Anxiety is an extremely common condition. Everyone feels anxious at some point or other especially when faced with a particularly stressful situation. So when does this become a problem? It crosses over from a regular experience to an actual issue when it affects our functioning.
Each person experiences anxiety in their own way. For one it could come in the form of a stomach ache while for another it could be a headache or palpitations. These, are among the long list of symptoms associated with anxiety. Unfortunately though, for many, these symptoms are so severe that various types of medication are used to treat their conditions, antidepressants included. Though medication treats the symptoms of anxiety, it does not address the underlying cause. In addition, medication gives rise to a plethora of side effects including the possibility of addiction.
We interviewed ten people who experience anxiety on a regular basis to gain a clearer understanding of their perception of the condition, what triggers it and how they deal with it.
Among the recurring themes we found in their definitions of the condition were:
- Extreme discomfort
- Negative feelings and thoughts
- Loss of control
- Extreme worrying
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Physical symptoms such as sweating, feeling cold, stomach aches, tightness in chest and shortness of breath
As for triggers, we found that their anxiety was triggered mainly by:
- Social events
- Occurrences outside their control
- Negative environments
The participants reported using various coping mechanisms to work through their anxiety including useful techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, self talk and some not as useful ones such as avoidance and binge eating.
One notable finding in relation to this was that many of the participants who employed the less useful techniques reported that they became increasingly affected by less minor triggers over time, meaning that an incident that did not make them anxious 6 months ago, could potentially make them anxious now.
Considering the prevalence of the condition in today’s world, it is important not only to comprehend our experience with anxiety but also to arm ourselves with knowledge on how to manage it well. Anxiety is not always a bad thing as studies have shown that most people perform better with an optimum level.
The key is to ensure that it does not overwhelm us or impair our functioning. If anxiety is affecting your health, relationships, work or any other aspect of your life, then it is time to change the way you are dealing with it.
Some ways of doing this which have been proven to be successful are:
- Practicing relaxation techniques including deep breathing, meditation and mindfulness
- Exercising regularly
- Eating healthy
- Engaging in healthy sleeping habits
- Cognitive behavioral therapy