How Anxiety Shows Up and What To Do About It
Anxiety! It’s a word that evokes a picture of a person shaking, wringing their hands, or fearfully peeking around a corner. In reality, anxiety can look like all or none of these. Many people don’t realize that anxiety manifests itself in different ways for different individuals.
Anxiety typically shows up in at least one of three ways:
Mentally- Anxiety can manifest itself through our thoughts. It’s like a video on loop, replaying negative thoughts. Or it may be picturing a disastrous scenario, anticipating a negative outcome.
Physically- Anxiety can show up as stomach problems, tight muscles, fatigue, sleep problems, chest pains, shortness of breath, nausea, and even dizziness.
Emotionally- Anxiety is often associated with emotions like worry and fear, but anxiety can also show up as anger, frustration, irritability, and insecurity.
It’s not uncommon for a person to move through their life experiencing persistent anxiety without it being obvious to those around them.
Before we move on, it’s important to clarify that all anxiety is not bad anxiety. Anxiety is what gets us up in the morning so we get to work on time or cautions us to check the stove to make sure it’s off before leaving the house.
Anxiety becomes a problem when we aren’t able to control it. Instead, it starts to control us. For example, we wake several hours earlier than necessary because we aren’t able to sleep for fear of arriving to work late or checking the stove multiple times, unable to leave the house in a timely manner.
If you think you may be struggling to manage your anxiety there are several ways you can cope. My first recommendation is to always speak with a mental health professional. A professional can help you determine if it’s anxiety and what may be causing it. Sometimes we don’t realize the impact that certain stressors or situations in our lives have on us until we have a chance to talk about them.
In addition to speaking with a therapist, there are other coping techniques you can use. Let’s explore the different ways anxiety shows up and what to do about it:
Become aware of your negative thinking patterns or negative self-talk.
Learn to stop or replace your negative thoughts with thoughts that serve you better. For example, you might be thinking “My partner doesn’t like me and doesn’t want to understand me.” whereas a thought that might be more realistic and serve you better is “My partner is struggling to understand me and might be frustrated because of the struggle.”
Learn to replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk. “I’m so stupid why did I do that?” can become “I made a mistake. I’m allowed to make mistakes and I can handle it.”
Make it a point to listen to or read positive messages.
Limit your exposure to negative media or other negative messages.
Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness doesn’t necessarily have to be meditation. It’s simply choosing to be totally aware and engaged in the present moment. This can be done while preparing dinner, walking, eating, or just sitting and tuning into the sounds around you. The only requirement is that you be here now.
Give that anxious energy something to do! Engage in a physical activity that interests you. This can be running, dancing, lifting weights, yoga, swimming, singing, playing with your kids, or having sex with your partner.
Practice deep breathing techniques. Here is an example to get you started.
Engross yourself in a hobby or pastime that you love.
Talk with a loved one or a trusted therapist to help you process your feelings.
Write about your emotions in a journal or on a random piece of paper. Don’t pay attention to grammar or other writing rules, the only requirement is that you put down how you’re feeling. Feel free to throw it away if that makes you feel better.
Engage in a spiritual practice that is meaningful for you.
Pay attention to how your thoughts influence how you feel. Is there a thought that needs to be modified or replaced?
You can apply techniques in all three areas at once or just choose to focus on one. It can be helpful for those who may struggle with emotional or mental coping skills to start with the physical first. When you are able to calm your body, your mind and emotions often follow.
If you’d like more information about anxiety and how to manage it instead of it managing you, please contact me at 954-391-5305.