This brochure provides information about generalized anxiety disorder, including what it is, common signs and symptoms, causes, treatment options, and resources to find help for yourself or someone else.
This fact sheet is intended for teens and young adults and presents information about stress, anxiety, and ways to cope when feeling overwhelmed.
This infographic briefly presents information about stress, anxiety, and ways to cope when feeling overwhelmed. It was developed for use on social media to highlight the “I’m So Stressed Out” fact sheet.
This brochure provides information about panic disorder, including what it is, common signs and symptoms, causes, treatment options, and resources to find help for yourself or someone else.
This brochure provides information about social anxiety disorder, including what it is, common signs and symptoms, causes, treatment options, and resources to find help for yourself or someone else.
This free, printable coloring and activity book for children ages 8-12 teaches kids about stress and anxiety and offers tips for coping in a healthy way.
We’re here to keep people safe. Usually, that is by helping a texter find a healthy coping mechanism to work through anxiety. Here’s everything you need to know about moving from totally overwhelmed, to a cool, calm “I’ve got this.”
What is Anxiety?
People can feel anxious about a lot of things: the first day of school, a job interview, a first date. Anxiety is that pang of “what if” that makes your heart race and your palms sweaty. There’s a difference between healthy anxiety and a paralyzing fear about the future.
If you’re experiencing anxiety, know that you’re not alone. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health disorders in the U.S. They affect over 40 million adults every single year. Kids experience them too: over 25% of people between 13 and 18 live with anxiety today.
Symptoms are different for everyone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, some symptoms can include:
- Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
Crisis Text Line can help you manage. Struggling? Text a Crisis Counselor at 741741, or use the mobile text button below to text from your phone.
Healthy Coping Mechanisms:
If you’re feeling anxious, even thinking through the steps for how to tackle it could feel overwhelming. You shouldn’t have to summit that mountain alone. So, here are some steps to get you started:
- Text us. If your mind is racing a million miles a minute, you want help now. Like, right now. Good thing we’re here 24/7 to help you work through your anxious thoughts and get to cool and calm. Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a real human.
- Blow off some steam. Exercise is important for both your physical and mental health. If your thoughts are racing and you’re feeling overwhelmed, try lacing up your shoes and going for a walk, tapping it back in a spin class, or getting into flow at yoga.
- Get some Zzzzs. Set yourself up to get your solid 6-8 hours every night by finding a routine that works for you.
- Talk to a pro. Managing your mental health is part of managing your health. Finding the right doctor could help you hone in on the thoughts and situations that lead to your anxiety.
People are all different—and so is anxiety. According to the American Psychiatric Association, the most common anxiety disorders are:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: excessive worry that is disproportionate to normal anxiousness around upcoming life events (such as work or school)
- Social Anxiety Disorder: intense fear of social interactions, making it hard to go out, make friends, or interact with others
- Panic Disorder: recurrent panic attacks that cause someone to change their behavior in order to avoid having them. Panic attacks are not your regular grade freak out; they’re an intense physical reaction to fear often causing an accelerated heart rate, sweating, and difficulty breathing.
- Separation Anxiety Disorder: fear of being separated from someone usually because of worry that something may happen to them while they’re away
- Specific Phobias: intense fear about a specific thing or situation (ex. spiders, heights, flying)
Anxiety and Depression:
Sometimes people experience anxiety along with other mental health disorders. Many people also experience depression. And, while people may experience both disorders, it’s important to note that they have different symptoms and causes.
Anxiety and Panic:
Think of anxiety and panic as cousins: they’re linked, though not always one and the same. It’s common to have panic attacks as a fear response with anxiety disorders. It’s also possible to have an occasional panic attack without having a disorder. Panic attacks can be scary—they often feel like a heart attack. The good news? They don’t do any long-term damage to your body. That doesn’t mean they aren’t a big deal.
Anxiety and Stress:
Stress is a totally normal and expected response to situations and changes in our lives. Anxiety can also manifest as a response to stress. The trick is identifying when healthy levels of stress transition to disproportionate levels of anxiety around particular situations or events.
Simply put, no one thing causes anxiety. However, there are a few things that can increase your risk:
- Genetics. Researchers have found that people who develop anxiety disorders before the age of 20 likely also have a relative who lives with anxiety.
- Brain Chemistry. Science shows that stress can change the chemical balance in the brain. So it is no surprise that this chemical change can affect your mood.
- Personality. For some people, their personality can make them predisposed to certain anxiety disorders.
- Life Events. Traumatic events can change our lives…they can also change our brains. Sometimes, anxiety can manifest around large or challenging life changes.
- Trauma. Acute and prolonged trauma can contribute to both intermittent and long-term anxiety. For example, racism can cause trauma that leads to anxiety in both the systemic ways it manifests in our society and the individual inflection points.
Treatment and Prevention:
Anxiety can feel overwhelming. It’s also highly treatable. Some common treatments include:
- Deep Breaths. Focus on your breathing to calm and center yourself.
- Stress Less. Stress management techniques such as exercise, meditation, and mindfulness can help manage stress.
- Get some shut-eye. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule can regulate your mood and stress.
- Talk to a professional. A therapist may be able to help you manage triggers and symptoms. Therapists and doctors may also prescribe medication to help manage your mental health.
- It’s always okay to ask for help. In fact, asking for help is brave. Looking to get started? Try talking to your doctor to learn more about how you are feeling and ways to take care of your mental health.
Text a Crisis Counselor at 741471. You’re not alone.
This article was co-authored by Rebecca Ward, LMFT, SEP, PCC, MA and by wikiHow staff writer, Hunter Rising. Rebecca A. Ward, LMFT, SEP, PCC is the Founder of the Iris Institute, a San Francisco, California-based business focusing on using somatic expertise to teach individuals and groups the skills to deal with dilemmas using interventions, including her own Original Blueprint® method. Ms. Ward specializes in treating stress, anxiety, depression, and trauma. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), a Somatic Experiencing® Practitioner (SEP), and a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF). Rebecca holds an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Marymount University and an MA in Organizational Leadership from The George Washington University.
There are 17 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, several readers have written to tell us that this article was helpful to them, earning it our reader-approved status.
This article has been viewed 134,508 times.
It’s perfectly normal if you experience anxiety at some point in your life, but it can be frustrating and exhausting to deal with. Fortunately, there are many natural ways you can manage your condition. Try different coping strategies, from reframing thoughts to taking supplements, to see what works best for you. Hopefully, you’ll start feeling better shortly, but don’t be afraid to contact your doctor if you want other treatment options.
Anxiety works its way into our minds, our bodies, and our very lives, taking control of who we think we are and what we think we can do. When anxiety takes over like this, it can be hard to keep moving forward. Thankfully, anxiety self-help gives you ways to control anxiety and anxiety attacks that put you back in charge.
Before you take a look at the list of suggestions for how to control anxiety, take a moment to close your eyes, take a slow, deep breath, and clear your mind. This creates a bit of space for you to gently shift your thinking.
Sometimes, thinking in terms of controlling anxiety or controlling anxiety attacks gets in our way. We start to struggle and resist, creating a deeper problem with anxiety and even leading to more anxiety attacks (Bemis, 2008). Instead, then, think of these approaches as ways of taking back control of yourself and your life. You’re not fighting anxiety, you’re simply creating a better life without it. By learning how to control anxiety, you’re actually moving yourself forward.
17 Methods of Anxiety Control That Put You Back in Charge
- Step away from stress, even briefly. Taking regular breaks controls anxiety.
- Be mindful of your present moment. Using all your senses to take in your surroundings is a way to reign in racing thoughts, even during anxiety attacks.
- Quieting mental chatter by visualizing a calming image helps refocus your thoughts during an anxiety attack.
- Exercise. It releases the adrenaline that surges as part of the body’s flight-or-flight response.
- Get plenty of rest and sleep, as fatigue contributes to anxiety (Anxiety and Insomnia: Don’t Let Anxiety Keep You Awake).
- Control your blood sugar to control anxiety. Low blood sugar often means high anxiety.
- Eat well. Learn which foods to eat to help with anxiety and eat more of them. Nutrition plays a role in anxiety, so the better you eat, the better you’ll feel.
- Talk to a doctor. If brain chemistry is off balance, you can control anxiety and anxiety attacks with medication. (Note: there is no medical test for brain chemistry, but your doctor can help sort things out by talking openly with you.)
- Check your expectations of yourself, others, and your life. Unrealistically high expectations create anxiety.
- Get to know yourself, the whole you: hopes, dreams, strengths, abilities, relationships, and more. You are more than anxiety, and knowing yourself is a powerful way to control anxiety.
- Meditate. Sitting in a comfortable position, breathing deeply, and letting thoughts come and go without getting tangled up in them helps you reclaim yourself from anxiety’s grasp (How to Use Meditation for Anxiety and Panic Attacks).
- Distance yourself from anxious thoughts by stating, “I’m having the thought that. ” This diminishes the realism of anxious thoughts.
- Imagine your anxious feelings and thoughts as leaves floating down a stream and far away from you. Sending your thoughts away controls anxiety and controls anxiety attacks.
- Look for the workability of thoughts. When worries and fear kick in, study them, asking yourself what will happen if you believe the thought. Will it create a more meaningful life? If they’re not workable, float them down the river (see #13).
- Develop psychological flexibility. This lets us adapt to all situations, good and bad, so we can take actions to move forward. When we’re not rigid, we can bend rather than break.
- Know your purpose. What do you value? What gives your life meaning? Knowing the “why” of your life is part of how to control anxiety.
- Know what actions you want to take. When you know your “why,” and decide on your “how,” you move beyond anxiety and anxiety attacks.
This list is a sampling of ways to control anxiety and anxiety attacks. Use this as a springboard to create more. Try the ones that match your style, and move past the ones that don’t. You have control. It’s through strengthening and exercising your own control and power that you begin controlling anxiety and controlling anxiety attacks.
The last few years have been challenging for most of us and, when feeling stressed, free radical damage can occur and reduce the nutrition needed by our bodies. Fortunately, there are foods that can help reduce stress and keep your body healthy.
For optimal gut function, fruits and vegetables will be our best friends, along with prebiotics and probiotics to feed our gut bacteria. Our serotonin levels are directly connected to our gut, and keeping our levels up keeps our bodies happy, healthy and calm.
So what foods and nutrients bring calm and help promote joy? Here are some a few.
» Peanut butter has been known since the 1970s when Feingold Association studies determined it helped calm children when hyperactive. The studies showed that it reduced symptoms of hyperactivity thereby reducing stress.
So just how and why might this work? Peanut butter contains monounsaturated fats, B vitamins, magnesium and fiber. Monounsaturated fats are known to promote heart health and reduce inflammation.
B vitamins promote the health of our nervous system. Fiber is known to feed our gut bacteria and magnesium is known to reduce cortisol, our stress fighting hormone.
» Next up, salmon. Salmon contain essential fatty acids known as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DEA (docosahexaenoic acid), which have been shown to promote brain health and a calming affect on the body.
