People with anxiety can tell you how exhausting and frustrating their disorder can be, and the worst part is, that finding a cure for it isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. People respond differently to different treatments, and finding the one that works for you is just a matter of trial and error. Even if one attempts a full recovery, totally getting over anxiety may not happen for some people.
Despite all the research and information available about anxiety, scientists remain baffled as to the direct cause of anxiety. Because anxiety can creep up on anyone at any time, we thought we’d make a list of common symptoms to look out for so that you can prevent anxiety before it rears its ugly head.
Seven Common Anxiety Warning Signs
Here are some of the most frequent warning signs of anxiety:
1. Muscle Pain
Anxiety affects the entire body, plain and simple. One such area of discomfort lies in the muscles, as stress can make muscles tighter and cramp easier. People with anxiety can experience almost constant muscle tension, and those who have lived with the disorder for a while, may not even notice it anymore. Regular exercise can help to keep this symptom under control, but those with anxiety may still experience muscle tension despite moving their body regularly.
Since anxiety causes the whole body to tighten up, the head is no exception to this. People with chronic anxiety report frequent headaches and migraines, as the tension causes a buildup of cortisol in the body. This stress hormone can cause you actual physical pain, as the body essentially prepares for a situation in which survival is at stake. Our bodies still have this fight-or-flight response, but in those with anxiety, it doesn’t seem to operate properly.
Anxiety can severely deplete the body’s energy stores, resulting in extreme fatigue and exhaustion. If you regularly feel tired despite a good night’s rest, you might have anxiety. Your body is using most of its energy on simply staying alive and avoiding a dangerous situation, so you have no energy left for anything else. Also, anxiety causes you to ruminate over things, which can leave the body and mind feeling depleted as well.
4. Craving Sugary or Starchy Foods
When we experience high levels of stress or anxiety, we want to reach for the first sugary or fattening treat we can find in order to stabilize our body. However, this is heightened even more in those with anxiety, as their bodies feel under constant attack from their disorder. If you find yourself using food to cope with your emotions often, you might have a hidden anxiety disorder. Keep note of when you start to crave these types of foods so you can better understand when and why you use these foods to cope with your feelings.
5. Digestive Issues
Chronic anxiety has been directly linked to poor digestion, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). When the brain is “not right,” the digestive system generally isn’t either. In fact, between 80 to 90 percent of the brain’s “calming” neurotransmitter, serotonin, is produced in the gastrointestinal tract. The result is two-fold: poor digestion and inefficient production of serotonin.
6. Fluctuating Moods
When our brain is inundated with anxious thoughts, we have very little patience for things that demand our attention. Note that is obviously counterproductive – it is far better to focus on things that are constructive than to allow anxiety to run amuck. However, for those with chronic anxiety, their default reaction is to “snap” or “lash out” when someone or something requires attention.
This is relatively obvious, but when the brain is rapidly firing it can be quite difficult to enter a state of relaxation. When relaxation is difficult, sleep is as well. It is common for someone with chronic anxiety to be “exhausted in body, but restless is mind;” in other words, they may be more than willing to enter a deep sleep but their brain simply won’t allow it.
17 Behaviors to Help Beat Anxiety
Here are some steps you can take to restore your peace of mind.
1. Learn about anxiety
Learning everything you can about anxiety helps you better understand it. This will also help you understand how to respond when you feel anxious. Educating yourself about anxiety helps you feel in control instead of the anxiety controlling you.
2. Explore the outdoors
Being outside is a natural way to beat anxiety. When you’re in the sunshine and fresh air, your body releases a chemical called serotonin. It’s a natural mood enhancer that makes you feel happier. Get outside every day for at least 15 minutes to raise your vitamin D. This vitamin helps your immune system and allows your body to absorb and regulate calcium. Try outside activities such as:
- Having a picnic
3. Read a good book
Reading gets overlooked to beat anxiety. But reading not only strengthens your brain, but it also relaxes your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure. One study found college students who read every day were less prone to anxiety. Reading slows down your heart rate and breathing so much that it’s been compared to meditation.
