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How to Effectively Manage Anxiety & Stress

How to Effectively Manage Anxiety & Stress

It's time to tackle subjects that have become increasingly familiar and are only continuing to rise: Stress and Anxiety. Statistics have shown a dramatic increase in the number of people who suffer from stress and anxiety over the years. There are a number of reasons for the increase, and trends show that stress and anxiety are unfortunately, not looking like they're going away anytime soon.

Some reasons, experts say is due to lifestyle and environmental changes, the increase usage and popularity of social media, and outside influences that can cause unhealthy coping mechanisms. Other reasons can include chemical imbalances within the brain that directly affect one's ability to cope and interact with the outside world. 

Most people do experience stress and anxiety from time to time, and it's more common than you may think. Let's explore these topics a little further.

What are Stress and Anxiety?

In a simple definition, stress is any demand that is placed on your brain or physical body. When multiple, competing demands are placed on them, stress tends to occur. The feeling of being stressed can be triggered by an event that makes one feel frustrated or nervous. 

Anxiety, on the other hand, is a feeling of fear, worry, or unease. It can be a reaction to stress, or it can occur in people who are unable to identify significant stressors in their lives. 

Stress and anxiety can unfortunately interfere with your daily life. If it does, that may indicate a more serious or underlying issue. If you are avoiding situations due to irrational fears, constant worrying, panic attacks, or severe anxiety about a traumatic event weeks after it happened, you may need to seek professional help - and that is perfectly okay. 

What Does Stress and Anxiety Feel Like?

Stress and anxiety have different symptoms for everyone, but they can produce both physical and psychological symptoms. People experience both stress and anxiety differently, but there are some common physical symptoms:

In addition to physical symptoms, stress and anxiety can cause mental or emotional symptoms, such as:

  • feelings of impending doom
  • panic or nervousness, especially in social settings
  • difficulty concentrating
  • irrational anger
  • restlessness

People who suffer from stress and anxiety over long periods of time may experience negative related health outcomes. In fact, they are more likely to develop heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and may even develop depression and panic disorder. 

Causes of Stress and Anxiety

For most, stress and anxiety come and go. They usually occur after particular life events, but then subside. Common causes include:

  • Moving
  • Starting a new school or job
  • Having an illness or injury
  • Having a friend or family member who is ill or injured
  • Death of a family member or friend
  • Getting married
  • Having a baby

Certain prescription medications and drugs can also make the symptoms of stress and anxiety worse. Regular use of caffeine, illicit drugs, alcohol, or prescription medications, such as: thyroid medications, asthma inhalers, or diet pills all may make symptoms worse. 

Stress and Anxiety Disorders

Stress and anxiety that occur frequently or seem out of proportion to the stressor may be signs of an anxiety disorder. An estimated 40 million Americans live with some variation of an anxiety disorder, and the number is only expected to increase. 

People with the following disorders below may feel anxious and stressed on a daily basis and for prolonged periods of time. These disorders include:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): a common anxiety disorder characterized by uncontrollable worrying. For instance, sometimes people may worry about bad things happening to them or their loved ones. But, other times, they may not be able to identify any source of the worry. 

Panic Disorder: a condition that causes panic attacks, which are moments of extreme fear that is accompanied by a pounding heart, shortness of breath, shakiness, nausea, stomach upset, sweating, cold sweats, and fear of impending doom.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): a condition that causes flashbacks or anxiety as a result of a traumatic experience. 

Social Anxiety: a condition that causes intense feelings of anxiety in situations that involve interacting with others - such as large groups. 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): a condition that causes repetitive thoughts and the compulsion to complete certain actions.

When to Seek Help

If you're having thoughts about harming yourself or others, you should seek immediate medical help. Stress and anxiety are treatable conditions and there are many resources, strategies and treatments that can help. If you're unable to control your stress and anxiety, and they are beginning to impact your daily life, talk to a medical professional about ways to manage stress and anxiety.

Techniques to Manage Stress and Anxiety

Experiencing stress and anxiety is normal, and there are strategies you can use to make them more manageable. Pay close attention to how your body and mind respond to stressful and anxiety producing situations.

Managing everyday stress and anxiety

Certain lifestyle changes can help alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety. These techniques can be used along with medical treatments for anxiety. Techniques to reduce stress and anxiety include:

  • Eating a balanced, healthy diet
  • Limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Meditation and Yoga
  • Hobbies
  • Journaling
  • Deep breathing
  • Recognizing the factors that trigger your stress
  • Talking to friends or family members   

Professional help is also available to you to seek treatment for stress and anxiety. Typically, this is done by seeking a mental health provider. They may use psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, to help you work through your stress and anxiety, and help find the root of them. Your therapist may also teach you applied relaxation techniques to help you manage stress. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: 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 & Systematic Desensitization: Can be effective in treating certain phobias. They involve gradually exposing you to anxiety provoking stimuli to help manage your feelings of fear. 

Medications: Your primary care provider or mental health provider, may also recommend medication to help treat a diagnosed anxiety disorder. These may include Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs, such as Zoloft, Prozac, or Paxil. Sometimes, providers use anti-anxiety medications, such as Valium, Xanax, or Ativan, but those approaches are generally used on a short term basis, due to the risk of addiction. 

Stress and anxiety can be unpleasant to deal with. They can also have negative effects on your physical health if left untreated. It's important to recognize when the stress in your life is causing negative consequences. If you feel like your stress and anxiety are becoming unmanageable, seek professional help.


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