Dr. Julie Smith, Psychologist, on TikTok
3 Things You Think Make Anxiety Better (But Are Actually Making It Worse)
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling of fear or an imminent disaster and is a normal emotional response to danger. What makes one person anxious may not trigger the same response in someone else. Events like breaking up, exams, or a fight with a friend may cause you to feel anxious, worried, or scared.
Everyone feels some anxiety at different times during life. It becomes a problem if you feel so anxious that it interferes with your normal day-to-day activities. If this occurs, it’s important that you seek help. A local doctor or a mental health professional is a good place to start if you’re looking for help.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
Anxiety can affect both your physical and mental health (behavior and feelings). The symptoms you experience can depend on several factors. These might pass quickly or can stay for a long period of time.
Some common ways that anxiety might affect your mental health include:
- Irritability or constantly being in a bad mood
- Feeling worried, or a constant feeling that something bad is about to happen
- Often asking many unnecessary questions and requiring constant reassurance
- Getting upset when your routine changes; for example, a substitute teacher, unexpected visitors, or a trip to an unfamiliar place
- Being a loner or hanging out with a small group of people (who are often younger or older)
- Being a perfectionist; for example, taking a long time to complete homework because you try to make it absolutely correct
- Being argumentative (but not usually aggressive), especially when trying to avoid a feared situation
- Being pessimistic and easily able to identify what may go wrong in any given situation
- Not answering questions and rarely volunteering comments or information at school or in other situations
Some common ways that anxiety might affect your physical health include:
- Dry mouth or difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty getting to and staying asleep
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle tension and headaches
- Rapid heart rate and breathing
- A flare-up of another health problem or illness (for example, dermatitis or asthma)
- Sexual problems, i.e., not having any interest in sex (when normally you would be) or being unable to experience arousal
What can I do if I am feeling anxious?
Changing your lifestyle. You can do many things to decrease anxiety in your life. Look at the things that are causing you stress and, if possible, change your lifestyle to avoid or confront those things.
Eating and exercise. When people feel anxious, they often neglect themselves. Ensuring that you’re eating healthy foods, regular meals, and getting frequent exercise will improve your overall health and well-being.
Relaxation. There are many ways you can relax. Some ideas include going for a walk, taking a class like yoga or Tai Chi, learning to meditate, or playing soccer with a friend. Additionally, you can also find many self-help books in the store or library that offer suggestions for relaxation.
Talking. Bottling things up is likely to keep your anxiety levels high. If possible, talk to a friend, family member, or counselor about the things that are making you feel anxious. Your support system can help you look at things from a new perspective or offer advice to help you navigate a stressful situation.
Ditch avoidant tendencies. Avoiding the things that make you anxious (like school, tests, social situations, etc.) may give you a moment of temporary relief. However, avoidance actually increases anxiety in the long run because you end up with more worry and less confidence in your ability to cope. Gradually confronting situations that make you anxious might give you a slight short-term rise in nervous feelings but a long-term decrease in anxiety symptoms and improved self-confidence.
Grounding Practices for Anxiety
If you feel so anxious that it’s impacting your day-to-day life, you may have an anxiety disorder. Check out the Anxiety Disorders: Types, Causes, and Symptoms article for more information on the different anxiety disorders and how they can be treated.
Research has shown that cognitive-behavioral therapy is very effective in helping people overcome anxiety disorders. People like your local doctor or a mental health professional can help you or refer you to someone who specializes in treating anxiety disorders. Medication may also help manage symptoms and is something that a doctor or psychiatrist may advise as part of treatment.
What are some things you do to help manage your anxiety? Share your methods and successes in the comments below!
Acknowledgments: This article was partially developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com
About Youth Era
Youth Era is a nonprofit that works with teens and young adults to become happy, successful, and contributing adults members of their communities. The organization creates solutions for communities across the country that look beyond short-term assistance for the few and toward sustainable support for the many. To learn more, visit www.youthera.org.