Omega 3s found in fatty fish contain EPA and have been shown to fight depression along with other mental health conditions. Other omega 3s include walnuts and flaxseeds, which are great for heart health and reducing inflammation.
Another way to promote calm and better improve our nutrient uptake, Omega 3s have been linked to reducing colitis and decreasing inflammation in our eyes related to macular degeneration.
» The next nutrient is potassium. Foods high in potassium can also be a stress reducer and are known to reduce blood pressure. Bananas, avocado and potatoes fall into the category of high potassium foods. In fact, potassium is part of the Mediterranean diet that is also known as a stress reducer.
The Mediterranean diet is known to help reduce blood pressure and promote heart health. It also consists of lean proteins, healthy fats such as olive oil and avocado, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds containing a high fiber content — all of which contribute to stress reduction. Studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet can also help reduce depression.
» Another nutrient known to reduce stress is tryptophan. Foods that contain tryptophan have been shown to have a calming affect on the body. Tryptophan is most commonly known in turkey but it’s also found in other proteins such as eggs, cheese, nuts, seeds, warm milk and yogurt.
Try combing some of these foods together in a smoothie with fruits, veggies, yogurt and peanut butter to promote additional nutrition for your day. You might also try a cup of chamomile tea, a beverage known for reducing stress.
Finally, you can always add a multivitamin for additional nutritional support to these foods.
— Marcy DiGregorio is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator who loves helping people with their nutritional needs, enjoys cooking, and also teaches yoga. Click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.
When you have anxiety, having control can be very important to you. You either feel like you have it or you don’t. And when you don’t, it feels very scary so you do whatever you have to do to get it back. Avoid, scream, clean, freeze, isolate, carry out a pattern, research, or control someone else, for example.
Feeling Loss of Control Provokes Anxiety
What if you never felt out of control? Could your anxiety go away?
This is the thing. being out of control is an illusion of sorts.
You are never really out of control. That is just a tactic of Anxiety (in combination with personal history and culture) that influences us to think that. It’s quite common to think this, it doesn’t mean something is wrong with you. But it causes great suffering.
Okay. You can’t control what happens to you. Things happen. It is inevitable. You can’t control other people. But here is the secret.
What happens matters less than you think. What matters more is your response.
You can 100% control your response to events that happen. And your response is what matters most in how the rest of your life goes. Your response creates your identity, your feelings, your mood. It influences how you see yourself and how you experience the world. It determines if you feel like a victim or an agent in your life. It helps you trust yourself and feel less afraid.
Your response is always in your control. Even though Anxiety tells you that you are powerless. Remember you never are truly powerless. Powerless is a state of mind when you disconnected to your agency (that you are an agent in your life rather than a passive recipient.) Admittedly, this is a scary place to be. Very scary. It feels like a prison.
But you have the key, and it may take a while to open the door, but knowing you can, can help. It’s a start. Just in small ways today, try to notice your agency. Take small actions to increase your confidence. Learn something new, help someone, do something for yourself, do a new activity. Begin to trust yourself. Appreciate yourself. It’ll be a powerful first step on your journey to get rid of your Anxiety.
Let me know how it is going!
If you’re a student (or have ever been one), you’ve felt nervous before a big exam. A mild case of the nerves can actually be useful, giving you an adrenaline boost that will help you perform at your best. However, if your pre-test stress becomes so extreme that it impedes your performance, you are probably experiencing test anxiety. Read on to learn more about how to overcome test anxiety.
What is Test Anxiety?
Test anxiety is a complex of emotions such as worry, dread, and fear—along with physical fight-or-flight symptoms—that some people experience before and during a test. It’s a form of performance anxiety—when the pressure to succeed becomes so overwhelming that people are unable to concentrate and operate at 100%. Some degree of nervousness around test-taking is normal, but when exam anxiety symptoms cause panic attacks, hinder learning, or impair performance, it’s important to find ways to modulate this response.
What Causes Test Anxiety?
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, test anxiety is rooted in the following causes:
- Fear of failure: Also called atychiphobia, fear of failure can negatively affect our performance. Students who tie their feeling of self-worth to the results of a test are more likely to experience this fear.
- Lack of preparation: Knowing you did not study thoroughly enough for test day can add to your feelings of anxiety and dread.
- Poor testing history: If you have performed poorly on other exams or have bad memories of testing situations, you may find yourself in a cycle of negative thoughts that can influence your results on future exams.
Symptoms range from mild to severe and include:
- Emotional symptoms: Feelings of fear, anger, disappointment, helplessness, and dread. More severe symptoms include depression and low self-esteem.
- Physical symptoms: Headaches, diarrhea, feelings of nausea, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, and light-headedness. In more severe cases, test anxiety can lead to a panic attack.
- Behavioral/cognitive symptoms: Negative self-talk, comparing yourself to others, fidgeting, and difficulty concentrating. In some cases, anxiety can become so bad that students drop out of school.
Tips for Overcoming Test Anxiety
So, how can you get over test anxiety? Here are some test anxiety tips to help:
- Be prepared: Lack of preparation can significantly worsen test anxiety. One of the best ways of managing test anxiety is to make sure you are fully prepared next time you take a test. This includes thoroughly studying, getting a good night’s sleep, and arriving to class early.
- Modulate your breathing: Anxiety causes shortness of breath and a racing heart. In order to modulate these, practice regulating your breathing. Try breathing in deeply through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. This will slow your breathing and help to control your heart rate.
- Maintain positive thinking: Having a negative thought and catastrophizing can lead to more severe exam anxiety symptoms such as depression. Set reasonable expectations for yourself and remember that your self-worth should not be tied to the results of a test.
- Laugh more: Laughter is a natural medicine that improves your mood and combats stress. Try watching YouTube videos or listening to a funny podcast the next time you’re feeling stressed.
- Stay healthy: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for your physical and mental health . Remember to always get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and practice self-care.
- Chew gum: Chewing gum during a test can help keep your mind focused on the task at hand and away from negative thoughts.
- Try meditation and yoga: Meditation is an excellent way to train your mind so that you can handle difficult situations more calmly. It helps you learn to focus your attention and drop negative thoughts as they come into your mind. Yoga is a kind of meditation that syncs breathing with body movements, developing focus on somatic sensations and reducing stress.
- Listen to music: Music has a profound power to alter your mood. Before a test, try listening to music to calm your nerves. A slow tempo can relax your muscles and quiet your thoughts, while dancing to an uptempo song could help you release tension.
- Hang out with pets: Research suggests that spending time with pets can decrease stress and anxiety in humans. If you don’t have a pet, consider fostering a pet or pet sitting.
- Talk to a counselor: Your personal therapist, or a counselor from your school’s health center, could help you better understand your test anxiety and could offer tools for transforming it. Many schools offer resources dedicated to helping students overcome test anxiety.
If you experience severe test anxiety , you are not alone. Try the tips above and reach out to your university’s counseling center for additional support.
For more urgent matters, contact one of the following resources: Crisis Text Line or NAMI HelpLine,
This article was co-authored by Tracy Carver, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Megaera Lorenz, PhD. Dr. Tracy Carver is an award-winning Licensed Psychologist based in Austin, Texas. Dr. Carver specializes in counseling for issues related to self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and psychedelic integration. She holds a BS in Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University, an MA in Educational Psychology, and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from The University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Carver also completed an internship in Clinical Psychology through Harvard University Medical School. She was voted one of the Best Mental Health Professionals in Austin for four years in a row by Austin Fit Magazine. Dr. Carver has been featured in Austin Monthly, Austin Woman Magazine, Life in Travis Heights, and KVUE (the Austin affiliate for ABC News).
There are 18 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
This article has been viewed 37,754 times.
Anxiety attacks can make you feel like things are spinning out of control. The good news is that there are proven ways to override anxiety when an attack happens so you can take back control and calm yourself down. Once you’re familiar with these different strategies, you can pick and choose the ones that work the best for you. There are also things you can do to help prevent anxiety attacks from happening in the first place. Dealing with anxiety attacks can be really scary, but know that you’ll get through this and you’re not alone.
More info on this topic
In this section we address things you can do on your own to work with fear and anxiety. We do not cover the many valuable techniques and therapies available when working with professional psychologists or other providers. These are essential for those who have experienced trauma or are suffering from intense fear or anxiety.
The only way to deal with fear is to face it. Avoiding our fears only prevents us from moving forward—it makes us anxious. But be gentle with yourself and do only what feels safe to you! If you find yourself getting more panicky, take a break and find something pleasant or comforting to notice or do. If it feels safe later, you can try to explore your fear again, taking breaks as needed. If you find it difficult to address chronic fears or anxiety on your own, note that therapists can be invaluable in helping work through avoiding strategies. If you have experienced trauma, it is especially important to work with a therapist to create a safe environment where you can face your fear and reconstruct your memories.
If the fear or anxiety is milder, you can try mindfulness meditationLearn more about mindfulness techniques. All you need to do is sit quietly and observe the present moment. If fear or anxiety arises, recognize it. If you can, be curious. Observe the anxiety. Notice how it feels in your body. Notice any associated thoughts. See if you can observe it as it is; don’t get involved in the story, or try to get rid of it or change it. And when you need, take a break and turn your attention to something neutral, like your breath or hands in your lap. Note that anytime you feel too agitated to be curious, it may be best to stop and open your eyes and notice objects in the room, or take a little walk.
“Every time your fear is invited up, every time you recognize it and smile at it, your fear will lose some of its strength.”
Many things in the world can cause anxiety and often they’re beyond your control. Yet, you shouldn’t ignore or dismiss what you are feeling. Psychiatrist Maria Reyes tells us the three steps she recommends her patients use to manage anxiety the right way.
Interviewer: Coping with anxiety, we’ll talk about that next on The Scope.
Announcer: Health information from expects, supported by research. From University of Utah Health, this is TheScopeRadio.com.
Interviewer: You know there are a lot of things that can happen in this world that can cause fear and anxiety and most of the time they’re not really under our control but what do you do about them? How do you cope with them? Maria Reyes is a psychiatrist with University of Utah Health Care and she’s going to give us some tips right now on how to deal with anxiety-causing events in your life that you don’t have control over.
Maria: To your point about anxiety, as a psychiatrist, and I think this about it, every emotion in general I think the first step in being an emotionally healthy person is acknowledging your feelings and not judging them. So feelings and thoughts are just those – feelings and thoughts – but the first thing you need to do is acknowledge those and put a name on them. Don’t ignore them is the bottom line because they will ultimately come to fruition in ways that may not be so pleasant sooner or later.
Interviewer: So it’s better to just face up with it and just go, “I’m feeling a little stressed or sad or whatever about this situation.”
Interviewer: And go, “Okay. I’m feeling it.”
Maria: Right. That means you’re alive, that means you’re a human being.
Interviewer: That’s a good thing.
Maria: Yeah. And join the club.
Interviewer: So acknowledging is kind of the first step. Within that what else would you want to do as part of acknowledging it?
