How To Help Yourself
Theres no quick fix for this complex mix of forces that are contributing to people feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, say Napper and Rao. People are trying to make their lives better, but theres no templatewe havent done this before.
But if youre feeling stress and anxiety, there are simple ways to start reclaiming agency in your life. Consider doing one or two of the following, starting today:
These kinds of small actions can have a big impact over time. As you find more mental space and clarity, youll be in a better position to design your life in a way that supports your well-being.
The full conversation with Paul Napper and Anthony Rao is available here.
Facebook/LinkedIn image: kittirat roekburi/Shutterstock
American Psychological Association . Stress in America: Stress and Current Events. Stress in America Survey
Duffy, M. E., Twenge, J. M., & Joiner, T. E. . Trends in mood and anxiety symptoms and suicide-related outcomes among US undergraduates, 20072018: Evidence from two national surveys. Journal of Adolescent Health, 65, 590-598.
Why Do We Feel Nervous
Nervousness is a common feeling brought on by your bodys stress response. This involves series of hormonal and physiological responses that help prepare you to handle a perceived or imagined threat.
Your body prepares to fight or flee a threat by boosting adrenaline production. Almost instantly, your heart begins to beat faster, your blood pressure rises, and your breathing quickens, increasing your alertness and energy.
This response can result in feelings of nervousness and anxiety.
Nervousness is a natural response to a stressful event. Its temporary and resolves once the stress has passed. It can be controlled, even if youre someone who is more prone to nervous feelings.
While nervousness is a common symptom of anxiety disorders, theyre not the same thing.
Anxiety disorders are psychiatric disorders that develop from a number of complex factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, and life events. Anxiety disorders are long-lasting and uncontrollable without treatment.
People with an anxiety disorder often experience severe feelings of nervousness or worry. These feelings can come on frequently and without an obvious stressor.
People may also experience a number of pronounced physical and mental symptoms that impact their ability to function.
symptoms of anxiety disorders
Nervousness is a normal reaction to certain situations. With these tips and a little practice, you can learn how to keep your nerves from getting the better of you.
What Makes You Afraid
Lots of things make us feel afraid. Being afraid of some things like fires can keep you safe. Fearing failure can make you try to do well so that you wont fail, but it can also stop you doing well if the feeling is too strong.
What youre afraid of and how you act when youre afraid of something can vary per person. Just knowing what makes you afraid and why can be the first step to sorting out problems with fear.
How can we manage and reduce stress? Our free downloadable pocket guide offers you 101 tips: www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-to-stress.
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Overcoming Anxiety With Proper Treatment
Residential treatment is an excellent way to get the care you need for your anxiety, both in terms of healing its causes and learning how to cope with the disorder. There are many different anxiety disorders, and a good residential program will begin with an initial evaluation and an accurate diagnosis, which is key to sustainable recovery. They will give you comprehensive treatmentnot just for your anxiety, but any co-occurring disorders that may be present. Residential clinicians will delve into the root causes and triggers of your anxiety, and zero in on the areas where healing work must be done.
Youll receive 24-hour care at a residential treatment facility. That means if you have a panic attack at any time, day or night, there will be someone there to support you through it. Youll receive medication from a psychiatrist to help ease your symptoms. And if youre currently on medication, the doctor can adjust it until youre feeling better. Youll never alone, as youll be in a community of people who, like you, are struggling with anxiety and other challenges. And youll be in a pristine healing environment, far away from the situations, people, or places that may have been making your anxiety worse. In short, a residential treatment facility is a soothing, safe place to heal where you can build up your confidence and learn the coping mechanisms necessary to manage and live beyond the boundaries set by your anxiety.
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Extra Support For Anxiety
If youre feeling so anxious that its impacting on your day-to-day life, you might need some extra support. See face-to-face help to see who you can talk to if you decide you want outside help.
Cognitive behavioural therapy has been found to be effective in helping people manage anxiety.
CBT helps you manage problems by thinking more positively. It frees you from unhelpful patterns of behaviour.
People like your local GP or a clinical or counselling psychologist can help you. If they can’t, then they may refer you to a specialist.
