The Anxious Mind
Heaviness sits in the pit of your stomach and hardens as time passes. Your thoughts are spinning out of control. You feel as if you’re on an edge. Sounds familiar? That’s anxiety.
Anxiety is one of the brain’s archaic evolutionary warning systems, preparing us for impending threats by activating the fight-or-flight mechanism; but what happens when it spins out of control? The natural warning system begins to tax our well-being, creating fear and apprehension for probably unrealistic future events, and heightens physical arousal which inhibits an individual’s attention and productivity (Mathews et. al., 1997).
Living with chronic anxiety demands various mental resources and entails constant worry. Anxiety has been noted to affect attention, memory, intelligence and functionality of those who suffer from it. Worrying how you will perform on a test despite being well prepared, being anxious about going on a date knowing that you and your beau hit it off really well – it’s exhausting. However, there is help in every form.
Understand Your Anxiety
It’s important for you to understand what stimuli bring the onset of your anxiety; triggers could be certain situations, conversational topics, or even people. Be aware of your physical symptoms – they could range from mild digestive problems to increased heart rate and stress headaches. When you are aware of your triggers and symptoms, you will be able to train yourself to cope with situations which make you anxious.
Structure Your Thoughts
When you feel the onset of an anxiety attack, make a list. Jot down futuristic events that are worrying you and list what tasks that apprehension is discouraging you from performing. When the map of your emotions and thoughts is in front of you, you will be able to prioritize where your energy is needed the most, and as you tackle each point, you will ease into problem solving. Staying in the present is helpful to curbing your anxiety.
Use Your Body:
To fight off Cortisol (a stress hormone), regular exercise is recommended. With consistent exercise, the release of endorphins, serotonin and dopamine is facilitated. Together, these hormones inhibit the brain’s perception of pain, and encourage the mind to feel happier, relaxed and energetic. Incorporating the gym or a bi-weekly Zumba class in your routine is one way to keep your symptoms away. It is also recommended to meditate or do yoga regularly. These activities involve deep breathing which allow more oxygen to enter your system, cleansing the carbon dioxide that taxes your nervous system.
Psychotherapy and Medication:
If you take medication keeping up with your prescribed medication and appointments with the psychiatrist is an important part of the treatment. Ask your therapist about cognitive behavioral therapies and cognitive bias modification treatments. These therapies train you to deal with your triggers and educate you on life and coping skills. We all go through tough times and uncertainty. However, be vigilant – when your mental health gets the better of you, be brave and seek the help of a trusted loved one or a professional!