Maria: I think what distinguishes humans from primates is the ability in general to articulate our thoughts and feelings and I feel that people that tend to talk about their feelings tend to be more emotionally healthy and so I would encourage people when they do experience anxiety to talk to someone you know and trust. It doesn’t have to be myself or a health care professional necessarily, but just being with friends, family and just using them as a sounding board for kind of what you’re thinking and feeling.
Interviewer: Find that person that listens to you or that you have a good rapport, some trust with I’d imagine.
Interviewer: Would be a big part of that. So acknowledge it, experience that emotion, talk about it. That’s kind of the big first step when you’re faced with some source of anxiety. What would you do after that?
Maria: After that, I encourage people to step back from their problems. Now I want to make the distinction between stepping back and avoidance. I’m not encouraging avoidance. That actually makes anxiety worse in the long run. However, creating some healthy distance when you feel overwhelmed emotionally is a good thing and it can be helpful in the long run. By that I mean things like engaging in hobbies, exercise, sometimes disengaging from social media if that’s something that is anxiety provoking.
Interviewer: Especially if it’s a world event.
Interviewer: You keep diving into more news stories about it or go to social media or go to the comments section.
Interviewer: So it’s healthy to get away from that.
Maria: Right, or going on a news social media cleanse of sorts or just kind of being cognizant of the time you spend in those realms. So part of stepping back, the outcome of that is hopefully just a reframing of the situation. So stepping back could kind of give you the emotional distance to kind of look at a problem from a different perspective, seeing that silver lining around the cloud.
Interviewer: That’s a good thing to look for?
Interviewer: It’s a healthy thing to do.
Maria: Yes. Our ancestors had it right when they came up with that adage.
Interviewer: So try to find something in the situation that maybe makes it not seem quite so bad or what good could come out of this or . . .
Maria: Absolutely. So just finding what lessons are there to be learned or how could I have done things differently are good ways to think about problems.
Interviewer: So step back and then is there something else you could do to help maybe make it not seem so big and scary?
Maria: Absolutely. Again, I don’t want us to get the message that I’m advocating for burying your head in the stand or avoiding your problems. Of course, the step after stepping back would be to re-approach the problem or the precipitator of that anxiety but hopefully now it would be with a clear head. Then the outcome of that, I would hope, is some sort of sense of control over a situation that you may have limited control in. However I think there’s always some part of that problem that seems beyond your control that you have a little bit of control over and I encourage people to know the difference between what you can control and what you can’t.
Interviewer: And try to find that little piece maybe that you can do to make yourself feel better about it all.
Interviewer: So how do you know when it’s time for an in-person session with a professional?
Maria: I think anytime you have feelings and emotions that interfere with your ability to fulfill your role as a mother, a spouse, a friend or if it’s interfering with your ability to work or go to school or function in general. Also I have to throw in there any time you feel that life is not worth living anymore, these should certainly prompt your attention to seeking immediate help.
Announcer: Have a question about a medical procedure? Want to learn more about a health condition? With over 2,000 interviews with our physicians and specialists, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find what you want to know. Check it out at TheScopeRadio.com.
updated: July 31, 2019
originally published: November 10, 2016
Anxiety is often related to a sense of control; anxiety can be caused by a lack of a sense of control in one or more areas of life. This lack of control can cause a powerless feeling in the face of fears and worries. The lack of a sense of control can leave us feeling anxious, worried, or fearful when we don’t think we should be. When you feel a vague, nagging worry, tension, edginess, or irritability but, frustratingly, can’t identify a reason, perhaps the anxiety is connected to sense of control. How, exactly, can this sense of control cause anxiety? And what can we do about it?
Lacking A Sense of Control Can Cause Anxiety and Worry
Generalized anxiety disorder involves excessive worries about multiple ares of life. What-ifs and worries abound. Sometimes people imagine dreadful scenarios involving their loved ones: what if they get into an accident? What if they do poorly in school? What if they’re miserable? What if they get into trouble?
Personal worries exist, too: What if I get fired and can’t pay my bills? What if people judge me? The list is seemingly infinite. The results of the anxiety over these imagined troubles cause physical and emotional symptoms that are uncomfortable at best and debilitating at worse.
While the various situations differ, there is a common theme. We have no control over the outcome of our what-ifs and worries. We can’t control if our loved one is involved in an accident. On a personal level, we can, indeed, take some action to control outcomes, such as excelling at work tasks. There are certain situations, though, that are out of our control that might lead to a loss of a job or relationship or other unpleasant happenings. This lack of control can cause significant anxiety.
Fear, too, is strongly connected to a sense of control. Anxiety and fear are related, each contributing to the other. The connection between them can be that sense of control, or lack thereof. When we don’t know what’s happening or what will happen, when we are afraid of something, it’s often because we feel powerless to control it. Fear, anxiety, and the sense of control are intertwined and can cause anxiety’s symptoms to be unrelenting.
Gaining a Sense of Control Can Decrease Anxiety
While there are certain things we will never have control over, such as how someone is going to react to us or whether our loved one will arrive safely, we can absolutely take measures to increase our sense of control and thus decrease our anxiety.
- Consider where you can increase your sense of control. What small measures can you take to gain more control? Can you help your loved one make sure his/her car is in good driving condition and equip it with emergency supplies? Can you do your best at work while also creating a special savings account to draw from if you face unemployment?
- Identify where you can choose to let go. Pay attention to your what-ifs, worries, and fears. Identify specific things you can do to downsize your worry list and increase your sense of control.
- No more shenpa. Shenpa is a Buddhist concept for getting hooked by problematic thoughts or situations. That’s apt. Anxiety and its symptoms hook us. Fear hooks us. Worry hooks us. When we’re hooked, we feel powerless. Anxiety, it seems, is being done to us, and we have no sense of control over being hooked by something or someone. However, we’re not powerless. When we notice ourselves hooked and feeling anxious and tense, we can pause and look at why we’re hooked. What has reeled us in? That knowledge leads to letting go, distancing ourselves from a thought, feeling, or person/event in the outside world. Releasing ourselves from the hook can help us reduce the racing thoughts of anxiety and regain a sense of control over our own thoughts and emotions.
We don’t have to remain passive victims of anxiety, at its mercy with no control. We can gain power. We can increase our sense of control over anxiety.
Let’s connect. I blog here. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. My mental health novels, including one about severe anxiety, are here.
Peterson, T. (2015, December 17). Anxiety and Your Sense of Control, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, May 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/12/anxiety-and-a-sense-of-control
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS
Tanya J. Peterson is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, and Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps. She has also written five critically acclaimed, award-winning novels about life with mental health challenges. She delivers workshops for all ages and provides online and in-person mental health education for youth. She has shared information about creating a quality life on podcasts, summits, print and online interviews and articles, and at speaking events. Tanya is a Diplomate of the American Institution of Stress helping to educate others about stress and provide useful tools for handling it well in order to live a healthy and vibrant life. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Bookmark this list.
Around 40 million people in the U.S. have an anxiety disorder, which can range from a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), defined as “intense worrying you can’t control” to panic attacks, complete with heart palpitations, trembling, shaking, and/or sweating.
Whether you experience is of mild or extreme anxiety, there are steps you can take immediately to calm down and self-soothe. Here are a few of the best:
1. Stand up straight
According to Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Freeing Yourself from Anxiety, “When we are anxious, we protect our upper body — where our heart and lungs are located — by hunching over.”
For immediate relief from anxiety, stand up, pull your shoulders back, plant your feet evenly and widely apart, and open your chest. Then breathe deeply. This posture, combined with deep breathing, helps your body remember that it’s not in danger right now, and that it is in control (not helpless). If you can’t stand up (i.e. you’re in your car), just pull your shoulders back and open up your chest. The most important thing is to stop hunching and breathe deeply.
2. Play the 5-5-5 game
When you’re anxious, you’re often caught in a (negative) thought loop. Play this to get back into your body and stop anxiety fast:
Look around and name 5 things you can see.
List 5 sounds you can hear.
Move 5 parts of your body you can feel (i.e. rotate your ankle, wiggle your ears, nod your head up and down).
It might sound silly, but this works.
3. Sniff lavender oil
Lavender oil has a lot of healing properties. It promotes a feeling of calm and supports deep, restful sleep. It can even help with headaches.
To help reduce anxiety, keep a bottle of lavender oil at your desk (or in purse if you have one). Breathe it in and/or massage it into your temples when you need a boost of peace. Bonus points for combining the sniffing with deep, even breaths.
4. Watch a funny video
Yes, really. Watching a clip of your favorite comedian or blooper reel will help you stop feeling anxious fast. Why? Because you can’t laugh and stay anxious at the same time, physiologically. Your body relaxes after a bout of laughter in a way that gets rid of anxiety. Plus, according to the Mayo Clinic, laughter brings in oxygen-rich air, which stimulates your heart and lungs, and spikes your endorphins.
5. Go for a brisk walk
Exercise is a long-proven way to lower anxiety. In addition to boosting your level of feel-good neurotransmitters, a brisk walk clears your mind and gets you breathing more deeply again–and anxiety is intimately linked to shallow breathing.
Studies also show that people who exercise vigorously on a regular basis are 25 percent less likely to develop an anxiety disorder.
6. Accept your anxiety
This may sound counterintuitive, but Chansky says accepting your anxiety (instead of feeling ashamed or frustrated by it) will actually help you feel less anxious.
It doesn’t matter whether you inherited your anxiety from your family or your lifestyle, or both. It’s here now, and acknowledging that instead of fighting it frees you up to learn how to manage it. Accepting it doesn’t mean giving up, either. It means you stop spending energy berating yourself for being anxious and instead learn what works for you when it comes to self-soothing.
7. Listen to the most relaxing song in the world
This song was engineered specifically to calm your nervous system. It was found to reduce anxiety by up to 65 percent. Here is a loop of it playing on repeat.
8. Re-label what’s happening.
If you’re having a panic attack and your heart is racing, it’s easy to believe something like, “I’m going to die.” Instead of buying into this inaccurate thought, re-label it. Remind yourself: “This is a panic attack. I’ve had them before and they don’t actually kill me; they pass. This will also pass, and there’s nothing I need to do.”
In actuality, panic attacks are an activation of the body’s fight-or-flight response, which doesn’t kill you–it keeps you alive.
9. Do something
Do anything. Clear a few things off your desk. Walk over to the kitchenette and get yourself a glass of water. Walk outside and find a flower to smell–it doesn’t matter. Doing an action interrupts your thought pattern, which is often where anxiety starts.
When it comes to stopping anxiety, self-soothing is actually a profound act of self-love.
- Stress & Mental Health
- Stress 101
- Stress and Anxiety
- Reducing Stigma
- Suicide Prevention, Awareness and Support
- Mental Health & Vaping
- Action Guide
- Chill Breaks
- Mindful Movement
- Mental Remix
- Chiller Images
- Activities & Tools
- Virtual Chill Zone
- Lesson Plans
- Mental Health Resources
- Mental Health and Counseling Services for Teens Under 18
- Virtual Chill Zone
- Guided Imagery
- Life Balance
- Living with Grief & Loss
- Change to Chill for Athletes & Performers
- Stress & Identity
- What is Identity?
