What is it?
Anxiety and stress are not the same, but we sometimes respond to stress by becoming anxious. Anxiety is our mind's way of increasing awareness and activating attention by making sure we do well or stay safe. This can be helpful when we are about to take a test helping us focus and retrieving the information we need.
When we are in a classroom, in groups, with friends, or on a date, our activated mind will help us pay attention to others and stay engaged.
Anxiety is also useful when we are in danger, by helping us run faster, or defend ourselves if necessary.
When someone develops an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The anxiety symptoms may interfere with daily activities including job performance, schoolwork, and relationships or appear in specific situations such as fear of being in crowds or flying, as well as in other forms.
What symptoms may be present?
Symptoms of anxiety present themselves physically or cognitively. Here are some examples:
- Heart pounding
- Shallow breathing
- Digestive issues
- Difficulty concentrating
- Worrying about everything
- Feeling helpless
According to data published in 2023 by Healthy Minds Network, 36% of college students who participated in a survey reported struggling with anxiety .
In 2022, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), reported 12.5% of adults aged 18 and over reported regular feeling of worry, nervousness, or anxiety.
Things you can do to help yourself:
You can use several ways to calm your mind. Most reliable methods involve bringing your focus to the present. Some of these may include:
- Exercise, including walking, yoga, or any other exercise you enjoy or are able to do.
- Practice mindfulness, such as meditating, doing breathing exercises, or engaging in healthy activities that direct your attention to the present.
- Join support groups.
- Prioritize sleep and rest.
- Include proper nutrition in your daily diet.
- Include music to relax, such as listening to or playing music, singing or dancing.
- Challenge unhelpful thoughts that lead to anxiety.
- Practice self-compassion! Show yourself the same kindness that you would to others.
- Know that anxiety does not define who you are.
Anxiety disorders are generally treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both. There are many ways to treat anxiety and you should work with your doctor or mental health professional to find the best treatment for you.
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The Struggle Switch | By Dr. Russ Harris
Mental Health Minute: Anxiety Disorders in Adults