Jill Christensen, C.N.P.
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Tips to help ease anxiety
Anxiety often is described as sustained and excessive worry that a person cannot control, and is related many times to the anticipation of a future threat, such as COVD-19 or a traumatic event. At times, anxiety can have a large and negative affect on our daily lives, work, relationships and overall happiness. Anxiety also can manifest as an irritable, worried, restless and debilitating stress response which can last for minutes to days. Most everyone has had anxiety surrounding a stressful situation.
Anxiety becomes an obstacle for a happy, healthy life when it affects our day-to-day lives in these ways:
Emotionally, anxiety can appear as:
- Excessive worry
- Panic attacks
- Poor concentration
- Sleep disturbances
Physically, anxiety can appear as:
- Chest pain
- Diarrhea, stool pattern changes or upset stomach
- Increased heart rate
- Muscle aches
- Shortness of breath
The negative effects of anxiety
Left unchecked, anxiety can negatively affect our lives in these ways:
- Interrupting daily life — Causing issues at home, school, work and socially
- Isolating us — Not wanting to participate in normal daily activities or take new steps in life due to fear
- Emotionally — Increasing our risk for depression, suicide and failure to progress in life
- Physically — Increasing our risk for physical distress, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, chest pain and tremors
- Mentally — Increasing our risk for financial complications, poor decision-making and poor communication
Tips to help combat anxiety
There are a number of things you can try to help combat anxiety, including:
- Behavioral therapy
- Deep breathing
- Socializing, following pandemic guidelines of social distancing, masking and hand hygiene)
- Speaking with your health care provider
- Thought reframing
When to seek advice or treatment from a medical professional
It's recommended you speak to a health care provider about your anxiety should any of these situations occur:
- Your anxiety becomes an obstacle — In any aspect of everyday living, often causing difficulties for six or more months
- Your anxiety becomes a negative influence in relationships — Creating barriers in life
- Your anxiety leads to isolation — Producing thoughts of hopelessness or helplessness
- Your anxiety controls your life — When your emotional or physical response to excessive worry is controlling your life in some aspect or another
A person with anxiety can seek support from a therapist, medical provider, family member, friend, community support person, crisis line resource or a crisis center. Depending on the severity of your anxiety, a behavioral therapy plan, anti-anxiety medication and/or coping mechanisms may be directed to your personal situation.
Recognition of anxiety is a key factor in dealing with excessive worry and moving forward in life. If you have any of the above symptoms or have difficulty controlling worry in your life, ask yourself if it could be anxiety you're experiencing. It's important to share any concerns of excessive worry with your health care provider so we can help you identify ways to address your anxiety and move past the debilitation of excessive worry.
If COVID-19 has increased your anxiety, learn ways to tame anxiety during the pandemic, and get tips for mindfulness and coping.
Jill Christensen is a Family Medicine nurse practitioner in Waterville, Minnesota.