- Sharing Your Identity
- Discrimination and Racism Based on Identity
- CTC for LGBTQ+ Youth
- About Change to Chill
- News / Press
- Change to Chill School Partnership
- Starter Kit
Learn How to Manage Stress and Anxiety
What’s the difference between stress and anxiety?
Though we often think of stress and anxiety as interchangeable — and they do share many of the same physical and emotional symptoms — they have important distinctions to recognize. Being able to identify stressors in your life and your internal reactions can help you learn how to manage some of the symptoms you might be experiencing. Dealing with stress and anxiety becomes more manageable when you understand the difference between the two.
What is stress?
Stress is caused by external factors. Tests at school, big performances or competitions, and arguments with friends are all examples of external situations that can release stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones create the sensation known as the fight-flight-freeze response, and they can actually help you in several situations, such as sports competitions or when the body is in danger. You may feel energy surge through your body if you are stressed about an event or if you’re in an emergency. Your instincts take over, telling you that you are facing danger and must either defend yourself (fight), get away (flight) or stay still (freeze). Stress can be overwhelming, but once the perceived threat has disappeared, your feelings of stress will go away.
What are the effects of stress?
Stress can show up in many physical, emotional, and behavioral ways. Usually, you will only notice these symptoms when you’re stressed out. They will wear off as the threat of the situation has passed.
- Elevated heart rate
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Upset stomach
- Moodiness or irritability
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Aches, pains and cramps
How to manage and reduce stress
When you begin to feel stress, and the symptoms that come along with it, remember to practice these following coping skills:
- Take a few deep breaths to center yourself or practice meditation.
- Get some kind of physical activity every day. Start with a short walk or stretching.
- Do an activity you enjoy.
- Talk to a trusted friend or family member about how you are feeling.
- Maintain good health habits. Eat well-balanced meals, avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine, and get a good night’s rest . A healthy body tolerates stress more effectively.
- Try practicing positive affirmations to remind yourself that you are skilled enough for the task at hand and capable of great things.
What is anxiety?
Unlike stress, anxiety is often caused by an unidentifiable or over-amplified source of worry and can persist for much longer than stress might. People who struggle with anxiety will worry about a variety of stressors, often for long periods of time when the threat that triggered stress has long subsided.
What are the effects of anxiety?
Stress and anxiety share many of the same symptoms, both physical and mental. It’s important to recognize patterns of symptoms when you’re feeling anxious so they can be managed and reduced quickly.
- Muscle tension
- Feeling tense or jumpy
- Anticipating the worst and being watchful for signs of danger
- Elevated heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Shaking hands
- Feelings of nausea
How to manage anxiety
You can manage anxiety by learning different ways to calm your nerves and relax your mind and body. This will help your heart rate and breathing to be more steady, allowing your body to recognize that you’re not in danger and can return to a peaceful state of mind.
- Eat well-balanced meals and avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.
- Go outside for physical activity at least once a day.
- Do an activity or hobby you enjoy.
- Get plenty of rest. Your body and mind need to re-energize each night.
- If you notice your mind racing or worrying about the past or future, take a minute to breathe deeply.
- Practice guided imagery. Imagine your happy place. What do you see, smell and feel when you are in your happy place?
- Notice negative thoughts coming up throughout the day? Try this Affirmations Activity to build a daily practice of self-compassion and encouragement.
- Recognize what is in your control and what is outside of your control.
- Make a mental note or write down what you are grateful for. Recognize that some anxiety is useful and necessary.
- Avoid holding in feelings day after day. Instead, find a safe place to feel, express and embrace them.
- Practice aromatherapy. The mind, body, and spirit can be soothed when smell receptors are stimulated with relaxing scents.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help
Talk with your parents or another close family member or friend if stress or anxiety interferes with your everyday life or you are experiencing symptoms for two weeks or more. And remember to look at our wide range of mental health resources for additional suggestions on how to manage stress and anxiety. If you or someone close to you is in crisis, call the free, 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
Senior Lifestyle Reporter, HuffPost
When you’re dating, anxiety is the ultimate third wheel: You overanalyze everything you say on dates ― that is, the ones you actually go on and don’t cancel at the last minute.
It doesn’t necessarily get easier when you’ve gotten past the dating phase and are ready to get serious: You want to commit, but worry that your anxiety might sabotage an otherwise great relationship.
It doesn’t have to, though. Below, therapists share six ways to keep your anxiety in check during the beginning of a relationship and as it progresses.
1. Practice vulnerability in stages.
True intimacy is letting someone in and giving them access to parts of yourself that you hide away from the rest of the world. When you have anxiety, though, you might worry that exposing the messy, real, complicated side of yourself might make your S.O. like you less.
Don’t fall prey to that kind of thinking: If this person loves you, they’ll love all sides of you.
“Plus, you don’t have to share your deepest, darkest feelings all at once,” said psychologist Stacey Rosenfeld. “Experiment with small ‘exposures,’ exercises where you try out being vulnerable with your partner and, as your confidence builds, work toward increased vulnerability over time. Fears associated with vulnerability should lessen with increased exposure.”
2. Clearly communicate your expectations.
Anyone who has anxiety has gotten stuck in thought loops: Those unwanted, repetitive thoughts you can’t seem to escape even if you know they’re silly. That kind of thinking is particularly damaging in relationships. For example, maybe your girlfriend doesn’t call you after work a few nights in a row like she usually does. Stuck in a thought loop, you figure she’s bored with you when the truth is that she’s on a project deadline.
You don’t want to constantly ask your partner for reassurance, but when something is continually bothering you, talk about it. Say, “I know you’re busy, but I really look forward to your calls in the evening. When I don’t hear from you, my mind gets stuck in a story that you’re sick of me.”
“The person with the anxious mind ruminates,” said Jenny Yip, a psychologist based in Los Angeles. “Most people with anxiety will ruminate and imagine the worst possible thing happening. Rather than dooming your relationship, clarify and communicate what your expectations are from the start so that your mind doesn’t have to ruminate to the worst possible places.”
3. Separate your “anxious self” from your “true self.”
Him: will you marry me?
Me: are you mad at me?
A wise man on Twitter once said, “Anxiety is literally just conspiracy theories about yourself.” Don’t let that negative self-talk sabotage your relationships. Instead of listening to your anxious inner voice, listen to your true voice, said Jennifer Rollin, a psychotherapist in North Potomac, Maryland.
“Your ‘anxious self’ may tell you things like, ‘If you open up to him about your anxiety and going to therapy, he will leave or think you are unstable,‘” she said. “That’s because you have anxiety, your mind often comes up with a variety of scenarios that often are not true. It can be helpful to practice speaking back from your ‘true self.’”
If your true self is speaking, it will probably say something far more comforting, like: “Going to therapy doesn’t mean you’re crazy, it means you’re taking proactive steps to becoming the best version of yourself.”
“And worst-case scenario, if he does think it makes you crazy, it says a lot about him and nothing about you,” Rollin said. “You deserve to be with someone who doesn’t judge you.”
There are a number of ways that you can help manage and relieve your own anxiety – and learning how to get a good night’s sleep is just one of them.
Exercise – Meditation – Caffeine – Sleep – Therapy
When you have an anxiety disorder, your anxiety can range from a minor nuisance to extremely debilitating on a day-to-day basis. However, developing a well-rounded approach to self-care can help reduce the number of bad days you experience or – at least – decrease the severity of the worst days. Below are five, scientifically-backed ways that can help manage your anxiety. This list is by no means comprehensive, but it should provide a good starting place for anyone wanting to improve his/her self-care.
Everyone knows that exercising helps you attain and maintain good physical health, but did you know that a consistent exercise routine can also help with anxiety 1 ? In particular, aerobic exercise (e.g., running, swimming, walking 2 ) can decrease both state (i.e., how you feel now) and trait (i.e., how you feel on a regular basis) anxiety 3 . Evidence suggests that developing a consistent routine where one exercises for 20 min or more per session provides the strongest benefits for anxiety. In fact, when used in such a way, exercise has been found to be so effective at helping with anxiety that some have suggested that it could serve as a clinical intervention and may even help prevent the development of anxiety disorders 4 . Thus, including a steady exercise routine as a part of your self-care can help to manage your anxiety over a long period of time. Before starting an exercise routine, consult with a medical professional to ensure that you are healthy enough for exercise and that you choose the exercise type that best fits your lifestyle.
2. Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness, or the practice of actively and non-judgmentally attending to one’s current experiences, has been en vogue for at least the past 20 years, and you have probably heard any number of claims regarding what mindfulness can do for you. Though perhaps overhyped in popular media, a significant body of research has found that mindfulness based techniques, including meditation, seem to reduce anxiety 5 , including even cases involving generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder 6-8 . What makes mindfulness particularly exciting for the treatment of anxiety is that individuals can implement and maintain these techniques at home without the need for a therapist 9-10 . If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness and how to use it as a part of your self-care, Anxiety.org has written a number of articles on how mindfulness helps anxiety and how to get started on a meditation routine. In addition, both Android and iOS now have hundreds of free apps that can help introduce you to mindfulness meditation. For an additional guide, Lifehacker has a fantastic overview of mindfulness for beginners.
3. Limiting Caffeine Intake
As an avid coffee drinker, I get quite defensive when anyone suggests I reduce my caffeine intake. However, as an individual with an anxiety disorder, I do need to keep an eye on how much of the drug I consume. Caffeine increases autonomic nervous system activation associated with wakefulness as well as fight-or-flight behaviors 11 . In other words, caffeine makes you more ready to act – something quite beneficial early on a Monday morning. However, adding caffeine to an anxiety disorder can produce bad results. Evidence suggests that caffeine can increase anxiety on its own 12-13 , and anxious individuals seem particularly vulnerable to this effect 14 . Consequently, if you experience elevated anxiety on a regular basis, then you want to monitor and/or reduce your caffeine intake. I am not advocating completely abstaining from caffeine (I certainly don’t), but good self-care for anxiety includes making sure that you don’t overdo it.
Telling someone who suffers from chronic anxiety to get plenty of sleep is somewhat akin to telling someone with a broken leg to “walk it off.” Anxiety disorders themselves are known to cause poor sleep quality 15 . Despite this fact, research has uncovered a number of techniques that increase your chances of getting a good night’s sleep, and any good self-care routine should include them. Scientists refer to your habits before sleep as your “sleep hygiene,” and good sleep hygiene includes maintaining a consistent sleep/wake cycle (i.e., going to bed and waking up at consistent times), quenching any thirst before bed, and reducing the amount of environmental noise in the bedroom 16 . You also want to decrease the amount of “cognitive activity” in the hours leading up to sleep 17 . For example, when working hard on a project for work or school, try to stop working at least an hour before going to sleep to let your brain “wind down” before bed. Reducing alcohol and tobacco use before bed can improve sleep quality as well 18 . In addition, all of the above self-care techniques, limiting caffeine intake 19 , practicing mindfulness 20 , and maintaining a good exercise routine 21 , help improve sleep.
