When you care about someone who has pervasive challenges with anxiety, it can sometimes feel helpless. It can be difficult to assess what provokes anxiety at times, especially if there is no clear trigger for it. Sometimes there is a discernible theme, but not always.
Anxiety Signs and Symptoms
Anxiety shows up differently for different people. Often there are common traits however, and these might indicate that you or a loved one are experiencing anxiety.
Increased heart rate:
While this is more of an internal indicator, it is a very common symptom of an amped up, physiological stress response. Increased heart rate has a purpose; it puts us on alert, prepares us to act quickly to protect ourselves from the stressor at hand.
In most day to day situations, we don’t require our high-alert systems to be activated. Anxiety tells us to ‘get ready’ even when there is no real danger. When we become hypervigilant, it heightens our awareness of every little thing. This can be overwhelming, especially when combined with other symptoms.
Obsessing on subjects:
Anxiety can feed into worry thoughts. Often with anxiety, there are particular topics that our minds can get stuck on. If there are areas of our lives in which we feel particularly out of control, the anxious mind may perseverate on these topics in an effort to problem solve.
Anxiety often interferes with sleep. For some, sleep initiation is the only problem, while others fall asleep fairly well, but wake frequently during the night. Insomnia due to anxiety is mostly connected to the overtaxed inner alert system and being unable to shut off the worried mind.
How to Help Anxiety
Whether it’s you or a loved one who is struggling with anxiety, the following strategies can be useful to manage it successfully.
Don’t keep it to yourself:
If you or your loved one talks about the anxiety, it helps take some of the isolation out of the experience and reduces the impact.
Make a plan:
Deal with the anxiety on a number of planes. Learn and practice relaxation techniques that involve breathing exercises, imagery and mindfulness. Practice each of these activities on a daily basis and during times when the anxiety isn’t present.
If you practice these skills during periods of calm, you will have them ready for moments of anxiety when you may not be able to remember the steps. The key is gaining the skills to mastery level so that they become automatic when anxiety symptoms begin.
Often if you can use these strategies early on, you can head off a major bout of anxiety before it gets started.
Talk to a therapist for Anxiety:
Consider seeing a therapist to process the source of your anxiety and to work through some of the underlying thoughts that may be reinforcing it. Professional therapists also have a multitude of skills and resources for you to utilize.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a modality that employs a variety of evidence-based treatments.
CBT modalities offer practical solutions to reduce anxiety symptoms, based on the examination of emotions, thoughts and behaviors and the ways they interact.
Anxiety symptoms can negatively influence one’s ability to live a fulfilling life. It doesn’t have to completely run the show, however. With perseverance and practice, we can train our anxiety to release its grip.