Anxiety: What It Is, Why It Happens, And How To Manage It At Home

Millions of people around the world are struggling with anxiety which is a prevalent mental health problem. It can take many different forms, from minor anxiety to major panic attacks, and it can have a big impact on how a person lives their everyday life. To deal with this it is important to understand the underlying causes, symptoms, and effective management approaches.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal and typical feeling that everyone experiences from time to time. It can be triggered by various factors, such as stress, fear, uncertainty, or thinking of a negative outcome. It can help us prepare for challenges and motivate us to take action. However, when it becomes excessive and interferes with your daily life, it may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

Fight or Flight

Signs of Anxiety

Understanding the signs can help individuals seek the necessary support and treatment at the right time.

According to the World Health Organization, it is the most common mental health condition worldwide. It is affecting approximately 284 million people in 2017. In the United States, about 18% of adults and 25% of adolescents experience it in a given year.

Some of the common signs are:

Physical Symptoms:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fatigue or restlessness
  • Gastrointestinal issues

Emotional Symptoms:

  • Persistent worry or fear
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of impending doom
  • Avoidance of anxiety-provoking situations

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Avoiding social interactions
  • Procrastination or difficulty completing tasks
  • Seeking reassurance from others
  • Compulsive behaviors

Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Catastrophic thinking
  • Obsessive thought patterns
  • Fear of making mistakes
  • Memory problems

If you or someone you know is having these symptoms frequently, it may be time to consult a healthcare professional. Early help can make a significant difference in managing it and improving quality of life.

Causes of Anxiety

The exact causes are not fully understood but it is likely to be influenced by a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors.

Some of the possible causes are:

1. Genetics.

Having a family history of anxiety disorders can also increase the risk of developing one. This may be due to variations in genes that affect brain chemistry, such as serotonin and dopamine.

2. Stressful situations.

Certain life events or circumstances can trigger or worsen anxiety symptoms. These may include trauma, abuse, violence, loss, illness, relationship problems, work issues, financial difficulties, or major changes. Stress can also affect the balance of hormones in the body, which can influence mood and emotions.

3. Previous traumas.

People who have experienced traumatic events in the past, such as accidents, assaults, natural disasters, or war, may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder that involves re-experiencing the trauma through flashbacks, nightmares, or intrusive thoughts.

4. Medications.

Some medications can cause or worsen anxiety symptoms as a side effect. These may include stimulants, steroids, antidepressants, antihistamines, decongestants, or thyroid medications. Some substances, such as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, or drugs, can also affect the nervous system and trigger it.

5. Physical health issues.

Some medical conditions can cause or mimic its symptoms. These may include heart problems, respiratory problems, hormonal problems, neurological problems, infections, allergies, or chronic pain. It can also affect physical health by increasing the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, or heart disease.

6. Brain chemistry.

Anxiety disorders may be associated with abnormal levels or activity of certain neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in the brain that regulate mood and stress response.

7. Personality.

Certain personality traits, such as a tendency to experience negative emotions, or low self-esteem can make someone more prone to anxiety.

8. Life events.

Stressful or traumatic experiences in childhood or adulthood can trigger or worsen anxiety disorders. Examples include abuse, neglect, loss of a loved one, divorce, illness, or injury.

9. Medical conditions.

Some physical health problems can cause or contribute to anxiety disorders. Examples include thyroid disorders, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, chronic pain, and substance abuse.

If left untreated, it can have a negative impact on your physical and mental well-being. It can affect your ability to function at work, school, home, or in social settings. It also increases the risk of developing other mental health problems, such as depression, eating disorders, or substance use disorders.

Related: How to Overcome Depression with and without Medication?

How to treat anxiety?

The good news is that anxiety can be treated. There are effective ways to manage them at home and with professional help. Some common treatment options include:

1. Psychotherapy.

CBT to treat Anxiety

Psychotherapy is also known as “talk therapy” or “counseling”. It is a process of working with a trained mental health professional to understand and deal with your anxiety. He/She can help you identify the causes and help you manage them.

One of the most effective forms of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT focuses on changing the way you think and behave in response to anxiety-provoking situations. In CBT, exposure therapy is used to slowly face the thing or circumstance that makes you anxious until you start to feel less scared and more confident.

2. Medicine.

Medications can help reduce anxiety symptoms and make it easier for you to participate in psychotherapy. Medication doesn’t cure anxiety disorders, but it can help you manage them better.