5. Consider Going to Therapy
When people talk about self-care, they typically think only of things that they can do on their own to take care of themselves. However, perhaps one of the best ways to take care of yourself when you experience chronic anxiety is to see a therapist. Over the past 40 years, psychologists have developed a substantial number of truly effective techniques to help treat anxiety, particularly in the realm of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). A remarkable body of research has shown these approaches provide substantial benefits for individuals with anxiety disorders 22-23 , and this field continues to develop and improve. Beginning therapy can be a daunting task, especially if you have never been to therapy before or you have done therapy in the past with limited success. To help with this process, we recently published an article that describes the process of finding a good therapist, which highlights a number of sources to get you started.
Combined, the above suggestions provide a solid starting point for any self-care routine. For many sufferers, managing anxiety is a lifelong process, but through diligent research, we now have a better understanding of what techniques and approaches individuals can use to improve their experience of anxiety.
Glossophobia – the fear of public speaking
It is the single most common phobia (fear)
Approximately 75% of people experience this
You are not alone in your fear
You cannot eliminate your fear–but you CAN manage and reduce it.
THIRTY WAYS TO MANAGE PUBLIC SPEAKING ANXIETY
Select a topic of interest to you
Prepare carefully–know your material
Practice–rehearse your talk with a friend
Know your audience
Challenge negative thinking–make 3 x 5 cards of positive thoughts or have friends write out inspirational thoughts for you.
Expect positive reactions–expect success!
Know the room–if unfamiliar, visit your speaking space before you talk.
Employ aerobic exercise strategies–daily aerobic exercise can cut anxiety by 50%.
Eat for success–foods containing tryptophan (dairy products, turkey, salmon) and complex carbohydrates tend to calm the body. Eliminate caffeine, sweets, and empty calories.
Sleep for success–know and get the number of hours of sleep you need for optimal performance.
The Day of the Presentation
11. Eat several hours before the talk–not immediately before
12. Dress for success–your success! Dress comfortably and appropriately for the situation. Look your best
13. Challenge negative thinking–Continue positive thinking
14. If you need to, express your fears to a friend
15. Review 3 x 5 cards of inspirational thoughts
16. Practice your talk one last time
17. Go to the room early to ready equipment and your podium.
18. Exercise immediately before the talk to reduce adrenalin levels.
- Employ anxiety reduction techniques
- Aerobic exercise
- Deep muscle relaxation
- Visualization strategies
- Deep, rhythmic breathing (4 hold 7)
19. Use the restroom immediately before the talk
20. Take a glass of water to the talk
The Presentation: A positive experience stemming from careful preparation!
21. Interpret anxiety symptoms as excitement
22. Use the podium to practice grounding strategies. Touch the podium to steady yourself and to remind yourself that you are safely connected to the ground which is firm and steady beneath your feet.
23. Take a security blanket with you–a complete typed version of your talk to only be used as a backup strategy.
24. Use tools to reduce audience attention on you.
- PowerPoint presentation
- Video film clips
- “Show and tell” objects to pass
25. Get out of yourself–engage the audience
26. Look at friendly faces in your audience
27. Use humor as needed
28. Use the room’s physical space to your advantage–walk around as appropriate.
29. Appropriately regulate your voice
- Speak clearly–enunciate
- Open your mouth–do not mumble
- Slow down if necessary
- Lower your voice–speak from your diaphragm
- Project your voice–use energy when you speak
- Use appropriate animation
Seek out public speaking opportunities to desensitize (reduce) your fear of communication apprehension.
Consider use of anti-anxiety medication
Join Toastmasters International to have a supportive and safe way to practice
Posted by Dr. Ian Bier on Dec 16, 2019 10:51:16 AM
The body’s stress response has evolved to outwit predators and avoid starvation, not to fight with rush hour traffic and overbearing bosses.
Modern living swells with sources of stress unrelated to life-or-death situations, such as sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, toxic relationships, financial concerns, and more. The human body requires periods of stress and relaxation to be healthy, and our fast-paced society often makes this feel next to impossible.
What Is Hyperstimulation Anxiety?
Anxiety is a very common and natural response to stress, and its physiological mechanisms are normal and necessary. What’s not normal is when the body’s stress response becomes over-stimulated—either by the environment, long hours on electronic devices, or other factors that put us into a state of chronic over-stimulation.
Hyperstimulation anxiety happens when your stress response is kicked into high gear without being given a chance to come back down. Along with feeling an increased heart rate and other signs commonly associated with stress and anxiety, many people will also feel the effects in their muscles.
The human stress response works well to run from a tiger or hunt for food, but since these are typically not stressors we face today, those same stress hormones end up being produced on a constant basis. When this happens, our mental, physical, and emotional health pays the price.
The Role of the HPA Axis in Hyperstimulation Anxiety
One of the most important communication loops in your body is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, commonly referred to as the HPA axis. This axis communicates in a top-down fashion. As a response to stress, your brain talks to your hypothalamus, which sends a chemical signal to your pituitary gland, which releases the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which turns on output from your adrenals so that your adrenals release the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline .
When cortisol reaches high enough levels, it suppresses the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to help regulate your fight-or-flight response. Many people are familiar with the term “adrenal fatigue” as a state of burnout. In reality, it’s not that the adrenal glands stop working; rather, after a chronic stimulation of stress hormones, the communication between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands breaks down.
The physiological chain of events that results from high stress is a process that usually happens over a long period of time. At first, you might experience blood sugar dysregulation and cravings for caffeine and sugar, followed by fatigue or a “tired and wired” feeling. You may also experience trouble staying asleep.
What Are the Signs of Hyperstimulation Anxiety?
Hyperstimulation anxiety resulting from chronic stress can be experienced differently from person to person. However, some common signs include trouble sleeping, impaired cognitive function (such as memory and concentration), a short fuse, muscle tension, and headaches.
Many times, these feelings lead people to make diet and lifestyle choices that seem like they help short term, but exacerbate the problem long term. These common habits include reaching for stimulating foods (like coffee, sugar, and refined carbohydrates), not exercising due to lack of motivation, and not drinking enough water. It becomes a cascade of phenomena that can become a vicious cycle if not stopped.
What Can I Do About It?
The good news is that there are many steps you can take to manage stress and support hyperstimulation anxiety. Consider the following strategies:
Know Your Triggers
First and foremost, know yourself and understand your personal triggers. For example, if talking in front of groups is extremely stress-inducing for you, try to minimize your time speaking in front of groups. Find the things in your life that insight a stress response and figure out ways to reduce these events.
Get Adequate Rest
The average American over the age of 25 sleeps less than six hours each night. Finding strategies to get an adequate amount of restful sleep is critical for curbing hyperstimulation anxiety. Try to create a pre-bed rutine that is conducive to getting to sleep and staying asleep. It might seem overly simple, but make sure that you have a nice quite, dark environment where you will not be disturbed. Mindfulness and breathing techniques are also a great way to prepare the body for restful sleep.
Daily Deep Relaxation
Taking just 10-20 minutes each day to practice relaxation techniques can make a world of difference. Whether it’s with meditation or meditative movement techniques like Qigong, yoga, or other techniques that relax you, give yourself a break during the day to simply be. Research shows that activities that promote syncing movement with breath can be incredibly helpful in reducing low mood and anxiousness. 1
RELATED CONTENT: How STRESS AFFECTS WEIGHT Management & THE METABOLisM
The right kind of exercise can help you maintain good mental health, but it may even be used as a means to reduce the risk of low mood, anxiousness, and other cognitive challenges. 2
Physical activity affects the brain by improving the delivery of nutrients and oxygen as well as increasing neurotrophic factors and hormones that support neuron connections and signaling, especially in the hippocampus. One theory refers to mental illness as “cognitive inflexibility.” So, similarly to how both nutritional and lifestyle changes can make us more metabolically flexible, exercise might also increase cognitive flexibility, leading to better overall mental health and less hyperstimulation anxiety.
Try to disconnect and shut off your devices as often as you can. If possible, set aside one full 24-hour period per week where you don’t pick up your phone, computer, or any other device. At the very least, commit to powering down 1-2 hours before bed every day. Studies show that moderate to severe depression are associated with higher amounts of screen time, so by making time to practice mindfulness and stay present without distractions, you’ll be feeling happier and healthier in no time. 3
Anxiety is a normal pathway of life, but it can quickly develop into hyperstimulation anxiety when repetitious behavior becomes a negative feedback loop. You might feel drained, a bit depressed, irritable, sleep-deprived, and constantly craving unhealthy foods. But with patience, commitment, and time, you can correct the patterns that lead to stress and get back to feeling like yourself again.
How to Deal with Driving Anxiety
Date Published: Fri, Dec 7, 2012
Date Modified: Wed, Jan 30, 2019
Publisher: Hypnosis Motivation Institute
Driving anxiety is a very common form of anxiety that can range in severity from a hesitation to drive, where anxiety is always present, all the way up to a total refusal to drive at all, in which case it becomes driving phobia. A phobia is a fear that is paralyzing but irrational. Driving phobia is one of the most common phobias.
Driving phobia is a form of agoraphobia, literally defined as is the fear of open spaces. But it’s not the fear of open spaces that scares people, it’s the fear of loss of control. People with a driving phobia fear being trapped in a traffic jam and unable to escape if they experience a panic attack, likewise, they also fear passing out, losing control of the vehicle, throwing up or getting into an accident. For many people, driving next to big trucks can be very nerve racking, as can be merging on the freeway or driving in the fast lane.
Driving Anxiety Symptoms
Symptoms of driving anxiety or phobia are similar to those of most other forms of anxiety: heart palpitations, perspiring and sweaty palms, disorientation, confusion, dizziness, dry mouth and shortness of breath. This is the classic “fight or flight response”. Sometimes people feel that they are going to die or go crazy. This can be really scary and people will avoid driving to avoid these kind of intense feelings. Of course, these are just feelings and even the most severe panic attacks don’t cause any long term ill effects.
Obviously, this can seriously impact a person’s ability to function on a daily basis if they need to drive to work or drive for a living, especially here in Southern California where driving is necessary to get anywhere fast.
Driving anxiety can start in many ways. Usually a person has experienced an incident such as a car accident or “close call” and that memory is still causing the subconscious mind to be protective. Sometimes, although not often, this kind of anxiety can show up seemingly out of the blue. If you are a person that is prone to anxiety or fear, then driving may just be one place where this shows up.
In addition, episodes of low blood sugar can create anxiety which can become associated with driving, if you happen to be driving when the low blood sugar takes place. Low blood sugar can be caused from not eating or after eating a meal high in simple carbs or sugar. This is especially true for those that have family histories of diabetes or hypoglycemia.
