What is it?
Anxiety is our mind's way of making sure we do well or stay safe by increasing awareness and activating attention. It can be helpful when we are about to take a test by making us be more focused, and help us remember 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.
Anxiety and stress are not the same. We sometimes respond to stress by becoming anxious. When someone develops an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The anxiety symptoms may interfere with our daily activities including job performance, school work, and relationships. Anxiety may also include specific situations such as fear of being in crowds or flying, or it may present itself in other forms.
What symptoms may be present?
Symptoms of anxiety present themselves physically or cognitively. Some symptoms may include but are not limited to:
- Heart pounding
- Shallow breathing
- Digestive issues
- Difficulty concentrating
- Worrying about everything
- Feeling helpless
According to a survey published in 2021, 85% of college students felt increased anxiety and stress during the pandemic, and 21% sought a licensed counselor or professional to address this concern.
In a study published by the CDC, from June 23 to August 2, 2021 around 27% of U.S. adults over the age of 18 reported symptoms of anxiety disorder during a one-week period.
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
- Breathing exercises
- Support groups
- Prioritizing sleep and rest
- Making sure your diet involves proper nutrition
- Listening to or playing music
- Challenging unhelpful thoughts that lead to anxiety
- Practicing self-compassion
- Knowing 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 people should work with their doctor to choose the treatment that is best for them.
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