Anxiety Is Not Uncommon
Anxiety is scary. It gnaws at you wherever you go, sapping the joy out of life. You could be safe at home with your family and still feel it a constant worry buzzing in the back of your mind that can grow into panic. It can make your most important tasks feel impossible. Who can work, drive a car, or care for children when they can only focus on their intense feelings of fear? Its even worse when you have no idea why youre anxious. If you cant understand it, how can you explain it to your family, friends, or co-workers? Anxiety can make you feel isolated, and no one should have to go through a scary time alone.
If youre experiencing anxiety, youve got company. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in our country, afflicting about 40 million adults a year. And although effective treatment is available, only 36.9% of sufferers are treated. People may feel embarrassed about admitting that theyre anxious. They may be dismissive of their anxiety. Or, they may not be aware that frequent anxiety is a mental health problem. But awareness of your anxiety is the first step in getting treatment for itand in understanding its causes.
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What Is The ‘fight Flight Or Freeze’ Response
Like all animals, human beings have evolved ways to help us protect ourselves from danger. When we feel under threat our bodies react by releasing certain hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which can be helpful. These hormones:
- make us feel more alert, so we can act faster
- make our hearts beat faster, quickly sending blood to where it’s needed most.
After we feel the threat has passed, our bodies release other hormones to help our muscles relax. This can sometimes cause us to shake.
This is commonly called the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response it’s something that happens automatically in our bodies, and we have no control over it.
“Going out of the house is a challenge because I have a fear of panicking and feel that I’m being watched or judged. It’s just horrible. I want to get help but I’m afraid of being judged.”
Who Is This Quiz For
This short questionnaire is for anyone who wants to better understand how stressed they are when taking the test.
These questions can help you figure out your stress level and whether you need to reduce your stress level or seek the help of a healthcare or mental health professional.
If youve been wondering how stressed you are, taking a brief stress test online like this one can offer deeper insight.
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How Much Stress Level Is Normal
There is no normal level of stress. Everybody has a unique stress tolerance and handles stress differently. Its important to understand your stress level and seek help when you may be physically affected by stress. You can learn more about the impact of unhealthy stress levels in Psych Centrals article Can You Die From Stress?
Recognising Your Stress Triggers
If youre not sure whats causing your stress, keep a diary and make a note of stressful episodes for two-to-four weeks. Then review it to spot the triggers.
Things you might want to write down include:
- the date, time and place of a stressful episode
- what you were doing
You can use the diary to:
- work out what triggers your stress
- work out how you operate under pressure
- develop better coping mechanisms
Doctors sometimes recommend keeping a stress diary to help them diagnose stress.
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Seeking Professional Help For Stress And Anxiety
There are many ways to seek treatment for stress and anxiety. If you feel like youre unable to cope with stress and anxiety, your primary care provider may suggest that you see a mental health provider. They may use psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, to help you work through your stress and anxiety. Your therapist may also teach you applied relaxation techniques to help you manage stress.
Cognitive behavioral therapyis a popular and effective method used to manage anxiety. This type of therapy teaches you to recognize anxious thoughts and behaviors and change them into more positive ones.
Exposure therapy and systematic desensitization can be effective in treating phobias. They involve gradually exposing you to anxiety-provoking stimuli to help manage your feelings of fear.
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How Do I Know If What I Am Feeling Is Stress Or Anxiety
Stress and anxiety both are our bodys natural responses to danger. When our system goes into a flight-or-fight response, stress and/or anxiety are triggered in the body to keep us alert and focused. Consequently, it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two because they share many of the same symptoms. However, for mental and physical health, it is important to learn to do so.
The main thing to understand is that stress is a response to an external and identifiable threat, whereas the cause of anxiety is internal and more difficult to pinpoint. Stress tends to flare up quickly and then dissipate, whereas anxiety can linger indefinitely. While both can cause a racing heartbeat and rapid breathing, stress tends to result in overall unhappiness and crankiness, and anxiety results in restlessness and tension.
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Managing Stress In Daily Life
Stress is not an illness itself, but it can cause serious illness if it isnt addressed. Its important to recognise the symptoms of stress early. Recognising the signs and symptoms of stress will help you figure out ways of coping and save you from adopting unhealthy coping methods, such as drinking or smoking.
There is little you can do to prevent stress, but there are many things you can do to manage stress more effectively, such as learning how to relax, taking regular exercise and adopting good time-management techniques.