Driving anxiety can turn into a phobia though avoidance. In other words, of you have some fear of driving and you decide to stop altogether, it becomes a full blown phobia and the more you avoid it, the harder it is to get back in the saddle, so to speak. The good news is, fear of driving is a learned behavior. If you have ever felt comfortable driving, then that is something you learned, so if you are uncomfortable now, you can relearn how to be comfortable again.
Driving Anxiety Tips
Here are some tips to help you get back on the road feeling safe and comfortable and confident. If you are currently not driving due to fear, I highly recommend that you seek help as many have been able to resume driving with the help of a good Therapist or Hypnotherapist.
- The basics: Avoid driving on an empty stomach. Pay attention to how you feel after eating certain foods, especially those high in sugar or simple carbs (bread, pastries, soft drinks). Drinking alcohol the night before can also trigger blood sugar imbalances. Also, if you are driving while sleep deprived, you are asking for trouble. Start by taking care of yourself.
- Caffeine: is a known trigger for anxiety. Some of my clients have felt a marked relief in anxiety just by cutting back on caffeinated beverages.
- Consider car pooling: If you are engaged in conversation you are less liable to think anxious thoughts. You also have to drive half as much. Think this one over carefully, as some people are more distracted while conversing while driving.
- Manage your stress: A common cause for anxiety is extended periods of overwhelming stress. Do what you can to lower your stress level: exercise, take more breaks, meditation, yoga, etc.
- Affirmations: Hand write, in script, some positive affirmation about your ability to drive calm, comfortable and relaxed. For example “I’m calm, comfortable and relaxed while driving and enjoying listening to music (the radio, audio books, etc.)” Read them right before you go to bed and right after you wake up. Say them out loud and imagine yourself driving while feeling calm and relaxed. Don’t underestimate the power of this simple exercise.
- What really stops most people is the anticipatory anxiety: “Oh my God, I need to drive tomorrow out to the west side. I just know this is going to cause me a lot of anxiety. I’m already feeling it!” Instead, try saying something like “Yeah, if I feel anxious I know I can handle it.”
- Desensitization: This is a therapeutic technique which can help you become more comfortable with what is fearful. I use desensitization with clients while they are in hypnosis. It involves taking small steps to put yourself in situations that trigger anxiety. For example, if you can’t even drive your car, then you might start by sitting in the parked car in the driveway or on the street with the engine on but not moving. Notice whatever anxiety comes up and just be with it. Do that for longer periods of time until you can sit in the car, engine running, without anxiety. When you reach that point, and it may take a few hours or a few days, then drive around the block. If you feel anxiety, just pull over until it goes away, then continue driving. For freeway driving, you might try getting on one on ramp, staying in the slow lane, and then getting off on the next off ramp.
The most important thing to realize is that even though anxiety does not feel good, it will not kill you. It is your reaction to the feeling of anxiety that can make it manageable or not. Instead of fighting anxiety, just allow it to be. Notice it, and see if you can observe it with detachment. Take deep breaths and try to remain in the present moment. Realize you have a tendency to create anxiety with your thoughts so try focusing on something else, like the environment, music, or the cars in front of you.
If you are still driving even though you experience anxiety, these tips can be helpful and good luck. However, if your level of anxiety is very high or if you are phobic, you will probably need some help. As a hypnotherapist specializing in anxiety, I can tell you that you don’t need to live with the anxiety; hypnotherapy can be effective for allowing you to drive comfortably, confidently and safely.
We all feel anxious from time to time. When faced with an important test, or a major life change, anxiety may be a perfectly normal response. For a person suffering from an anxiety disorder, however, anxiety is more than an occasional worry. Severe or chronic anxiety may affect your relationships, school performance, or job. Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder are among the most common anxiety disorders.
Approximately 40 million adults in the U.S. (18%) are affected by an anxiety disorder. In fact, it is the most common mental health problem in the U.S. Children and teens are also affected and most people begin experiencing symptoms before age 21.
While each form of anxiety disorder has distinct symptoms, they also may share common symptoms.
Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms may include:
- Excessive or uncontrolled worry
- Feeling edgy or restless
- Problems focusing or concentrating on a task
- Unusual fatigue
- Muscle tension or headaches
- Frequent sleep problems
Treatment for anxiety disorders may involve a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and medication. But there are many simple techniques that have proven effective for those in the midst of an anxiety attack.
Here are ten ways to quickly reduce your anxiety and relax:
1. Remember to breathe
Stop for a moment and focus on breathing deeply. Sit up straight, then take a long breath through your nose, hold it for the count of three, then exhale slowly, while relaxing the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders and abdominal area. This will help slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure. Practice your deep breathing from time to time so that it becomes second nature to do it when under stress.
2. Take a mental step back
Anxiety tends to be focused on the future, so instead, try to focus on the present. Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Freeing Yourself from Anxiety, suggests that you ask yourself what is happening and what, if anything, needs to be done right now. If nothing needs to be done now, make a conscious decision to revisit the situation later in the day, when you are calmer.
3. Follow the 3-3-3 rule
This is a simple way to change your focus. Start by looking around you and naming three things you can see. Then listen. What three sounds do you hear? Next, move three parts of your body, such as your fingers, toes, or clench and release your shoulders.
Research shows that practicing mindful meditation can reduce anxiety and other psychological stresses. We are all capable of mindfulness, but it is easier to do when we have practiced and made it a habit. If you are new to the practice, you may wish to try guided meditation with the assistance of audiotapes or a phone app. It is not difficult or exotic, but just learning to pay attention to the present. Just sit up straight with your feet on the floor. Close your eyes and recite, either out loud or to yourself, a mantra. The mantra can be any positive statement or sound you choose. Try to sync the mantra with your breaths. If your mind drifts to distracting thoughts, don’t get frustrated. Just refocus and continue. Try to practice a few minutes each day and it will be an easy and accessible tool for your anti-anxiety toolkit.
5. Reach out
Telling a trusted friend or family member how you are feeling is a very personal decision, but those who are close to you can be a tremendous resource for handling anxiety. Talking to someone else, preferably in person, or by phone can offer a new perspective on your situation. Don’t hesitate to ask for what you need. If you need someone to go with you to a movie, or for a walk, or just to sit with you for a time, speak up. No matter what, it is always comforting to talk to someone who cares about you.
6. Physical activity
Not a long distance runner or athlete? This is probably not the moment to start extreme training. Remember though, that all forms of exercise are good for you and help ease the symptoms of anxiety. Even gentle forms of exercise, such as walking, yoga, or tai chi, release those feel-good chemicals. If you are not able to do those immediately, do some stretching exercises at your desk, or take a short walk outside during lunch.
According to a 2015 study, people with mild or severe anxiety benefit from listening to soothing music. Music has been proven to lower the heart rate and blood pressure. Keep music available so that you can easily listen to your favorite songs or even nature sounds. Create playlists so that you can listen and get quick relief from symptoms. Research also shows that singing releases endorphins and oxytocin, which alleviates anxiety. Apparently, you don’t even have to be good. Just sing.
8. Be kind to yourself
Sometimes you just need to do something to help you feel better. That may mean getting a massage, or a soothing facial. To relax quickly, put a warmed heat wrap around your neck and shoulders. Close your eyes and relax the muscles in your face and neck. Sometimes it helps to simply disconnect from the noise of the world. Even if you only have five minutes, turn off your phone, computer, television and let the world turn without you for a little while. Silent time is soothing.
Anxiety is certainly no joke, but laughter has some surprising benefits. Similar to deep breathing, the act of laughing increases oxygen levels and helps with muscle relaxation. Laughter just feels good and lightens and shifts our focus. Watch a comedy or call that friend who always makes you laugh. You’ll be glad you did.
If you have a creative streak, use it. The arts offer an outlook for all of those anxious feelings. If you are artistic, take a few minutes to draw or paint how you are feeling. Keep a soothing picture of a beach or your “happy place” where you can look at it and take a mental vacation. Expressive writing has been shown to help with anxiety and depression. Keeping a gratitude journal reduces negative thoughts and helps you remember all the good things in your life. Try writing in your gratitude journal at bedtime. It may help you sleep better.
You may wish to make a short list of helpful tips which have worked for you so that you can refer to it when you are overwhelmed by anxiety symptoms. Remember, we are here to help you understand and deal with your anxiety. For further information or to make an appointment with a counselor, contact us.
The worrying never ends with this common disorder
by Andrea Barbalich, AARP, May 23, 2019
En español | Nearly everyone is a little anxious — or even very anxious — sometimes. And that periodic feeling of worry or dread can be protective. Feeling nervous about whether you’ll give a good presentation, for example, can keep you alert and maybe help you ace it.
But when worry begins to interfere with your ability to perform everyday tasks, that could be a sign of an anxiety disorder — the most common mental illness in the United States. Each year, about 18 percent of American adults age 18 and older suffer from an anxiety disorder, an umbrella term that includes generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety and phobias, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are closely related.
Among older Americans, the most prevalent anxiety disorder is generalized anxiety, a condition characterized by a pervasive sense of worry about a wide range of things, according to the ADAA.
“This makes sense when you consider that many older adults struggle with loss, isolation, medical and physical limitations, and financial stress,” says Stephen Ferrando, M.D., director of psychiatry at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y.
Phobias are also more common among older adults, Ferrando notes, particularly agoraphobia, which is the fear of going out or being in crowds.
Sometimes a disorder that was previously diagnosed gets worse with age; in other cases an adult develops a new condition later in life.
The difference between stress and anxiety
“I think of anxiety as a very internal feeling,” says Ashley Zucker, M.D., director of psychiatry at Kaiser Permanente in Fontana, Calif. “And it’s usually in anticipation of a future threat — you’re worried about something that might happen.”
Anxiety rises above what you would consider a normal response to a fear and often continues after the possible threat or incident has gone away. “The person continues to worry about something that already occurred,” Zucker says. “ ‘Did I make a mistake?’ ‘Did I say the wrong thing?’ The brain can’t let it go.”
Stress, on the other hand, is a response to an external event, say, a deadline at work or an argument with a spouse. “Once it’s passed, it goes away,” Zucker says. “It doesn’t have that lingering effect that anxiety does.” Stress also tends to be less debilitating.
Why it’s a problem
Chronic anxiety can prevent you from meeting your daily responsibilities, at work, at home or socially. “It gets in the way of getting along with other people, both meeting new people and maintaining existing relationships,” says Jane Timmons-Mitchell, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
The physical effects can be wide-ranging, as well. “Anxiety can impact physical health in almost any way you can imagine,” Zucker says. “It’s very, very powerful.” It can contribute to sleeplessness, gastrointestinal difficulties, breathing problems, back pain and cardiovascular disease.
Boost Your Brain Health With Staying Sharp
Treating chronic anxiety
Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, but only 37 percent of people receive the care they need, according to the ADAA. If you sense that your anxiety is interfering with your daily life, it’s important to get professional help, rather than try to struggle through it on your own. Experts recommend the following strategies.
