Anxiety is on the rise and it is important to know how chronic stress, aka anxiety, impacts you on every level so that you feel empowered to do something about it.
But first, I want to utterly NORMALIZE the fact that high anxiety is running rampant throughout our world with COVID-19, the protests and hard conversations about race and the economic uncertainty we all face as a result of quarantine recommendations. Nothing is wrong with you, in fact, I’d actually be concerned if you didn’t have some level of anxiety right now given these intense and uncertain times.
Anxiety disorders are becoming more and more common. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 19% of Americans over the age of 18 had an anxiety disorder in the past year, and 31% of Americans will experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetimes.
Anxiety vs. stress
The main difference between the two is this:
Stress happens in response to a trigger, is usually short term and usually goes away once the trigger has been dealt with or resolved.
Anxiety on the other hand, is defined by persistent, excessive worries that don’t go away even in the absence of a stressor.
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety is like stress on steroids and in the body it becomes a habit of your physiology in that the sympathetic nervous system, which governs arousal states and the survival responses of fight and flight, gets stuck “ON.”
Physically, anxiety can look and feel like:
- Extreme difficulty relaxing
- Chest tightness or not being able to breathe deeply
- Heart palpitations
- Digestive issues
- Poor immune response
- Sweating and feeling shaky
- Dry mouth
- Panic attacks
With anxiety, there is a high cost of doing business in the body, meaning that the body has to use up a more energy and resources just to maintain regular functioning. Given that your body has finite capacities, the more stressed your system, the less energy you have for other meaningful aspects of your life like relationships, recreation and creativity.
Mental Symptoms of Anxiety
Because body and mind are one, what happens in the body also affects the mind. Common ways anxiety shows up mentally include racing thoughts, replaying events over and over again, indecisiveness, negative self-talk, excessive worry thoughts, spaciness, forgetfulness, difficulty maintaining focus and lowered in ability to learn and comprehend.
Our brains simply cannot function optimally if anxiety is on-board.
Social and Emotional Symptoms of Anxiety
Emotionally, anxiety sufferers often feel:
- Decreased self-confidence
- Feeling trapped, out of control, without purpose
- Fear and/or hyper-vigilance
- Resignation or “What’s the point?”
- Increased irritability and frustration
- Anger or rage
- Increased need to feel in control
One of the most challenging issues with struggling with anxiety is the toll it takes on your social life and relationships. In an effort to control your anxiety, you may withdraw from social events and relationships because:
- you aren’t sure if you can get through the event or interaction without “losing it,”
- you don’t want to commit to plans because you are unsure if you’ll even have the energy to connect and/or,
- you worry about being “too much” or “not enough” around you family and friends.
Ultimately, when you are really anxious, it’s hard to be present in your most important relationships because your anxiety is so damn loud in your head and in your body that you can’t hear or feel anything else.
Somatic Therapy is a Holistic Mind Body Approach that Effectively Reduces Anxiety
So what to do now that you have a better understanding of the negative impacts and symptoms of anxiety?
These days, it is easy to find information on how to cope with anxiety. One of the most widely used therapeutic approaches is cognitive behavioral therapy, a “top down” or mind-based approach that focuses on changing negative thought patterns. While traditional talk therapy approaches are no doubt helpful, unfortunately, it often leaves the body out of the process. A great deal of research suggests that including the body in therapy leads to more beneficial outcomes.
We’ve found that incorporating a somatic or body-based approach in treating anxiety is more holistic, sustainable and actually helps to heal your nervous system versus just teaching you how to cope better. A somatic approach has the added benefits of improving your relationship to your body and learning how to listen to your body so that you can be more response-able versus reactive.
There is so much love for you here!