Anxiety has a bad reputation. Many of us fear it and take steps to avoid the dreaded sensations that generally accompany it: increased heart rate, sweating, upset stomach, dizziness, and nervousness, all of which lead to a general sense of discomfort. If these symptoms persist for at least six months with feelings of worry and apprehension almost every day, this can be a more serious level of anxiety and is often diagnosed as an anxiety disorder.
On the other end of the spectrum is normal anxiety. Normal anxiety can motivate us to deal with problems in our lives and work to solve them. For example, an impending exam or a presentation for work may elicit worried thoughts and fear. But, these anxious thoughts may encourage us to work hard by studying or practicing our presentation and help us to succeed.
What we do with anxiety is important, therefore, and just like many things, too much can be detrimental. Feelings of worry in excess can overwhelm and paralyze us. When anxiety rules our minds, it can be exhausting and interferes with our brains’ ability to concentrate and solve problems. Physically, muscle tension, shallow breathing, and increased heart rate and blood pressure that may accompany anxiety can leave a person feeling worn out. In fact, it is these physiological aspects of anxiety that make it so important to address anxiety before it takes over.
If you suffer from worry, have anxious thoughts, or have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, it is best not to avoid anxiety-provoking situations. Over time, avoidance will become a habituated response to anxiety, making it harder and harder to overcome. For some people, psychotherapy and even medication management are very useful treatments to deal with anxiety; regardless of what other treatment options you may try, however, here are some basic yet effective strategies to manage your anxiety level:
Quieting anxiety and reducing the physiological response to stress is not easily mastered and takes daily practice to make an impact. Learn to recognize anxiety that is useful and anxiety that is counterproductive; harness the good and release the bad. And please seek out a behavioral health professional when anxiety becomes too much.