Anxiety is a normal stress reaction, but if it becomes severe and persistent, it can interfere with your daily life. It's important to recognize the warning signs that indicate your anxiety may be out of control so you can take steps to manage it. Left untreated, anxiety can lead to serious mental health issues such as panic attacks or depression. In this conversation, we'll explore 10 common warning signs that indicate your anxiety is out of control and discuss quick strategies for managing it.
1. You are constantly worrying about things that may or may not happen. Fear and unease are intense and last for an extended period. Anxiety is a normal experience for everyone, but when it becomes intense and last for an extended period, it can be a sign that your anxiety is out of control.
Engage in quick relaxation techniques: Learning relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation, can help you calm your mind and reduce feelings of anxiety. These techniques are simple to learn and can be practiced anytime, anywhere.
Focus on the present: When you feel anxious, your mind may be racing, making it difficult to stay focused on the present moment. Try to shift your attention to your surroundings and engage your senses and take note of sounds and sights going on around you, this can also be achieved by taking a walk, listening to music, or spending time in nature.
Challenge your anxious thoughts: Anxiety often results from negative or irrational thinking patterns. Challenge these thoughts by asking yourself if they are based in reality and try to reframe them in a more positive light.
2. You have difficulty concentrating on tasks because of your anxious thoughts, this could be another warning sign that your anxiety is out of control. Anxiety can hijack your mental energy and make it tough to focus, be productive, and make rational decisions. This can be very frustrating and can cause a lot of stress and tension in your life. The good news is that there are strategies you can use to manage your anxiety and improve your ability to concentrate. Some popular techniques include mindfulness meditation, exercise, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and medication.
Improve Focus and Productivity: Anxiety can make it difficult to concentrate and stay focused on tasks, which can lead to feelings of frustration and low self-esteem. Taking breaks can help improve our ability to focus by allowing us to step away from distractions and re-energize our minds. Studies have shown that taking brief, frequent breaks throughout the day can improve productivity and reduce stress levels.
Establish a routine: A routine can help reduce anxiety by creating a sense of predictability and control. Make sure to include time for self-care activities like exercise, healthy eating, and relaxation.
Regulate your Breathing: When we're feeling anxious, we often breathe more quickly and shallowly, which can worsen our physical symptoms and create a sense of panic or fear. Breath work allows us to practice deep breathing exercises or other breathing techniques that can help regulate our breathing and reduce anxiety symptoms. By focusing on our breath, speeding it up, or slowing it down, we can reduce feelings of tension and stress.
3. You experience physical symptoms such as insomnia, muscle tension, or headaches in response to your anxiety. Physical symptoms are a common manifestation of anxiety and can include insomnia, muscle tension, headaches, and other bodily sensations. These symptoms often develop in response to the stress and tension that anxiety can create in the body. Insomnia, for example, may result from racing thoughts or a feeling of restlessness that makes it difficult to fall asleep. Muscle tension and headaches can also arise from the physical stress that anxiety creates in the body, as the muscles tense up and blood vessels constrict in response to the fight-or-flight response.
Take Steps to Reduce Stress: High levels of stress can exacerbate anxiety symptoms and increase the urge to turn to substances. Taking steps to reduce stress can help manage anxiety in a healthier way. This can include activities such as taking a break from technology, reducing your workload, or prioritizing self-care activities. By reducing stress, you may find it easier to manage your anxiety without relying on substances.
Reduce Stress Hormones: When we're feeling anxious, our bodies release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which can lead to physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, and muscle tension. Light stretching or getting the blood flow going helps reduce the levels of these hormones in our bodies. By doing so, we can calm our nervous systems and ease physical symptoms of anxiety.
Take Breaks: It's important to give yourself permission to take breaks when you're feeling overwhelmed. This could mean taking a short walk outside, doing breathing exercises, or reading a book. Taking breaks can help you recharge and feel more in control of your thoughts and actions. Taking breaks is a crucial aspect of managing anxiety, as it can help alleviate symptoms and give you a sense of control over your thoughts and actions.
4. You feel like you have no control over your anxiety, and it dictates many of your daily decisions. Feeling helpless and out of control is a common experience for people struggling with anxiety. Anxiety can take over your life, influencing decisions you make about relationships, work, and even basic activities like going to the grocery store or taking a walk. This sense of powerlessness can be incredibly frustrating and lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair.
Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness meditation is an effective tool for managing anxiety. It involves focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting your thoughts and feelings without judgment. This can help you become more aware of your anxious thoughts and learn to let them go instead of allowing them to control your decisions.
Exercise Regularly: Exercise is a natural stress reliever and can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety. Regular exercise can improve your mood, boost your energy levels, and even help you sleep better. Try to find an activity that you enjoy, such as jogging, hiking, or yoga, and make it a regular part of your routine.
CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy): This therapy is a form of talk therapy that helps you identify negative thought patterns and learn healthier ways to cope with them. By changing the way you think about anxiety and developing new coping skills, you can take back control over your anxious thoughts and actions.
5. You turn to substances such as alcohol, drugs, or caffeine to cope with your anxiety.
Using substances such as alcohol, drugs, or caffeine to cope with anxiety can be a dangerous and ineffective strategy. While these substances may provide short-term relief from anxiety symptoms, they can create more serious problems in the long run. Additionally, relying on these substances can prevent individuals from addressing the underlying issues causing their anxiety and make it harder to manage symptoms without them. It is important to avoid using drugs or alcohol to manage anxiety because this can result in addiction and other physical health problems. Rather than relying on these risky coping strategies, individuals who are dealing with anxiety should seek professional help.
Seek support from friends and Family: Don't hesitate to reach out to friends, family, or a mental health professional for support. Having someone to talk to and share your feelings with can help you feel less alone and more in control of your anxiety. Remember, it's okay to ask for help when you need it.