Studies have found that mindfulness courses, where participants are taught simple meditations across a series of weeks, can also help to reduce stress and improve mood.
Managing Anxiety And Stress
Stress and anxiety are not managed in exactly the same ways, but many similar coping strategies can be used to assist with both. These can be especially helpful during the time before you are able to schedule an appointment with a specialist who may be able to diagnose you with anxiety. Remember, there is no proven way to cure anxiety disorders, but using some of these skills can at least help alleviate the excessive worry and extreme emotional response that comes with mental health disorders, such as anxiety.
Some of these steps may sound simple but give them a try, at least once, until you find a strategy that works for you. Anxiety and stress management may be easier than you think.
Every person is different, so not every stress and anxiety management technique will work for you. Regular stress or mild anxiety might be manageable with these techniques, but making a plan with a therapist who knows you will likely help you manage your symptoms best. Moreover, it is important to have anxiety disorders diagnosed as soon as possible, so you can get the proper treatment.
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Types Of Stressors To Contribute To Your Feeling Stressed All The Time
How Much Worrying Is Too Much
Worries, doubts, and anxieties are a normal part of life. Its natural to worry about an unpaid bill, an upcoming job interview, or a first date. But normal worry becomes excessive when its persistent and uncontrollable. You worry every day about what ifs and worst-case scenarios, you cant get anxious thoughts out of your head, and it interferes with your daily life.
Constant worrying, negative thinking, and always expecting the worst can take a toll on your emotional and physical health. It can sap your emotional strength, leave you feeling restless and jumpy, cause insomnia, headaches, stomach problems, and muscle tension, and make it difficult to concentrate at work or school. You may take your negative feelings out on the people closest to you, self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, or try to distract yourself by zoning out in front of screens. Chronic worrying can also be a major symptom of Generalized Anxiety Disorder , a common anxiety disorder that involves tension, nervousness, and a general feeling of unease that colors your whole life.
If youre plagued by exaggerated worry and tension, there are steps you can take to turn off anxious thoughts. 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 balanced, less fearful perspective.
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Risk Factors For Anxiety Disorder
Some things also make you more likely to develop an anxiety disorder. These are called risk factors. Some risk factors you canât change, but others you can.
Risk factors for anxiety disorders include:
- History of mental health disorder. Having another mental health disorder, like depression, raises your risk for anxiety disorder.
- Childhood sexual abuse. Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse or neglect during childhood is linked to anxiety disorders later in life.
- Trauma. Living through a traumatic event increases the risk of posttraumatic stress disorder , which can cause panic attacks.
- Negative life events. Stressful or negative life events, like losing a parent in early childhood, increase your risk for anxiety disorder.
- Severe illness or chronic health condition. Constant worry about your health or the health of a loved one, or caring for someone who is sick, can cause you to feel overwhelmed and anxious.
- Substance abuse. The use of alcohol and illegal drugs makes you more likely to get an anxiety disorder. Some people also use these substances to hide or ease anxiety symptoms.
- Being shy as a child. Shyness and withdrawal from unfamiliar people and places during childhood is linked to social anxiety in teens and adults.
- Low self-esteem. Negative perceptions about yourself may lead to social anxiety disorder.
Staying Busy Is Your Antidepressant
Many people are either afraid or unwilling to address the true causes of their suffering and unhappiness.
This is partly because its not always clear. Depression, for instance, has many partial and interactive causes, from genetic vulnerabilities and inflammatory autoimmune responses to ruminative thinking styles and social stressors. So it can be understandably hard to completely understand all the causes and contributors to your suffering.
But for many of us, despite this complexity, there are at least some reasonably clear causes of unhappiness that we could work to improve:
- Nearly everyone with depression or anxiety would benefit from more regular exercise.
- Most people with low self-esteem and self-worth issues would benefit from working to improve their habits of negative self-talk.
- Almost anyone who struggles to regulate their emotions would benefit from better sleep habits.
- Nearly everyone with anger issues would benefit from a regular mindfulness practice.
The point is, there are usually plenty of reasonable ways to address the underlying causes of our suffering. The problem is, theyre hard:
So I get it. There are real challenges.
But its how we respond to these challenges that matter. For many people, the challenges of addressing core causes feels like too much. And so they resort to coping mechanisms and treating the symptoms:
When youre constantly busy, you but a tremendous toll on both your body and mind.
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