Worried All The Time? Take Charge of Your Anxiety

Worrying can be healthy. It’s an emotional tool that sometimes keeps us focused; however, too much of a good thing is bad for your health.

Worried All The Time? Take Charge of Your Anxiety

Stress and angst is all around us. We get anxious when we’re stuck in a traffic jam; in long lines at the supermarket; when we disagree with our partner about something; or when your daughter plays her first soccer game. Most people experience anxiety and its associated feelings of trepidation, fear, nervousness, “jitters” or panic. However, if we don’t take measures to relieve our anxiety every once in awhile, it can build up and eventually shorten our lives. 

Multiple studies show how stress and anxiety can affect your physical health. Those with consistent anxiety have higher levels of depression. New research also suggests that chronic pain syndromes, like fibromyalgia, are associated with psychosocial stress. Another recent study associated psychological distress with a shortened lifespan.


Some therapists consider anxiety to be a form of psychological preparation or anticipation. Some people go through life in a constant state of low-anxiety, while others don’t. The reasons for these differences are not clear. In the brain, many pathways have been linked to anxiety, including the amygdala, one of the components of the limbic system, which is connected to your emotions. Cortisol, the stress hormone, also increases blood sugar and suppresses the immune system.

Anxiety and Loss

 

Elevated levels of stress and anxiety are normal during stressful life events, which include the loss of a loved one. Over two and a half million deaths occur in the United States every year. Doctors and therapists call this stressful and challenging period bereavement. Most individuals (80-90%) are able to cope with the loss of a loved one without professional intervention. It’s normal for a person to experience feelings of numbness, intense feelings of sadness, anxiety for the future, or feelings of emptiness. It’s also normal for some to exhibit “searching behaviors,” including hallucinations of the deceased person’s presence, which may make one fear that he or she is going “crazy,” but these are normal experiences.

Sometimes, however, recovering from the loss of a loved one can overwhelm you to the point where you may need to see a professional for guidance – especially if the grieving process lasts longer than six months. Also, if one’s mourning period accelerates to the point where the mourner starts to consider not going on with life, a professional should be contacted right away.

Anxious All the Time?

 

If you find yourself worrying too much in your everyday life, you may also want to see a doctor. You may have a condition called Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which is characterized by excessive worry and anxiety that are difficult to control and that cause significant distress and impairment.

Doctors diagnose GAD by assessing if you’ve had three (or more) of the following symptoms for the last six months:

  • Restlessness (or feeling keyed up or on edge)
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating (or feeling your mind going blank without warning)
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless unsatisfying sleep)

Another worrisome condition is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is similar to GAD, but is directly connected to a stressful life event, like being on a battleground or experiencing a natural disaster.

The diagnosis criteria for PTSD is very specific but includes:

  • Recurrent thoughts or intrusive distressing recollections of the traumatic events (this may manifest in dreams, everyday experiences, or in the form of hallucinations or flashbacks)
  • Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings or conversations associated with the traumatic event
  • Amnesia or inability to recall important aspects of the traumatic event
  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
  • Restricted range of affect or inability to have loving feelings or other emotions
  • A general sense of a foreshortened future (not expecting to have a normal lifespan, marriage or career)

GAD and PTSD are concerning because they can lead to other psychiatric problems like panic disorder, major depression, or alcohol abuse. If you are concerned that your worries and anxiety may be reaching this dangerous level, don’t hesitate to contact your primary care provider or a local psychiatrist to discuss possible therapies. These could include anxiety-reducing medication, talk therapy, or home remedies, like special relaxing herbal teas.

Try some of these other tips to help lower your angst level for a more sound life:

4 Steps to Shedding Your Pandemic Pounds

Forgive yourself, and start walking toward a healthier you.

For those of you who have put on the Pandemic Pounds or added several new COVID Curves, you are not alone. Alarmingly, the American Psychological Association has recently published that almost half of all adults in their survey now have a larger physique. In fact, 42% of people reported gaining roughly 15 pounds (the average published was surprisingly 29 pounds but that included outliers) over the past year. Interestingly, 20% of adults in this survey lost about 12 pounds (I am surely not in this group). Clearly, there is a relationship between stress and weight change. In addition, one in four adults disclosed an increase in alcohol consumption, and 67% of participants distressingly revealed that they have new sleeping patterns.

This past year has brought about what has been called the 'new normal.' Social isolation and inactivity due to quarantining and remote working have sadly contributed to the decline in many people's mental and physical health, as demonstrated by the widespread changes in people's weight, alcohol consumption, and sleeping patterns. Gym closures, frequent ordering of unhealthy takeout, and increased time at home cooking and devouring comfort foods have had a perceptible impact. In addition, many people have delayed routine medical care and screening tests over fear of contracting Covid-19 during these visits. Unfortunately, the 'new normal' has now placed too many people at risk for serious health consequences, including heart attacks and strokes.

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