Anxiety can be crippling. It's a free-floating fear that can and does paralyze sufferers, and it's difficult to explain it to others because it's not a concrete thing. If you've experienced it, you know what it feels like and you know how hard it can be to quell.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder, as it's known in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is the single most common mental health disorder, which means lots and lots of people are struggling with it on any given day.
- persistent worrying or obsessing about concerns in a way that's out of proportion to their impact
- inability to let go of a worry
- an inability to relax, a feeling of being "keyed up" or "on edge"
- difficulty concentrating or focusing, accompanied by the feeling of your mind going blank
- worrying about the fact that you worry too much
- distress about making decisions for fear you'll decide incorrectly
- difficulty handling uncertainty
- fatigue and irritability
- muscle tension or aches
- trouble sleeping
- startling easily
- nausea, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome
- excessive sweating
The symptoms aren't pleasant and in many cases are debilitating, triggering panic attacks, a racing heart, and trembling. The worst part is trying to appear "normal" to friends and coworkers, and avoiding people or isolating yourself to try to sidestep even more anxiety.
- Move and exercise frequently -- avoid sitting for long periods
- Learn a variety of relaxation techniques and practice them frequently and regularly (try meditation, yoga, a deep breathing practice, progressive relaxation techniques, etc.)
- Limit caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol, all of which can aggravate symptoms
- Get plenty of sleep (7-9 hours per night)
- Remind yourself frequently that worrying can neither prevent bad things from happening nor protect you from making mistakes.
- Connect with others frequently, and face-to-face.
- See a psychologist or therapist for talk therapy.
Isolating yourself and avoiding stressful situations are like putting band aids on a gaping wound. Develop a game plan, and stick with it. It takes effort, but so does living with any other chronic illness such as diabetes or asthma. With practice and persistence, you can live a more comfortable life!
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