Feeling anxious is part of everyday life — concern about an upcoming exam, job interview or speaking engagement is normal. When that type of anxiety becomes a persistent condition that interferes with your everyday life, then you need to consider whether you have a Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
Signs You May Have Anxiety
Below are a number of signs that you may have GAD:
• Worrying excessively: If you have persistent, worried thoughts most days and they are interfering with your everyday life and have been ongoing for six months or more, you may have GAD.
• Disturbed sleep: Lying awake at night, mulling over issues, or having your thoughts (and sometimes heart) race, preventing you from getting a good night’s rest and sleep, are possible signs of GAD.
• Persistent self-doubt: an obsession with trying to resolve an unanswerable question within a person.
• Gut dysfunction: anxiety can manifest itself in conditions such as gut dysbiosis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), where the stomach, or gut, cannot digest food properly due to tension. This can be a double-edged sword, as the resulting symptoms from IBS and gut dysbiosis, such as diarrhea, bloating, gas and flatulence, can make a person more anxious, and the increased anxiety affects gut functioning.
• Phobia: often termed irrational fears, phobias can render people unable to tackle certain activities, such as flying, climbing ladders, or dealing with spiders and rodents. Again, if it’s impacting on your everyday life, it may be contributing to GAD.
• Ongoing muscle tension: whether it is a tense jaw, stiff neck, tight shoulders or fisted hands, if this tension persists, it can unwittingly add to your anxiety load, and contribute to other health issues. Such tension can go unnoticed for a long time, and only get addressed when it results in a more acute issue, such as a frozen shoulder or overuse syndrome. Relaxation, massage and regular exercise can help your body unwind, but sometimes the tension is reflective of deeper anxieties.
• Feeling self-conscious: people can experience physical symptoms of anxiety, such as sweaty palms, blushing, butterflies, cotton-ball mouth and difficulty talking, when confronted with everyday social events such as making small-talk at a dinner party.
• Social phobia: also called social anxiety disorder or stage fright, this can cause a person to “freeze” in front of an audience, or at the very least, feel highly anxious about an upcoming social engagement, speech or job interview. This can manifest as sweating, trembling, nausea and vomiting prior to an event. Some people choose instead to avoid such social situations, but still remain anxious about them.
• Perfectionism: an obsession with maintaining order and a high level of self-judgment and critique are hallmarks of this trait, which is commonly associated with anxiety.
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): a person with this disorder feel compelled to carry out repetitive activities such as washing their hands, re-arranging objects into a set pattern, or checking the power is off, and also mentally remind themselves of things.
• Panic or anxiety attacks: these can manifest as a sudden, gripping feeling of helplessness and fear, combined with heart palpitations (racing or pumping), dizziness and feeling faint, sweating, feeling clammy or hot, and pains in the stomach and/or chest. People who experience these frequently can also become anxious about when the next panic attack might occur.
• Flash-backs: involve replaying or reliving traumatic events, especially violence, the death of a loved one or being ridiculed or harassed. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can have its effects felt for numerous years.
4 Ways to Reduce Anxiety Naturally
A comprehensive lifestyle approach to reducing anxiety is recommended, including the use of talk therapies. Below are four ways to reduce anxiety without medication:
• Breathing exercises: Hyperventilation is commonly associated with anxiety and panic attacks. Return your breathing and heart rate to normal, calm levels by practicing this slow-breathing technique. Breathe in slowly through your nose for a count of five, hold your breath for a slow count of five, then breathe out slowly for a count of five through either your nose, or pursed lips.
• Regular Exercise: Long regarded as the best way to improve your mental health, exercise also burns stress hormones that contribute to anxiety, help muscles relax and releases endorphins and neurotransmitters, lifting your mood.
• Magnesium supplements: Known for its ability to induce muscle relaxation and aid sleep, magnesium is often found to be depleted in those under long-term stress.
• Deliberately “going crazy”: In a private space, hit some pillows, throw some soft toys, yell and scream out your frustrations and anxiety. This will help release tension, and encourage the production of feel-good endorphins.