Some of the most common medications for anxiety disorders are antidepressants which can help balance the chemicals in your brain that affect your mood and emotions. Another type of medication is anti-anxiety medication, such as buspirone, which can help reduce nervousness and tension. In some cases, your doctor may also prescribe sedatives or benzodiazepines, which can help you relax and sleep better.

These medications can be addictive and should only be used for short-term relief. You should always consult your doctor before taking any medications and follow his or her instructions carefully.

3. Seek Support.

Seeking support from others who understand what you are going through can also help you deal with anxiety. You can ask for support from:

1. Your family and friends.

Your family and friends can provide you with emotional support, practical help, comfort, and encouragement. They can also help you take your mind off your worries and have fun. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them when you need them.

2. Your doctor or therapist.

Your doctor or therapist can provide you with professional guidance, diagnosis, treatment options, referrals, and follow-up care. They can also monitor your progress and adjust your treatment plan as needed.

3. A support group.

A support group is a group of people who share similar experiences and challenges with anxiety. It is a safe and confidential place for you to share your feelings, learn from others, and get feedback and advice. You can find a support group online or in your local community.

However, not everyone has access to psychotherapy or medication or may prefer to try other options before seeking professional help. In such a situation, there are some home remedies that can help you in reducing your anxiety and stress levels naturally.

How to treat anxiety at home?

If you’re looking for some natural remedies, here are 10 tips that can help you feel more calm and relaxed.

1. Be active.

Natural way to treat stress

Exercise can help you release stress hormones, improve your mood, boost your energy, and increase your physical fitness. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week.

A 2021 study found that people with a physically active lifestyle had about a 60% lower risk of developing an anxiety disorder.

2. Avoid alcohol.

Although drinking alcohol may seem like a short-term solution to ease anxiety, it can worsen anxiety as time passes by affecting your sleep, changing the chemistry of your brain, and raising your risk of dependency. Instead of drinking alcohol, try drinking water, herbal tea, or juice.

3. Quit smoking.

Smoking triggers the nervous system’s processes, increases blood pressure, and lowers brain oxygen levels, all of which can cause or worsen anxiety. Quitting smoking can improve your physical and mental health in many ways. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor or call a helpline.

4. Practice relaxation techniques.

Relaxation techniques can help calm your mind and body and reduce the effects of stress and anxiety. Some relaxation techniques you can try are deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, yoga, tai chi, or listening to soothing music.

5. Use aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to create a pleasant and therapeutic scent. Aromatherapy can help you deal with anxiety by stimulating your senses, affecting your mood, and calming your nervous system. Some of the best essential oils for anxiety are lavender, ylang-ylang, frankincense, bergamot, and peppermint.

6. Get enough sleep.

Sleep is essential for your physical and mental health, as it helps your body and brain rest and recover. Lack of sleep can increase anxiety by impairing your memory, concentration, mood, and immune system. To improve your sleep quality, try to follow a regular sleep schedule, avoid caffeine and screens before bed, and create a comfortable and dark sleep environment.

Also Read: Unveiling the Power of Meditation for Sleep in 2023.

7. Eat healthy food.

What you eat can affect your emotions because certain foods can affect your brain chemicals, blood sugar levels, and inflammation levels. To deal with anxiety, eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and probiotics. Avoid foods that may trigger or worsen anxiety, such as processed foods, sugary foods, caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods.

8. Try journaling.

Journaling is a practice that involves writing down your thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. Journaling can help you deal with anxiety by expressing your feelings, gaining insight into your problems, finding solutions, and tracking your progress. You can journal in any way that suits you, such as using prompts, lists, drawings, or letters.

9. Learn to be assertive.

Being assertive means expressing your needs, feelings, opinions, and preferences in a respectful and honest manner. Being assertive can help you improve your self-esteem, communication skills, and relationships with others. It can also help you avoid fights and reduce stress.

10. Build self-esteem.

Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself and your abilities. Having low self-esteem can make you more susceptible to anxiety and negative thoughts. To increase your self-esteem you need to recognize your strengths and accomplishments, challenge your inner critic, accept yourself as you are, and treat yourself with kindness and compassion.

The Bottom line

Anxiety is a common and treatable condition that can affect anyone at any time in his or her life. If you are struggling with it, you are not alone and there is hope. By seeking professional help, making lifestyle changes, and seeking support from others, you can overcome it and live a happy and healthy life.

It is a normal and adaptive emotion that can help you cope with challenges and threats. However, when it becomes excessive, persistent, and debilitating, it may indicate an anxiety disorder that requires treatment. It is a common and treatable mental health condition that can affect anyone. By seeking professional help and following some self-care tips, you can learn to manage it and improve your quality of life.

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