Seek out an expert
“Start with your primary care physician,” Zucker advises. “Most people have a relationship with theirs, so that’s the most comfortable person to go to. And that person is usually well equipped to know what resources are available within your local community.” Your doctor can provide a referral to a psychologist, psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse or social worker, Timmons-Mitchell says.
Participate in therapy
This is usually the first-line treatment for someone with anxiety. Several types of therapy can be used, but the most common is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), Zucker says. “It teaches you how to manage what’s here — not get rid of it or ignore it but help yourself work through it.”
As for the opinion that therapy can’t help older people, forget it. “It’s a myth,” Ferrando says. “When you look at therapy interventions for older adults, you see response rates that are comparable to younger adults.”
Be informed about medication
“Some antianxiety drugs can be addiction forming and can also impair cognitive functioning,” Ferrando cautions. “They can be effective, but you have a lot more concerns about tolerability in older adults.” An alternative: antidepressants. “They’ve been proven effective across the spectrum of anxiety disorders and are much better tolerated by most people,” he says. “They also help treat the depression component if depression is there.” (Nearly half of people diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, according to the ADAA.) Zucker and many other experts don’t prescribe drugs without therapy. “The two go hand in hand,” she says.
“Anything you can do to combat social isolation is huge,” Ferrando says. Get together with family and friends as much as you can. Join a club or activity in your community. Engage in volunteer work. Some insurance plans also cover in-home mental health services.
Physical activity has been shown to ease anxiety. If you work out with other people, it can help alleviate isolation, too.
Consider pet therapy
“Pets can be extremely calming,” Ferrando observes. “In fact, they can be lifesaving.” If you don’t have a pet, ask your doctor about places in your community where you may be able to visit one or programs that may bring an animal to you.
“You can do a great exercise in less than a minute that can help you in a moment of significant anxiety,” Zucker says. Set a timer for one minute. Sit in a chair, with your feet on the floor. Take 10 deep breaths while focusing on your breathing. Feel your feet on the floor, your body in the chair, your back against the chair. When random thoughts pop into your head, recognize that you have the thought but go back to feeling yourself in the chair. “This re-centers and calms you,” she says.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Chances are you’ve seen an increase in anxiety in your classroom and school— particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7.1 percent of children aged 3 to 17 (approximately 4.4 million) have been diagnosed with anxiety. With symptoms such as trouble concentrating, an upset stomach, or sleeplessness, anxiety can be one of the most debilitating challenges students face in classrooms today.
We know anxiety is more than just “worries.” It can influence classroom performance just as much as any other learning disability. Kids who are worried and anxious aren’t doing it on purpose. The nervous system acts automatically, especially when it comes to worry (which often stems from fight or flight reflexes). That’s why phrases like “just relax” or “calm down” aren’t helpful.
But with practice, kids can learn to slow down their anxious brains, and we can learn to help them. Here are a few ways you can help anxious kids in the classroom.
1. Practice those deep breaths
When people slow down their breathing, they slow down their brain. When I notice that one of my kids is struggling with anxiety, I’ll often lead the whole class in a breathing exercise. It helps the child who is overwhelmed and usually a few other kids too. Sometimes, I’ll do it just because the whole class is squirrelly and we need to focus. Slow, deep breaths are the key. This article about belly breathing describes the process I like to use with my kids. It works every single time.
2. Take a break and go outside
Being out in nature can also calm an anxious brains. Sometimes just a change of scenery is what makes the difference. Breathing the cool air or making time to notice chirping birds can also calm an overactive worrier. Asking students to carefully observe their environment can help them turn the focus away from their worries and toward something more tangible: How many different kinds of trees do you see? How many different bird songs do you hear? How many different shades of green are in the grass?
It doesn’t hurt for us to take a mental break sometimes too. Check out 20 Terrific Guided Meditation for Teachers.
3. Talk openly about anxiety
Don’t set anxiety up as something you want (or should) get rid of. It’s part of life, and it’s not realistic to think it’ll go away completely. You can help students see and understand this in your own actions. Check out this great article of what you should (and shouldn’t) do when working with kids dealing with anxiety.
4. Get kids moving
Exercise helps anyone who is feeling anxious. Anxiety can end up looking like anger, so if you see this, try taking a movement break. You probably already have some favorite ways to do this, but if you’re looking for some ideas, check out our video above. You can also get the free set of printables for that right here.
5. Try walking and talking
Building on the moving idea, if you have a student that needs some one-on-one attention, try the “On My Walk” activity. I used to have a student who struggled a lot with anxiety, and this worked great with her. After a couple of loops around the playground with me, everything would feel a little better. Our walk served three purposes: 1. It removed her from the situation. 2. It gave her a chance to explain the issue to me. 3. It got her blood pumping, which clears out the anxiety-producing energy and brings in the positive exercise endorphins.
6. Focus on the positive by having students keep a gratitude journal
The brain is incapable of producing anxious thoughts while it is producing positive thoughts stemming from gratitude. If you can trigger a positive train of thought, you can sometimes derail the anxiety. I knew a teacher who had his fifth graders keep gratitude journals, and every day they would record at least one thing they were thankful for. When his students seemed overwhelmed by negativity or mired in anxiety, he’d encourage them to reread their journals.
Check out the video above for another inspiring teacher or these 20 videos to help kids understand gratitude.
7. Remind kids to eat healthy and stay well
For the most part, teachers don’t really have a lot of control over what students eat and how much they sleep, but these things do matter when it comes to managing anxiety. Not surprisingly, a healthy diet and plenty of sleep make a difference in how well a student is able to handle situations that could be overwhelming. It’s one of the reasons that snack and rest time are an essential part of the day for preschoolers!
For your younger students, check out 17 tasty books that teach kids about nutrition and healthy eating habits, for a list of picture books about healthy eating.
8. Share a story with your students.
Often, when one of my kids is struggling, the school counselor will come and share a picture book about managing anxiety with the entire class. Some kids may not be receptive to direct, one-on-one intervention, but they will respond beautifully if they know the whole class is receiving the same information. Check out this list of great books for kids with anxiety.
9. Create a space where kids can express their anxiety
You’ve probably heard of classroom safe spaces, and this is a great option to offer if you have students dealing with anxiety. Another idea, which can stand on its own or be part of your safe space, is offering classroom fidgets. Sometimes this can work wonders in just giving kids an outlet. Here are some of our favorite classroom fidgets.
10. Offer individual accommodations
For older students, accommodations can make all the difference. Many students struggle with performance anxiety, especially when it comes to tests. When a student is feeling anxious, their brain simply can’t function as effectively. When we can set up our tests and assignments so anxious kids are less stressed, they’ll likely perform better. Extended time and cue sheets could help kids who suffer from test anxiety. For other accommodations for kids who struggle with anxiety, check out this list from Worry Wise Kids.
The good news about anxiety is that it is one of the most manageable mental-health struggles that children face in the classroom. With the right support and strategies, most children are able to develop strategies that help them manage their anxiety.
The Child Mind Institute offers a “Symptom Checker” to help inform you about a student’s possible diagnoses and information and articles to help facilitate a conversation.
Uncontrollable and persistent anxiety that interferes with your daily life may indicate generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Take this assessment to see if you have symptoms common in people with an anxiety disorder.
Who Is This Anxiety Quiz For?
Below is a list of questions designed for people who are experiencing anxiety-inducing thoughts. The questions relate to life experiences common among people who have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Please read each question carefully, and indicate how often you have experienced the same or similar challenges in the past few months.
How Accurate Is It?
This quiz is NOT a diagnostic tool. Mental health disorders can only be diagnosed by licensed health care professionals.
Psycom believes assessments can be a valuable first step toward getting treatment. All too often people stop short of seeking help out of fear their concerns aren’t legitimate or severe enough to warrant professional intervention.
You Are Not Alone
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting some 40 million adults, or about 18% of the population.
Childhood anxiety disorders are even more common, affecting one-quarter of those ages 13 to 18 in the U.S.
And nearly half of those diagnosed with depression — which affects 17.3 million adults 18 and older in the U.S. and 264 million people worldwide — are also diagnosed with anxiety.
So the next time you feel alone, or like no one will understand, take comfort in the fact that you are part of the 1 in 13 people worldwide who suffers from anxiety, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). That’s hundreds of millions of people who get it!
How Do I Get Tested for Anxiety?
While online quizzes like this can help someone understand their feelings, they should be followed up with a professional assessment. Your medical doctor or a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or licensed clinical social worker, can help.
According to NYU Langone Health, an anxiety test for adults from a health care professional will include a physical exam, a lot of questions about your symptoms and any medications you are taking (some drugs can cause anxiety as a side effect), and potentially a blood test, to rule out any physical conditions that could be causing anxiety like hypothyroidism.
If physical or pharmaceutical causes are ruled out, a health care professional will then conduct a psychological evaluation, asking more questions about your symptoms — including how long you’ve experienced them and whether they persist or come and go — and whether anyone in your family has had a history of anxiety disorder or depression. This eval can also detect or rule out the presence of conditions like PTSD or an eating disorder, which can accompany anxiety disorders.
Can I get diagnosed with anxiety by an online mental health provider?
While online assessments can let you know whether you are experiencing symptoms associated with an anxiety disorder, it’s best to see a health care professional in person to rule out or discover and treat any physical causes of your symptoms. Only qualified health care professionals can make an accurate diagnosis and start you on a treatment plan.
How Is Anxiety Treated?
Anxiety is highly treatable often through a combination of cognitive behavior therapy and, in some cases, medication.
Your privacy is important to us. All results are completely anonymous.
Ask some people this question, and they will tell you to just “snap out of it.” However, as someone who recovered from anxiety as a sufferer and someone who treated anxiety as a psychiatrist, “snapping out of it”is certainly not the answer. The sheer intensity of the ruminating and maladaptive thoughts just churns in your head to the point where the anxiety becomes unbearable. But you can’t “snap out of it”…the thoughts are too intense, seemingly circular in logic, and lingering and repeating with no end. And this in turn may crescendo and culminate in an anxiety attack. Fortunately, there are ways to help decrease anxiety, so that it does not spiral out of control.
The following are some techniques and coping skills to help decrease anxiety:
Take a Time Out
Stop what you are doing now. Stop moving, stop talking, and stop thinking…time out. Get yourself to a place where you can pull yourself together.
Take Slow, Deep Breaths
Anxiety attacks may induce rapid and shallow breathing. Slow down the breathing and take deep breaths. Counting breaths is one method to slow down breathing. Count the breaths slowly, using the familiar “One-Mississippi, Two-Mississippi” and so forth. Eventually, the rhythm slows down, and the anxiety attack subsides.
Take a wet washcloth and wipe down your face and neck, as anxiety can induce heat and sweat. Cooling down can help to reduce the intensity of an anxiety attack.
Visualize a Relaxing Scene
Try to visualize a relaxing scene, like a day at the beach, relaxing on a hammock, etc. This helps to distract you from your anxious thoughts. In addition, the visualization is relaxing and soothing.