Develop Healthy Coping Mechanisms: Identifying healthy coping mechanisms that work for you can help you manage your anxiety without turning to substances. This can include activities such as Journaling, yoga, meditation, practicing gratitude, joining clubs/ leagues, and progressive muscle relaxation.
Join a support group: Peer support groups can be beneficial for those struggling with anxiety. These groups provide a safe and supportive environment in which individuals can share their experiences and feelings with others who understand what it’s like to live with anxiety. In many cases, talking about your anxiety with people who have experienced similar challenges can provide an invaluable source of comfort and validation. Participating in a peer support group can also give individuals knowledge about potential resources or treatment options they may not be aware of.
6. You become so anxious that you have difficulty going about your daily routine.
When anxiety feels so bad that you find yourself struggling with your routine, it can feel like your mind and body are consumed by worry and tension. This can affect your ability to concentrate and make decisions, leading to avoidance behaviors and procrastination.
Promote Relaxation: Certain techniques can also help by allowing us to engage in activities that we find calming or enjoyable. This could include taking a bubble bath, listening to music, or spending time with loved ones. By prioritizing leisure activities and rest, we can reduce feelings of stress and tension and help our bodies and minds recover from the effects of anxiety.
Create an anxiety-free zone: Designate a specific space in your home or office as an anxiety-free zone. This can be a cozy corner with comfortable cushions, a plant, and calming décor. Whenever you're feeling anxious, go to this space and spend a few minutes breathing deeply and relaxing. You can also add aromatherapy or soothing music to enhance the calming effect.
Create a worry jar: If you find that your anxious thoughts are taking over your daily routine, consider creating a worry jar. Write down your worries on small pieces of paper and put them in the jar. Once you've written down your worries, tell yourself that you've acknowledged them and that you can put them aside for now. Then, set aside a specific time each day to go through the jar and deal with the worries one by one.
7. You no longer prioritize yourself and your needs. When we stop prioritizing ourselves and our needs, it can hurt our mental health. We may start to feel overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed as we neglect the things that are important to us. Our relationships with others suffer when we don’t take time for ourselves or prioritize our emotional well-being.
Talk to your future self: Imagine yourself in the future, perhaps a year or five years from now. Visualize yourself as a happy and fulfilled person who has achieved your goals and taken care of yourself along the way. Write a letter to your future self, expressing your hopes and dreams and outlining the steps you need to take to get there. This can help to motivate you to prioritize yourself and your needs in the present moment.
Stay Connected: Social support can be a crucial aspect of managing anxiety. Staying connected to supportive friends and family can help reduce feelings of isolation and provide a sense of belonging. Support groups for anxiety may also be available in your community and can provide a safe and understanding space to talk about your experiences.
Create a self-love ritual: Create a ritual that helps you to prioritize self-love and self-care. This can be anything that makes you feel good, such as taking a bubble bath, doing a face mask, or practicing yoga. Make it a regular practice and schedule it into your calendar. Give yourself permission to do the things that make you happy. This can help to remind you that your needs are important and that taking care of yourself is a priority.
8. You have regularly occurring obsessive behaviors: If you start to obsessively check things, like your email or social media accounts, this could be a sign that your anxiety is out of control Obsessive behaviors can be difficult to manage and can interfere with your daily life.
Set boundaries on technology and social media: Limit the time you spend checking email, social media, or other websites that may be contributing to obsessive behaviors.
Distraction techniques: When you feel the urge to engage in obsessive behaviors, distract yourself with healthy and enjoyable activities. You can build a "distraction box": Fill a box with objects that distract you and bring you joy, such as coloring books, puzzles, or stress balls. When you feel the urge to engage in obsessive behaviors, reach for the distraction box instead.
Practice tapping therapy: Tapping therapy, also known as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), involves tapping on certain points on the body to release emotional and physical tension. Look up EFT techniques online and practice them.
9. You have consistent Panic attacks: Panic attacks are sudden, intense feelings of fear and anxiety that can come quickly and unexpectedly. If you experience frequent panic attacks, this is a sign that your anxiety is out of control.
Consider medication options: These may be prescribed by a healthcare provider to help manage symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks.
Seek professional help: Get help from a therapist or healthcare provider who can provide specialized treatment for panic attacks and anxiety.
Keep a journal: Track your symptoms and identify patterns or triggers that may be contributing to your anxiety. Use positive self-talk to reassure yourself during a panic attack.
10. You're having persistent difficulty staying or falling asleep: Sleep problems are a common symptom of anxiety and can have a significant impact on a person's quality of life. Anxiety can cause difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently during the night, and waking up feeling tired or unrested.
Establish a regular sleep routine: Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. You can also establish a relaxing bedtime routine, such as taking a warm bath or reading a book, to signal to your body that it's time to sleep.
Avoid screens for at least an hour before going to bed: As the blue light from screens can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep. Also, avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine before bedtime, as these substances can interfere with sleep quality.
Write down your worries: If anxiety-related worries are keeping you awake at night, try writing them down before you go to bed. This can help you offload your worries and clear your mind, making it easier to relax and fall asleep. You can also try visualizing a container where you put your worries, telling yourself that you can pick them up again in the morning when you're better equipped to deal with them. This can help give you a sense of control and reduce the impact of anxiety on your sleep.
Anxiety can be a difficult and overwhelming experience, but it is possible to manage your anxiety in healthy ways. By following the tips outlined above, such as developing healthy coping mechanisms, taking steps to reduce stress, or connecting with supportive friends and family members through peer support groups, you can create an effective plan for managing your anxiety without relying on substances. With dedication and effort towards self-care practices, you can soon find yourself better able to cope with anxious feelings and take control of your mental health.