Anxiety is certainly at the top of our minds during these unprecedented times. Life is unpredictable and uncertain – this creates anxiety and stress in people. But when there are collective world experiences that bring greater uncertainty in our daily lives, this can fuel and perpetuate our anxieties even further. During these times of heightened doubt and constant change, coping can be challenging for many.
What Anxiety Can Feel Like
Anxiety can manifest in different ways for different people. Essentially, anxiety is an unpleasant feeling that we all experience from time-to-time but for some, it is a constant feeling of fear and dread that can be all too consuming. When suffering from anxiety, we experience a variety of uncomfortable symptoms and sensations:
-Psychologically – rapid negative thoughts and constant worrying over extended periods of time
-Emotionally – feeling nervous, stressed, irritable or uptight
-Physiologically – tense body, heart racing/palpitations, tension in chest or stomach, dizziness, or shortness of breath
-Behaviourally – pacing around, difficulty relaxing, getting flustered and snapping at people
Almost always, our way of coping with anxiety is avoidance. Through avoidance, our anxiety is sustained and continues to perpetuate – we’ve all done this.
Understanding Anxiety – What Causes it and Keeps it Going?
Life Experiences. We experience anxiety when life is stressful and when there are multiple pressures that occur at once. For instance, someone who might be experiencing difficulties at work, financial issues and interpersonal conflicts might be at a higher risk of suffering from anxiety. Adding the complex stresses we all face during this pandemic into the mix can often amplify stress and anxiety. We can also develop anxiety based on past aversive life experiences. For example, when someone gets into a car accident, they are more likely to be afraid to get back into the car.
Thought Patterns. Anxiety can develop and be maintained through our thinking styles. People who are anxious often have patterns of thoughts that resemble worst case scenarios and have excessive worries. This thinking style also allows us to focus on things that aren’t going well, which makes us hypersensitive to situations and experiences that don’t go according to plan. As a result, people often feel on edge, and are unable to relax.
Basic Survival Mechanism. As evolutionary creatures, anxiety serves a purpose in protecting us. Perceived threat or danger triggers fear, which signals our bodies for a fight or flight response to help us respond to that perceived threat. These responses served us back in the days when there were constant threats to our primitive selves; however, modern humans do not experience the same threats and often we cannot run away or fight them (i.e., relationship, work or financial issues), thus we are left feeling stuck and in a ‘freeze’ state.
All these factors and how you cope determines the intensity and frequency of anxiety and negative effects of stress.
To learn how to better manage your anxiety, please click here.
If your anxiety is too overwhelming for you to handle at this time and you would like to talk to a mental health professional, please reach out for supports and book a free consultation to speak with a therapist on how to reclaim your life back.