4. Watch your diet
One way to beat your anxiety is to eat a healthy diet. When you’re eating well, you feel better and have more energy. This boosts your positivity. Eating less sugar, low fat, and low sodium are great choices. Choose to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, whole fibrous grains, and low-fat meats to stay fit, so you can maintain a positive outlook.
If you’re feeling anxious, find some relaxation strategies to reduce your anxiety. These techniques put you in control of your anxiety, rather than being controlled by it. Try relaxation techniques, such as:
- Deep abdominal breathing
- Isometric relaxation
- Muscle relaxation
- Ta chi
6. Sufficient sleep
Individuals who are well rested are less prone to depression and other mental health conditions, like anxiety. When you sleep, it recharges your mind and body. An adequate amount of sleep can
- Help you remember things better
- Protect your heart
- Improve your decision-making skills
- Prevents weight gain
- Improve your ability to learn new things
Laughter improves your mood and relieves depression and anxiety. It’s a natural way to lower your stress, so you feel better about your life. Studies show that laughter decreases cortisol levels, so the stress in your body goes down. Laughter also increases the dopamine and serotonin levels in your body. Many therapists are incorporating laughter into their patient treatments.
8. Let your creativity flow
Creative experiences stimulate your mind and lower your stress level. Being creative allows you to focus. Creative endeavors produce positive emotions, which give you a sense of well-being and happiness. People who let creativity flow say they have more energy and feel happier. Try some simple creative activities:
- Doddle-Let your mind wander as you doddle. This stimulates brainstorming.
- Write a little song about the problem you’re having at work
- Try some new today-Breaking out of your routine, frees your mind to think creatively
- Move your desk-Rearranging your office can stimulate creativity.
- Listen to music
9. Write about it
Writing your thoughts and feelings is a wonderful way to beat anxiety. It helps you work out exactly what’s bothering you and can ease your stressful feelings. The act of writing doesn’t take away your problems, but it makes you feel better.
10. Socialize with friends and family
Resist the urge to isolate yourself when you’re struggling with anxiety. Being alone is the last thing you need. Having friends and family around you gives you a new perspective on your life. As you focus on others, the anxiety fades. Talk to your family and friends about how you’re feeling. This breaks the secret hold anxiety has on you.
11. Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs
Alcohol and drugs make anxiety worse. If you’re already feeling depressed and anxious, they will only make you feel sadder. If you feel you’re addicted to these things, find a support group to help you break free from the control alcohol and drugs have on you.
12. Quit smoking
Nicotine creates a sense of calm, so you think smoking helps you to relax. But it’s a temporary experience. Soon after you smoke, you’ll have cravings for more nicotine. It’s classified as a stimulant because it speeds up your breathing and heart rate. It’s hard to withdraw from nicotine, and this adds to your feelings of anxiety.
13. Avoid caffeinated drinks
Too much caffeine creates the same feeling as an anxiety attack. Your heart rate speeds up, you breathe quickly, and your mind races. It’s important that you’re aware of this when you choose your drinks. You don’t need to give up caffeine entirely, but if they give you anxiety symptoms, you want to find alternative drinks.
14. Identify triggers
If you suffer from anxiety, you need to understand what triggers it. As you learn your triggers, you can be better equipped to beat anxiety. Triggers for anxiety include:
- Work problems
- At home issues
- Health problems
- Feeling isolated
- Falling into bad habits
If possible, limit your exposure to your triggers, or use coping strategies to get through situations you can’t avoid. You may need extra help from your therapist, your friends, or your pastor.
15. Catch your negative thoughts
Negative thoughts trigger anxiety. If your mind focuses on something negative, stop your thoughts and redirect them. Pick to think about positive things. It takes deliberate effort, but there is always something positive in any situation. Negative thoughts steal your joy about your life.
Aromatherapy reduces anxiety, giving you a sense of calm. Whether you use a scented aromatherapy candle, incense or diffuser, the soothing scent helps activate certain brain chemicals that ease your anxiety. Choose scents like these for best results.