Understanding the signs of anxiety and stress can be helpful in identifying if you or someone else is suffering from anxiety. Anxiety can be a difficult condition to recognize, since there are no specific physical symptoms. Therefore, recognizing the emotional and behavioral signs of anxiety is important for managing it properly.
Symptoms of anxiety
Some of the symptoms of anxiety include the following:
Cognitive symptoms of anxiety can include:
- Irritability, anger and/or rage
- Depression or feelings of worthlessness
- Feelings of dread or doom
- Extreme worry and fear
- Rumination (repetitive negative thinking)
- Thoughts that “something bad is going to happen”
Physical symptoms of anxiety can include:
- Hyperactivity or Restlessness
- Frequent psychosomatic complaints (aches and pains, nausea, gastrointestinal distress)
- Social withdrawal
- Trouble concentrating in school or at work
Tools to reduce anxiety and improve your mental health
Evaluating your current stress management techniques can help you to identify what works and what doesn’t. Some suggestions to manage anxiety and improve your mental health are listed below:
Identify Anxiety and Stress Triggers
Identifying your anxiety and stress triggers are your first step in learning to manage them anxious feelings. Triggers will vary by individual, but a few common ones may include certain people, places or situations that make you anxious. If you can identify what your triggers are, you will be better able to manage them.
If your anxiety triggers aren’t obvious to you, it may help to write down the things that upset you and evaluate which of those trigger the most noticeable reactions in you. For each situation or circumstance that upsets you, ask yourself:
“What is it about this specific situation or person that creates anxiety or stress for me?”
Write down all of the answers and categorize them by subject or emotion (for example: “my boss,” “money,” “relationships”). When looking at your list, think about how you would like to feel when these things happen or situations come up. Then, figure out what could be causing such a strong reaction and brainstorm how you could correct it (by changing jobs or environments, finding new friends, holding healthier boundaries, etc.).
Some people have an easier time identifying their anxiety and stress triggers if they take a break from the situation while thinking about it. Some even find writing down their thoughts at that moment helpful since it may not register consciously until after the fact.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Learning relaxation techniques can help your body to learn to calm itself in stressful situations. Here are several relaxation techniques that you can try:
Take slow deep breaths through the nose for one minute. Hold your chest muscles still as you breathe so the air is forced into the lower lobes of your lungs. As you breathe, concentrate on relaxing your body from head-to-toe. Then slowly exhale through pursed lips for another minute.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
Begin by tightening and holding all the muscles in your face, then move to each muscle group in your arms, chest, abdomen and back and finally down to the toes. Hold each muscle tight for seven seconds before releasing it. The PMRs are complete when you have worked back up to the entire face so begin again at one end of the body after practicing on all groups until you complete a whole pass down and up. Learn to relax specific trigger points by experimenting with this technique using different muscles or muscle groups.
This is a technique in which you focus on your mental images to help you relax. For example, take yourself through a calming scene or imagine something that makes you feel comfortable and peaceful. Another way to do guided imagery is by using progressive relaxation while focusing on each area of the body as it relaxes.
A good meditation technique for anxiety management is concentrating solely on the sensations caused by breathing. Try taking deep breaths and exhaling slowly with a calm tone of voice encouraging your body to go limp with each exhale until all tensions are gone.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Understanding how your brain processes thoughts, emotions and feelings can help you gain insight into your anxiety symptoms (i.e. learning that anxiety is the mind’s way of responding to threats). Once you discover this pattern in relation to yourself, you’ll be able to consciously change it and thus feel more positive about dealing with stressful situations differently.
How can you prevent anxiety and stress?
There are several ways to prevent stress even though there is no way to completely avoid it. Try the following suggestions:
Taking care of your body can help you stay relaxed and energetic. Look carefully at what you eat for food that is not processed or prepared in a hurry (there are many healthier alternatives). Make sure to drink plenty of water, and eat at least five servings of fruits or vegetables each day.
Journaling will allow you to express your thoughts and feelings. Keeping a journal also provides you with a record of your progress and it gives you the opportunity to be introspective, which can be helpful for managing stress and anxiety.
Learn something new
Continuing your education is a great way to reduce stress and improve your confidence. Learning a new hobby or skill can relieve stress and anxiety by keeping you engaged and interested in something new.
No matter your age or fitness level, staying active through physical exercise or a simple walk or stretching reduces stress and improved mood.
Play with pets
Pets are great companions and lessen anxiety and stress. Research has shown that petting an animal can lower pulse and blood pressure.
Do not keep anxieties bottled up
By letting others know about things that make you uncomfortable or nervous, you can relate to friends and family members who might be able to help. It is also possible that someone else may have a better way of dealing with the same situation.
Talk it out with a counselor
A counselor can help you create a plan to manage your anxiety that is unique to your needs. A therapist will provide you with coping strategies, teach you to recognize and change anxiety-provoking thought patterns, and help you develop healthier ways of solving problems.
You Can Overcome Anxiety
If you ever feel overwhelmed by stress and anxiety, keep in mind that there are many ways to overcome these feelings. By incorporating some of the ideas in this article into your daily routine, you will start to feel calmer and happier. If you’d like to speak with a trained anxiety specialist, I’m here to help. Contact me today, and let’s get you back to living without worry.