Anxiety: What Is it and How Do I Manage It?

by GINNY WILEY, LPC

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is persistent and excessive worry or stress that can negatively make an impact on one or multiple areas of your life. Symptoms of anxiety are restlessness, fatigue, impaired concentration, irritability, or tension. Heart palpitations, tense muscles, and stomach problems are often common with anxiety.

Although genetics play a role, many other factors contribute to the development of anxiety. Stressful life events and traumas can contribute to a person becoming anxious. Anxiety can stem from fear of failure, not feeling good enough, or a need to be in control. Lifestyles, such as unhealthy eating habits, lack of activity, lack of sleep, and substance abuse use can enhance anxiety. Every person has experienced anxiety at some point in their life, even if they are not willing to admit it!

What is actually going on in the brain when I feel anxious? The amygdala sends distress signal to hypothalamus, which then triggers the “fight-or-flight” response. Problems occur when this stress response stays activated and cortisol is elevated. Click here to read an article that explains what is going on in the brain in greater detail.

 What can I do to help manage anxiety?

  • Exercise: helps lower activity of sympathetic nervous system. People feel relaxed and safe after doing something active. Treat exercise as self-care and not another thing on the ‘to do’ list.
  • Spend time outdoors: Sunlight is good for you!
  • Meditate: Just like you have to work out repeatedly to build strong muscles, you also have to repeatedly teach your brain to slow down and relax. Try to start with just five minutes a day. A number of our clients like to use the Headspace app as a meditation tool.
  • Schedule worry times: allow yourself to “worry” for 10 minutes a day. Write down your worries and determine if you have control over any of them and, if so, write out solutions. If not, recognize that particular worry is out of your control. When worries come up during the day remind yourself you will get back to it during your planned worry time.
  • Social media cleanse: If you are comparing yourselves to others, take a break or limit time from social media.
  • Practicing gratitude: What are three things, big or small that you are currently grateful for? Bring your attention to those throughout the day.
  • Music: Develop a calming playlist of songs.

What do I do when I feel anxious?

Abdominal Breathing:  Close your eyes, put one hand on your stomach and imagine that you have a balloon inside your stomach. Now, inhale and see how the balloon grows and moves your hand up. Then slowly exhale and see how the balloon deflates. If anything distracts you, just notice the thought and gently return to the exercise. Do this for five minutes.

Concentration exercise: Think about your breathing. Notice when you are inhaling and say to yourself, “I am inhaling,” and then when you are exhaling say to yourself,”I am exhaling.” Continue to allow yourself to focus on your breath. If your mind wanders just notice the thought and gently being yourself back to focus on your breath. Do this for five minutes.

Mindfulness:  Pay attention to what is happening in the moment by using all five senses. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you taste? What do you smell?  What do you feel? Focus on the present for five min.

Visualization:  Can you picture the beach, the mountains, a park, any place that you feel calm? How would you describe this place? What are you doing in this place? How do you feel when you think of this place? Close your eyes and focus on this place. Focus for five minutes.

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About Anthology

We are a group of professionals dedicated to promoting health and healing in the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. We believe that healing occurs more effectively and more efficiently when each facet of a person is addressed. Our group is comprised of professional counselors and a psychiatrist.