Stress is a normal part of life, but anxiety is DEFINITELY not!
All of us live with a bit of stress. It’s inherent in our busy, fast-paced lives.
Everything we do adds to our daily stress levels. Over time, things can become so stressful that we start to feel anxious about life. That’s when you start to have a problem and anxiety can cause you to feel like your life is spiraling out of control.
However, it’s often hard to tell stress apart from anxiety. They share many physical symptoms, and they are both the byproduct of our busy lives and the many responsibilities we bear.
Below are the most common signs you’re dealing with not just stress, but anxiety. If you notice these symptoms starting to pile up, it’s time to seek help!
Most of us worry to some degree, especially about big, momentous events in our lives.
Maybe you’re worried about that presentation or seminar you’ve got to lead, or you’re pitching a big project to your boss in the morning. You spend hours worrying just to make sure you’ve got everything just right and you feel ready.
But “excessive” worrying is when you start to worry to the point that it gets out of control. You have a hard time controlling that worry, and it begins to consume you until you have a hard time thinking about anything else.
Sometimes, it can get to the point that you have a hard time concentrating on anything else become the worry becomes all-consuming. That’s when you know it’s gone beyond stress and passed into the realm of anxiety.
Many people think of anxiety as being a general thing—we worry or feel anxious about hundreds of things big and small every day. However, sometimes it can be narrowed down to a single thing, one overwhelming fear.
Fear of crowds, fear of open spaces, fear of enclosed spaces, fear of loud noises, fear of clowns, fear of flying: these are all individual fears that can grow out of control, become disruptive, and reach the point of irrational fear, or phobia.
Phobia is one of the anxiety disorders, and it’s a surprisingly common one. The irrational fears can be crippling, to the point that people are unable to function when faced with whatever triggers that fear.
Are you the kind of person who lies awake at night thinking about all the things you have to do? Maybe you’re nervous about some big event the next day, or simply making a mental checklist of all the small tasks that need to get done.
Or, perhaps you’re replaying the events of the day to make sure you didn’t do or say the wrong thing. You worry about what might have gone wrong the previous day and what could go wrong the next day, so you find it very hard to sleep.
Yes, that’s anxiety!
Sleep difficulties due to overthinking and worrying are a symptom of anxiety. Chronic sleep loss can make it even harder to combat your anxiety, so it’s vital that you seek help to manage your worry and anxious thoughts as soon as possible.
Chronic indigestion and other gastrointestinal problems are a sign of anxiety. You’ll find that your gut and your brain are linked, so psychological upset can also lead to stomach upset.
If you’re noticing regular stomach problems but can’t pinpoint any physical cause (such as food pathogens, allergies, or intestinal issues), it could be a sign that your anxiety is the reason for your stomach problems. The only way your stomach will settle down is by your getting help dealing with the anxiety.
Are you the kind of person who always feels neck pains? Are your muscles always clenched, your shoulders knotted, your jaw gritted, or your fists balled?
This type of muscle flexion is often a sign of anxiety disorders. We clench our muscles as a nervous habit or coping mechanism when we’re flooded with anxiety. Eventually, it can become such a habit that we stop noticing that we do it—we simply feel the pain of that constant physical tension.
If that sounds familiar, it’s a pretty good indicator that you might be dealing with anxiety. Physical therapy can help to reduce the physical tension and pain, but it’s only when you get the anxiety under control that you will truly have control over your body.
Worry causes our sympathetic nervous system to go into overdrive, which leads to a number of physical symptoms, including:
We get these feelings of nervousness that are accompanied by restlessness and tension. This is our body’s way of warning us about dangers, even if those dangers are only the product of our anxiety-driven imagination.
Worse, the effects of this heightened state of alert often lasts longer for those with anxiety disorders, meaning it will take longer for you to “come down” from this agitated state.
People with generalized anxiety disorder often feel more irritable, often the result of excessive worrying. Irritability can be as much as twice as high among those suffering from anxiety as those without, with “highly irritable” periods throughout their day.
One better-known but less-common anxiety disorder is panic disorder, which is characterized by recurring panic attacks.
Basically, a panic attack is when you feel an “intense, overwhelming sensation of fear”, to the point that it can be debilitating. Panic attacks are accompanied by shortness of breath, shaking, nausea, chest tightness, rapid heartbeat, and the fear of losing control or dying.
If you experience panic attacks frequently and unexpectedly, it could be a sign that you are dealing with panic disorder.
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