Mental Health Awareness Month: Anxiety

I’m sure you’re all familiar with anxiety. It’s a feeling we’ve all encountered many times before for a lot of different reasons. Many anxiety sufferers describe it as a feeling of nervousness and dread that can be distracting at best and all-consuming at worst. Anxiety is typically experienced on many levels, affecting your emotions, leading to uncomfortable physical sensations, and contributing to negative thoughts.

There’s also something called generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). It is a condition when the feeling of anxiety persists long-term, for at least six months. The DSM-5 (the diagnostic manual for mental health professionals) mentions that most people believe panic attacks are the hallmark of GAD, but they outline these symptoms:

  1. The presence of excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of topics, events, or activities. Worry occurs more often than not for at least 6 months and is clearly excessive.
  2. The worry is experienced as very challenging to control. The worry in both adults and children may easily shift from one topic to another.
  3. The anxiety and worry are accompanied with at least three of the following physical or cognitive symptoms (In children, only one symptom is necessary for a diagnosis of GAD):
    1. Edginess or restlessness
    2. Tiring easily, more fatigued than usual
    3. Impaired concentration or feeling as though the mind goes blank
    4. Irritability (which may or may not be observable to others)
    5. Increased muscle aches or soreness
    6. Difficulty sleeping (due to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness at night, or unsatisfying sleep)

Anxiety, however, isn’t always bad. Sometimes it’s just a warning sign meant for you to bring awareness to your current situation and make some necessary changes in life. If you’re continuously anxious over the same things it’s usually a clear indicator that it’s time for significant changes.

So what are some things you can do to relieve your anxiety ? First things first, if your anxiety feels too out of hand and/or you can relate to the symptoms listed above, definitely reach out to a professional. You can check here for a list of black mental health professionals in your area.

If you’re feeling suicidal you can immediately text ‘HELP’ to 741741 to speak with a crisis counselor. 

      Here’s 5 other things you can do to help you stop feeling anxious in your day to day:

1. Relabel what’s happening. Instead of talking about or thinking of how anxious or afraid you are, tell yourself that you’re excited ! This can look like telling yourself, “I’m excited to try something challenging !” instead of “I’m anxious about looking stupid if I try something new.”

2. Fact-check your thoughts. Often when we’re anxious it’s because we’re playing the worse case scenario game in our heads. Take a moment to write out how realistic the scenario it is. Then take it in the opposite direction and imagine if things go completely opposite of how you’re imagining. Then meet back in the present moment and analyze what has actually went down to make you feel this way.

3. Do some grounding. Grounding is a healthy distracting exercise to get you back into the present moment. Look around and name five things you can see. Then four things you can hear. Find three things you can smell, two things to feel and one thing you taste.

4. Switch directions. No matter what is you’re doing just stop and get up. Walk around, do a push up, dance a little. Taking any action will interrupt your devastating train of thought  and help pull you out of anxiety.

5. Practice your posture. When we’re feeling anxious we tend to slouch, slide down, and in other words rest our bodies way different than when we aren’t anxious. For an immediate physical antidote to that natural reaction try pulling your shoulders back, unclenching your jaw, unbarring your fist and sitting with your feet apart. Straightening your posture will signal to your brain that the threat is gone and that it can relax.

What do you do to help relieve your anxiety ? Let us know in the comments !

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