When anxiety is too much to take

Am I crazy to be feeling this stressed? Will a good night’s sleep cure these headaches? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Anxiety Disorders are the most common mental health challenges reported to doctors and other health care professionals. Researchers confirm that physical and mental health conditions are fundamentally linked. Sadly, they are often dealt with separately. People living with anxiety are at higher risk of developing chronic physical conditions (headaches, diabetes, respiratory illnesses, cancers, arthritis, aches and strains, and heart disease, for example). We may think that the anxiety is somehow helpful by preparing us for a worst-case scenario. More often than not, excessive worry is unproductive and harmful to our health.

Just because someone knows anxiety is excessive does not mean it is easy to fix. People who suffer from excessive anxiety may realize that it is extreme but cannot control it. Anticipating when the anxiety will “hit” and ruin your mood can make the feelings even more intense. There are a wide variety of anxiety disorders, including social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and specific phobias (fears) to name a few.

Signs of anxiety
Anxiety symptoms include irritability, worry, sense of dread, difficulty concentrating or sleeping, body aches and tension, headaches, sweating, heavy, shallow or rapid breathing, indigestion, dizziness, light headedness, or diarrhea. Other symptoms could include isolation from friends or family, nervousness (toe tapping, hair twirling or nail biting for example), loss of appetite or over-eating, avoidance of social situation, or emergence of obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviour (counting, ritualized thinking, ordering, excessive hygiene, hoarding).

Panic attacks are an exaggeration of the body’s normal response to fear, stress or excitement. It is the rapid build-up of overwhelming sensations, which might include a pounding heart, feeling faint, sweating, shaky limbs, nausea, chest pains, breathing discomfort and feelings of losing control.
Phobias are a fear related to a specific thing or event.

What is “normal” Worry?
“Normal” Worry is when your worrying doesn’t get in the way of your daily activities and responsibilities. You are able to control the worry and while unpleasant, they do not cause significant distress. Your anxiety is usually limited to a small list of realistic concerns and the bouts of worry last for a short period of time.

Concerning anxiety is when your worrying significantly disrupts your job, activities, or social life. Your worrying is uncontrollable, extremely upsetting and stressful. You may worry about all sorts of things and both you and your loved ones consider you a worrier. You have worried every day for at least six months.

Knowing when to seek help
For some people, anxiety is so overwhelming that it interferes with the activities of life (such as work, home or family life, leisure, sleep). When anxiety feels mentally and physically exhausting, when you get easily agitated or irritated, when it drains your energy, interferes with sleep and when it is hard to calm down and relax despite your best efforts, consider the help of a professional. A quick way to measure if the anxiety deserves your attention is if it is excessive, intrusive, persistent or debilitating.

All of us experience anxiety to some extent and hopefully have developed coping mechanisms and strategies to help us deal with things like worry over money, work, family, friends, illness, loss or fear. In times of stress, it is good to have the support of a friend, colleague or family member who is loving and non-judgmental. It is also good to have a hobby, social group, regular recreational activity, or club membership. Anxiety can burn so much energy that there is no strength left to take part in enjoyable activities. Even with a busy schedule (or because of a full schedule), anxiety can be hard to beat.

I Can Help
For just a moment, imagine a moment in your day usually burdened with anxiety, but for just these few seconds, the anxiety was gone… poof! What a relief! Together, we will get to the source of the anxiety, gently dispel the myth of its supposed functionality and break the link between the worry and the compulsion,( if relevant). We will also look into what function the anxiety serves and how to address your concern without the burden of worry. Lastly, you will be able to develop strategies to cope with stress, and build new ways to sleep, rest and relax. Excessive or persistent anxiety is a major energy drain. You have already dealt with the hardest part. Seeking help will be freeing.