Take a Walk
Walking can help to distract you from intense anxiety symptoms. It also discharges the pent-up, nervous energy associated with anxiety.
To further discharge nervous energy, consider going to the gym or going for a swim. Exercise will also distract you from your anxious thoughts. In addition, exercise releases endorphins into the brain, giving you a feeling of well-being.
Get Fresh Air
In the midst of having an anxiety attack, social anxiety, or generalized worry, going outside for fresh air can help you to regulate breathing, have a change of scenery, and reduce anxiety.
Relax, Listen to Music
Try relaxing to help calm down an anxiety attack and overall anxiety level. Try listening to calm, soothing music, light some candles with a nice fragrance, soak in the tub.
Get Rest, Go To Sleep
Rest and adequate sleep are very helpful to someone who is anxious, as it helps you to recover and to incorporate new techniques to combat anxiety.
Eating addresses the anorexic effects of anxiety, and eating helps to replenish calories and nutrients needed for recovery from anxiety.
Read a Good Book, Watch a Movie
Just for fun, read a good book, or watch a good movie…fun ways to take a break from anxiety. These fun activities help you to escape from the realities of your daily struggles and to escape into the story of a book or movie.
Meditation is helpful to quiet down your mind. It can help you to regulate breathing and help you to decrease overall anxiety levels.
Prayer may be helpful to decrease anxiety, and you do not necessarily need to pray to God…some people like to pray to a Higher Power. Praying to God or a Higher Power can be helpful to regain a sense of control over a situation that seems out of control. Having faith that a Higher Power can help you recover from anxiety is also considered positive self-affirmation, which is helpful for anxiety.
Use the Restroom
Voiding and ridding yourself of toxins can be helpful, as anxiety attacks can induce urge incontinence. Also, a splash of water on the face and neck can cool you down.
Talk to Someone
Seek reassurance from another person. Find a trusted person that knows how to help you through your anxiety attack. Ideally, you will have notified and educated this person on how to reassure you during an attack. This reassuring person can help to slow down your breathing, help cool you down, or just be present in case you need extra help.
Focus on Something Else
Do something different…what you are focusing on now is not helpful.
Take One Step at a Time
Don’t plan too far ahead…one day at a time, one foot in front of the other.
Draw, play music, or write a poem.
What do you see around you? What do you smell, hear, or touch? Hold an object that is comforting, like a rock.
Engage in your Hobby or Interest
If you don’t have a hobby, take one up. What are your interests?
Write Down your Thoughts and Feelings
This will get it out of your head. Fill out a negative cycle form in Anxiety Protocol.
Tell yourself that you are strong and capable, and you were able to handle a similar situation before. Also tell yourself that this will pass, and in time, your anxiety will get better.
In summary, this article discussed some techniques and coping skills to help with anxiety. To learn more about techniques and coping skills for anxiety, read my book, Anxiety Protocol. Anxiety Protocol will help you to eradicate anxiety from your life.
Find Your Dream School
COVID-19 Update: To help students through this crisis, The Princeton Review will continue our “Enroll with Confidence” refund policies. For full details, please click here.
Enter your email to unlock an extra $25 off an SAT or ACT program!
Has this ever happened to you? You’ve been studying hard for your chemistry midterm, but when you walk into your exam, your mind goes blank. As you sit down to start your test, you notice your sweaty palms and a pit in your stomach.
If these classic signs of test anxiety sound familiar, your grades and test scores may not reflect your true abilities. Learn ways to manage test anxiety before and during a stressful test.
What is Test Anxiety?
While it’s completely normal to feel a bit nervous before a test, some students find test anxiety debilitating. Racing thoughts, inability to concentrate, or feelings of dread can combine with physical symptoms like a fast heartbeat, headache, or nausea. Whether it’s the ACT, an AP exam, or an important history final, test anxiety has the power to derail weeks and months of hard work.
Test Anxiety Tips
According to the ADAA, causes of test anxiety may include a fear of failure, lack of adequate prep time, or bad experiences taking tests in the past. You’re not alone! Here’s what you can do to stay calm in the days leading up to and during your test.
1. Be prepared.
Yes, this seems obvious, but it bears repeating. If you feel confident that you’ve prepped thoroughly, you’ll feel more confident walking into the test. Need help reviewing tough concepts or question types? The test prep experts at The Princeton Review can provide that extra boost you need to feel cool and collected.
2. Get a good night’s sleep.
Cramming is never the answer, and pulling an all-nighter can exacerbate your nerves. Having adequate rest (9–10 hours per night) is likely to be more beneficial than rereading a text until dawn (But if you ARE up late studying and have a question, our on-demand tutors are there for you.)
3. Fuel up.
Eat a nutritious breakfast before the test and pack smart snacks for ongoing energy. Look for foods that offer a steady stream of nutrients, rather than a sugar high followed by a crash.
4. Get to class—or the testing site—early .
Feeling rushed will only amp up the anxiety. Pack everything you need for the exam the night before and set the alarm, so you can get out the door on time.
5. Have a positive mental attitude .
Bring a picture of your happy place or come up with a morale-boosting mantra like “I can do this” or “I worked hard and deserve this.” Peek at your picture or recite your mantra, right before the test begins.
6. Read carefully.
Read the directions thoroughly and read all answers before making a choice or starting the essay. There is nothing worse than putting time into a question and realizing you are not solving for x, or the essay is off target. Slowing down can help you stay focused.
7. Just start.
The blank page can maximize your anxiety. After you’ve read the directions, dive right in by making an outline for an essay answer. Or, find some questions you can ace to build up your confidence and momentum. You can always go back and change things later if needed, but a few quick answers can get the ball rolling.
8. Don’t pay attention to what other people are doing.
Everyone else is scribbling away? Ack! What do they know that you don’t? It doesn’t matter. Pay attention to your own test and pace, and forget about the other students in the room.
9. Watch the clock .
Realizing that time is almost up and there are lots of test questions left can make it hard to do anything useful in those final minutes. Stay on pace by scoping out the whole test before getting started. Mentally allocate how much time you’ll spend on each section. If there’s time to recheck, even better.
10. Focus on calm breathing and positive thoughts .
Deep breathing can slow down a beating heart or a racing mind, so practice these techniques at home. The very act of concentrating on breathing and thinking can biometrically alter those anxious feelings.
Sometimes just remembering that some test-taking anxiety is a normal part of school can help make it easier to handle. If you need a confidence boost, try a session with an online tutor. From PhDs and Ivy Leaguers to doctors and teachers, our tutors are experts in their fields, and they know how to keep your anxiety at bay.
Stuck on homework?
Try an online tutoring session with one of our experts, and get homework help in 40+ subjects.
If you have an anxiety disorder, your symptoms may get worse at that time of the month.
Out of nowhere, your heart starts racing, your brain feels like someone is squeezing it, your mind goes to dark places, and you just don’t feel quite right. The anxiety may be related to a specific cause or it may be a free-floating sense of doom. Instead of occurring at any time, like generalized anxiety disorder, this prickly feeling seems to coincide with the onset of menstruation.
No, you are not losing your grip: You are experiencing a very common spike in anxiety due to hormonal fluctuations. Sometimes the shift in hormones can cause you to experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or even premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). According to American Family Physician, “around 85 percent of menstruating women report having one or more premenstrual symptoms, and 2 to 10 percent report disabling, incapacitating symptoms.”
The Link Between Anxiety and Your Menstrual Period
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, between the ages of 14 to 50, women are at double the risk of anxiety compared with men. Part of the reason may be the hormonal flux of the menstrual cycle, says Yael Nillni, PhD, an assistant professor at the Boston University School of Medicine and a clinical research psychologist at the National Center for PTSD at the VA Boston Health Care System.
“Right before your period starts, estradiol and progesterone are declining rapidly,” Dr. Nillni explains. “Researchers have speculated that rapid hormonal withdrawal might underlie those symptoms. However, reactions to these normal hormone changes are unique; some women experience mood changes across their menstrual cycles, while some experience minimal changes in their mood related to their menstrual cycle.”
Is Feeling Anxious During Your Cycle Normal?
For some women, anxiety is par for the course, says Nillni. “A large portion of women will feel some sort of mood or affect change before their period. It’s not necessarily anxiety — it could also be feeling more irritable, sad, or having mood swings.” Or you could feel no different at all. Only a small minority of women, about 3 to 8 percent, will experience mood changes around the menstrual cycle that cause significant disruption in their daily lives.
Is Anxiety Part of PMS and PMDD?
“Some women with anxiety problems may experience a premenstrual exacerbation of their anxiety symptoms. Also, some of the factors that predict anxiety-related problems also predict PMS, suggesting a potential link between these two problems,” says Nillni. She adds that for a diagnosis of PMDD, you need to have one or more of the following mood symptoms: mood swings, depressed mood, anxiety, or irritability, along with other physical symptoms such as fatigue, appetite, and sleep changes. Additionally, these symptoms must occur during most menstrual cycles and cause significant distress or impairment.
Getting Help for Your Anxiety During Your Menstrual Cycle
Are you experiencing PMS or PMDD? Nillni says you should ask yourself how distressing or impairing the symptoms are: Is it interfering with your ability to work or go to school, engage in your hobbies, interact with your family and friends, or socialize? Those are signs that something unusual is going on and you should seek help.
Home Remedies to Alleviate Feeling Anxious With Your Period
Laurie Steelsmith, ND, a naturopathic doctor, acupuncturist, and author of Natural Choices for Women’s Health recommends the following self-care strategies.
- Exercise You don’t have to go to the gym. Dance at home, go for a walk or run. Move in all directions, not just up and down. “You increase your oxygen intake and circulation through movement, which increases blood flow to your liver. This helps your liver break down your hormones,” says Dr. Steelsmith.
- Restorativeyoga This practice puts you into a parasympathetic (calm) state. “It takes you right out of that fight-or-flight anxious feeling,” she says.
- Avoid caffeine This stimulant can cause your heart to race, which mimics a panic attack.
- Magnesium The crucial mineral can balance the neurotransmittersglutamate and GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid). The first is a stimulating neurotransmitter or brain chemical; the second is a calming one. Consult your doctor before you add this or any supplement to your regular diet.
- Vitamin B6 According to the National Institutes of Health, there is some preliminary data showing that this B vitamin can help with PMS symptoms.
- L-theanine Found in green tea, this amino acid has been shown to relax the mind without making you sleepy, according to research published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Medications and Therapies That Can Help With Menstrual-Associated Anxiety
If self-care doesn’t work, talk with your physician about prescription medications, says Thalia Robakis, MD, PhD, the codirector of the Women’s Mental Health Program at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
- Anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), buspirone, propanolol, and benzodiazepine.
- Hormonal birth control, such as the pill, ring, or patch, can be useful to women whose irritability is specifically premenstrual. Women whose anxiety or irritability is not related to their menstrual cycle may find that hormonal birth control affects their mood adversely.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) This form of psychotherapy helps you to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.