because of negative beliefs you have about emotions. For example, you may believe that you should always be rational and in control, that your feelings should always make sense, or that you shouldn’t feel certain emotions, such as fear or anger.
Complementary therapies. Yoga, meditation, aromatherapy, massage, reflexology, herbal treatments, Bach flower remedies, and hypnotherapy are all types of complementary therapy that you could try, and see if they work for you. You might find that one or more of these methods can help you to relax, sleep better, and manage the symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks.
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