LIVING WITH ANXIETY
Blog created with the information from our #mentalhealthmonday live with Sarah Chana Radcliffe (originally aired on March 4th, 2019) compiled by Arielle Jacobowitz.
How Can I Tell If I Have Anxiety?
In reality, everyone experiences feelings of anxiety. The real question is, how can I tell if I have an anxiety disorder? Anxiety becomes a disorder when it occurs way too often and interferes with one’s ability to function. If anxiety begins to interfere with your goals, then it may move into the disorder category.
What is a Phobia?
Regular anxiety can be experienced with physical symptoms such as a stomachache, lightheadedness and dizziness. Under the anxiety category, there is something called a phobia. Phobias can cause anxiety and cause a panic attack. When these feelings of anxiety spin out of control, a panic attack occurs. For example, someone possesses a phobia of public speaking. When that person gets into the car on the way to deliver a speech, he may begin to feel dizzy, have a rapid heartbeat, experience intense nausea and/or feel like he’s having a heart attack. These intense and terrifying symptoms are what constitute a panic attack. If we understand what’s going on, it’s easier to deal with these symptoms. Our body’s response to an anxiety provoking situation is “fight or flight”. As a survival response, we either run away or attack. When we experience panic attacks, our heart sends out emergency signals when, in fact, there is no emergency. We feel like we need to run but there is nowhere to go!
When we come into the world, our brain is tilted towards the negative side. This means that we tend to see problems first as opposed to seeing the positive in life. The more we worry, the more worry circuits we build in our brain and the better we become at worrying. Everytime we give in to our worrying, we train our brains to worry in that situation next time. For example, if we begin to worry while washing the dishes, then everytime we wash the dishes our brain is trained to worry. We need to say no to these negative thoughts when they occur at inappropriate times. When we have an issue that we need to deal with, we need to give ourselves a specific time frame to deal with these thoughts so that they don’t take over our mind. For example, tell yourself “At 9 oclock I will deal with that stressful situation and figure out what to do.”
A lot of anxiety is genetic. Sometimes, even in the same family, one child will be more predisposed to anxiety and another child will allow things to slide off his or her back. There are so many factors that can impact if someone will develop an anxiety disorder. If there are no genetic predispositions, it is highly unlikely that a child will develop an anxiety disorder unless there has been trauma.
If something traumatic happened to you and you have to face that situation again (ex: minor example, giving a speech), you may have a panic attack or suffer from insomnia the night before. Furthermore, at night when you’re thinking about everything you have to do for work or school, you may not be able to fall asleep. When you want to go to sleep, your brain starts overloading you with all this information and this can cause feelings of anxiety.
What Should I Do if I Can’t Afford Therapy?
There are many self help books about anxiety which can be very helpful. Look for books on CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) for anxiety. The premise behind it, is that one must think differently to act differently and then the anxiety will go away (unless it is a disorder, and then you will likely need more help - click here to take a mental health screening to determine if its beyond "garden variety" anxiety). The cognitive side of the therapy involves analyzing the likelihood of what you’re worried about actually happening. It helps us slowly begin to think about the things we’re afraid of in a safe way. Normally, the more afraid we are, the more we try to shove down thoughts and not think about them (which usually makes us think about them more). The behavioral side of the therapy allows us to go ahead and face our fears in a constructive way. When we allow the anxiety to run through us, it will eventually burn out. We tend not to go down this route because we are afraid. I can assure you, that if done in the right way it is not only safe, but can be incredibly healing.
How can we help children navigate through life with anxiety?
Don’t let your kids avoid their fears. Parents shouldn’t try to talk their child out of that scared feeling. Parents must validate the fears of a child. If a child is terrified of bees, the parents should ask “If you get stung a bee, what would you do?” Instead of telling the child not to be scared of bees, accept their feelings and provide support. If you see a child’s behavior changing or physical health changing such as increasing complaints about headaches, stomach aches and complaints of not wanting to go to school, these can all be signs of anxiety in the child. The child might not tell you outright what the problem truly is. It is up to the parent to figure it out. If the parent is having trouble figuring it out, a therapist can work with the parent to understand what is going on.
Here are some suggested tools to help cope with anxiety;
Check out more information about anxiety and different forms of treatment on our anxiety resource page: https://www.jproactive.com/anxiety