Often people assume a temporary period of stress or uneasiness as an anxiety disorder. This is a misleading interpretation.
The truth is that everybody experiences anxiety to some degree. Like if you are late for a meeting or the chills before speaking publicly. Fundamentally, anxiety is your response to anything that you find stressful or overwhelming.
You might wonder what anxiety feels like or how the experience is different when it is in the form of a disorder.
It takes the form of a disorder when it is constant, out of your control, and sustains for extended periods. Sometimes it causes you to worry to the extent that it affects your ability to carry out day-to-day activities.
These worries are often related to the future where a person thinks about negative what-ifs.
(What if I never succeed? What if everyone makes fun of me? What if I break down? What if I don’t get a job?)
“Globally, about 264 million adults experience anxiety.”
These worries might seem unreal and often exaggerated versions of real situations. But they are genuine for a person with anxiety. They find it hard to stay in the present and look at things for what they are.
What does anxiety feel like?
The way you experience anxiety and the way it is triggered can be different for different people.
Below are some of the common types of anxiety disorders.
One of the most known forms of agoraphobia is the fear of open spaces. However, this is a surface-level definition. As you research more, you will find that it has more layers to it.
A person feels intense anxiety in a situation where they can’t escape or get help.
It can be caused as an after-effect of a traumatic or stressful event. It can also be a result of a sustained period of anxiety or a panic attack.
“About a third of people who have panic disorder develop agoraphobia.”
One can also experience agoraphobia in a place where one experienced a panic attack in the past. Situations like travelling on a bus, leaving the house can be other triggers.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
“GAD affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population, in any given year.“
Generalized anxiety disorder exhibits in the form of uncontrollable worry for stressful situations.
A person builds negative scenarios in their head that might not be true to the actual situation.
You might wonder what does anxiety feels like physically in GAD. Physical symptoms can be chest pain, sweaty palms, fatigue, overthinking, stomachaches, headaches. The extent of the worry compels them to avoid situations and people.
The person finds it hard to calm down. It often coexists with other disorders like depression.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder is often confused with introversion. Introversion is a personality type where a person willingly prefers to be alone. Social anxiety disorder is a mental health condition where a person feels intense fear and anxiety in a social situation.
In the movie King’s Speech, King George VI struggles with stammering and social anxiety while delivering a speech. It is a great movie to understand what social anxiety feels like.
It can make carrying day-to-day tasks difficult as a person feels judged by others. There is a constant worry of appearing stupid in front of others. One feels embarrassed in sharing their thoughts and feelings.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Remember your first day at school where you just refused to let go of your parents. As the days go by, you get more habitual to your new environment, and the goodbyes to your parents become easier.
However, getting separated from parents or parental figures is not so easy for all children. It might continue for some even after they get older and exhibit in the form of emotional tantrums. It can have symptoms like excessive crying, reluctance to sleep, etc.
It can result from shifting to a new house, the relationship between the parents, and more.
Other forms of anxiety include panic attacks, specific phobias, and post-traumatic disorders.
Steps to overcome anxiety
Meditate to focus on the present
They say if you are overthinking about the past, it causes depression. If you are overthinking about the future, it causes anxiety.Peace lies in the present.
Meditation inherently is a process to become still or more present for a certain period.
You focus on your breathing and the minute details of your body movements, such as your heartbeat, the sound of your pulse, etc.
Repeated practice of calm breathing increases your overall awareness.
This awareness translates into you becoming more present with your day-to-day life. It can be beneficial if you are suffering from GAD. If you start focusing on health and fitness, you will feel that you have better control over yourself.
Bring clarity in thoughts.
One of the significant inducers of anxiety is your thoughts. But the problem is not your thoughts. You can never stop having thoughts, but you need to know how to tackle those that don’t help you.
When you feel stuck or confused in your life, you need to take a moment to acknowledge what you are feeling. And then mindfully see what is holding you back. You can write down what you think or consult a professional.
They can help you see things more clearly. They will help you identify your stress triggers and find ways to cope with them in a better way.
Take a healthy diet
The role of diet is often underplayed and ignored in anxiety. A person going through stress often resorts to high-calorie food.
While it gives you temporary relief, it makes it even more challenging for your brain to recover from stress. It suppresses the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in your brain, which controls your stress response.
Even drinks that are high on caffeine can induce high levels of anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
As a first step, drink lots of water.
Take out a few minutes of your day where you expose your body to sunlight. Vitamin D is essential for the functioning of your brain and helps in uplifting your mood.
Check your sleep pattern.
You can solve a lot of your problems by just sleeping on time. Mindless scrolling – mobile notifications often keep us from sleeping on time. Or the bait of Netflix.
In today’s time, it is hard to have a sleep routine.
However, there are a few hacks that can help you:
- You can have all the apps you want, but why not disable their notifications after 6 pm?
- Keep your phone away an hour before you go to sleep.
- Write a page before you sleep so that you pour your stress out on a paper.
- Take a warm water bath.
- Reserve Netflix days for weekends.
Having a good sleep routine will keep your mind well-rested and help you in more ways than one.
Make short-term goals.
A lot of time, people suffering from anxiety set unrealistic targets for themselves. Such flawed planning makes the goals seem too large to accomplish. Failing to achieve them only strengthens the anxiety.
Instead, give yourself micro targets. For example, if you are aspiring to lose weight. Don’t make a goal of exercising every day; instead, start with exercising two days a week.
When you fail to achieve your set goals, do not beat yourself up. Instead, consciously ask yourself – “What could I do differently?”, “What are the things that I did right?”
Follow 3-3-3 rule
At any point, you feel like your mind is taking you to a future land of anxiety, bring your attention to the present.
- By focusing on three sounds you hear around you,
- By noticing three things you see,
- And finally, by moving three parts of your body.
This technique helps break the chain of thoughts and enables you to get back into the present moment.
A lot of the time people don’t appreciate the present. You need to value small moments of happiness on an everyday level.
tart with writing five good things about your day. A gratitude journal will help to change your perspective by allowing you to find good in every day.
Snap yourself out
When people are asked about their experience or what does anxiety feels like to them, they describe anxiety as a sinking feeling, like sinking in realms of negative thoughts one after another. Sometimes you just need to distract yourself from coming out of them. You can also reach out to a mental health therapist.
Distraction can be in the form of reading a self-help article or watching a funny video. Or just take a little walk.
Anxiety can take a lot of personal tolls. Sometimes it can give you a sense of hopelessness. Try being more kind to yourself in this phase. Talk yourself out of negative thoughts the way you would help your friend.
Never shy away from professional help. Suppose that seems like a big step. Share what you are feeling with a friend or someone elder to you.
“You can treat anxiety with your courage and the support of your loved ones.”