Anxiety is a common issue in today’s world yet there’s a lot that we don’t know about it or struggle to understand. What’s important to know is that anxiety is often a normal and healthy emotion but when you are regularly anxious or your anxiety gets in the way of your day-to-day life it becomes a mental disorder that needs to be addressed.
Here, Karuna Kunwar, senior psychologist at Center for Mental Health and Counseling, Nepal, explains the basics of anxiety to help you make sense of what it is and how it can be tackled.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a subjective topic that can and will be different from one individual to another. Everyone has a stress threshold and when our stress level goes beyond that, that’s when we start feeling overwrought and anxious. And because the symptoms of anxiety are minor at first glance, people don’t even realize that they are dealing with something that can manifest in a serious disorder.
Some common symptoms of anxiety include restlessness, panicking easily, loss of appetite, not being able to sleep properly, feeling tired easily, loose motion, frequent headaches and nightmares, digestive problems, heart palpitations, concentration issues, and sudden and drastic increase or decrease in blood pressure.
Anxiety also manifests because of our mentality and perception. Getting stressed out once in a while is a very normal thing that happens to everyone. But if your habits and behavior change because of that and if it happens frequently and easily, then you might be developing anxiety.
Misconceptions about anxiety
People usually don’t connect a mental health disorder like anxiety with bodily issues like gastritis, liver and kidney problems, and fatigue. And for a long time they don’t realize that it’s not a normal bodily issue that they are facing but a mental health issue. That’s largely because a lot of people aren’t educated on the topic of mental health.
I’ve heard a lot of people state that eating healthy food, meditation and physical exercise will definitely cure anxiety and that a person who has anxiety disorder doesn’t have to visit a psychologist if they do these three things. There are also people who believe that anxiety is a self-created issue and because of that the person who suffers from it should be able to manage and cure it on his/her own. That couldn’t be further away from the truth.
If you could manage anxiety by yourself, it wouldn’t manifest as a disorder in the first place. And although eating right, exercising and meditating might help people in general to have a healthier lifestyle, these aren’t solutions for anxiety. You need professional help because only experts will how to treat it, as each case is different. Visiting a professional to treat anxiety issues shouldn’t be that big of an issue in the first place. It’s a serious disorder and if you need help with it, don’t be embarrassed to seek it.
People also tend to go to a psychiatrist before seeing a psychologist. And even though psychiatrists can and do treat a lot of mental health problems, you can’t just rely on medications to cure anxiety. For proper treatment of anxiety, you need to consult a psychologist first. You might be referred to a psychiatrist later on for further treatment but proper counseling is imperative and for that you need to see a psychologist.
Ways to tackle anxiety
Usually, people with anxiety are either living in the past or the future. Some of them hold onto a past event or happening and can’t seem to let it go. They keep revisiting an old painful or embarrassing moment again and again. Some worry too much about their future and get restless just thinking about that. Some might even do both. This affects their everyday life a lot.
So, the first step to treat anxiety is acknowledging you feel this way and figuring out what causes that anxiousness. This ties into the ‘you must see a professional to solve anxiety’ point because you can assess your thought process and the reason why you’re anxious with the help of a psychologist through psychological testing and treat it through psychotherapy.
Also, you have to learn to live in the present. It won’t happen overnight but you can work on slowly training your mind to do that. Practicing different mindfulness exercises helps a lot too. And while you’re at it, make sure you drink a lot of water. Be conscious of how much water you put into your body and gradually work on increasing that amount. A hydrated body can deal with stress more effectively.
I also want people with anxiety to monitor themselves and their behavior. A lot of anxious people use their phones when they are stressed or anxious and mindlessly scroll through the internet to get their mind off what is actually bothering them. Instead of lowering your anxiety, this increases it. The blue light of digital devices hampers your sleep and sleeping patterns. Make sure you turn off (or at least stay away from) all digital devices by eight in the evening or at least two to three hours before you go to bed.