6 Signs Your Anxiety May Be Making Your Problems Seem Worse
Everybody worries about something throughout the day. But those who experience anxiety might find those worries to be elevated. In order to avoid slipping into a panic attack, there are ways to tell if your anxiety is making a problem bigger than it is so that you can help yourself.
Anxiety disorders affect up to 40 million adults in the United States each year, making it the most common mental illness, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). And anxiety, according to Dr. Alexandra Lash, licensed clinical psychologist, is one of those things where no one size fits all. While some may experience physical symptoms of anxiety, others may face more emotional stressors. Dr. Lash tells Bustle, "Some worry is normative. There are stressors that are real. Anxiety is when it's impacting your function."
But there are ways to relieve these physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety when you feel them surfacing. "Find your own comfort," Dr. Lash says. "Try cooking or turning off electronics to re-read your favorite book." By stepping away from what provokes anxiety, you could help yourself from making a problem seem bigger than it is.
If you're experiencing anxiety symptoms, it's worth seeking help from a licensed therapist. The ADAA lists a number of therapy options to make finding support easier. Dr. Lindsay Henderson, PsyD, adds, "There are several telehealth providers, like LiveHealth Online that allow patients to choose the therapist of their choice and speak with them from their smartphone via video chat." It's crucial to understand that you are not alone and support is available.
But if you feel you're struggling, here are some signs your anxiety may be making a problem seem bigger, and it's time to ask for external help.
1. You're Losing Sleep
Your anxiety may be magnifying issues if you find that you can't sleep over the worry. If the number of hours of sleep you're getting each night is impacted negatively because you can't stop ruminating thoughts, your anxiety could be taking hold. One way you can help this is by leveling with your anxiety.
Dr. Lash says to try "Libra-ing." "Look at your problem and put it on a scale for perspective. Look at the worst case scenario (is it really as bad as the worry you're feeling towards it?). Also look at the best case scenario, this may be what ends up happening. Extreme worry can really cause us to think overly negative. It is important to make sure your thoughts are not too distorted." Giving worries perspective allows you to not let them inflate so that you're unable to catch those crucial zzz's.
2. You Don't Have Much Of An Appetite
Dr. Lash says that when people are "stressed out with responsibilities" they "stop tending to themselves." If you find yourself not being able to eat because you're consumed by a worry, your anxiety could be coming on a little too strong.
In order to relieve the symptoms Dr. Lash recommends "remove what's anxiety provoking." Instead of scrolling through Instagram, especially if social media seems to be a trigger, go on a long walk. Or, Dr. Lash says, "go on a power walk with your dog." You might find perspective between your anxiety and the problem and also work up an appetite.
3. You Can't Think Of Anything Else
When it comes to today's world everything seems "now, now, now." Dr. Lash says, "this is not an organic speed for humans." Having an "instant timeline" is hard to keep up with. And what this does is create "emotional challenges, not emotional space." To keep up, you might find that "you're compromising your mental health." If you find that you can't take space from a worry and that it's consuming your entire thought process, it could help to engage in what Dr. Lash calls a "safe activity" like reading a book or cooking to self sooth. This will hopefully help you gain perspective on the worry in question and ideally bring your anxiety levels down.
4. You Stop Doing Things You Love
Stress that's taunting you could be keeping you from participating in activities you typically enjoy.
Dr. Henderson says, "People who suffer from anxiety disorders frequently experience intense and persistent worry and fear in everyday situations. These feelings are not easily controlled, are out of proportion with the actual danger, and often interfere with daily activities." If you've stopped going to soccer practice or are holding yourself back from hanging out with your friends on Friday night, this could be a sign that it's time to confide in a loved one or professional for help.
5. You Stop Spending Time With Loved Ones
Your family and close friends are a support system. But sometimes, if your worries have turned to anxiety, you could find yourself spending less time with them to tend to your stress.
Fortunately, there are solid tactics to manage stress so that you can return to surrounding yourself with loved ones. "Learning to manage stress can help limit potential anxiety triggers," Dr. Henderson says. "A helpful tip would be to compile lists to help you organize upcoming deadlines and make tasks that may seem daunting, more manageable. Also, schedule some personal time off from work or school to clear your mind." Take a mental health day! Your wellness is important.
Dr. Henderson also recommends to lean on your support network. "It’s OK (and encouraged) to ask family members or friends who are supportive of you for help."
6. You're Sweating
Anxiety could amplify a problem to the point where you begin to sweat more than is typical for you. Besides sweating, Dr. Henderson also says gastrointestinal issues and an increased heart rate are common symptoms. If you begin to experience the physical effects of anxiety around a problem, acknowledge what's happening and take a step back. Dr. Henderson advises, "simple relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, getting lost in a good book, listening to soothing music, and even taking a long bath can help relieve anxiety."
Mental illnesses like anxiety are important to take seriously. Daily stressors are common, and anxiety can lend itself to making a certain problem seem worse than it is. Always know that there are a multitude of resources available to help you manage anxiety. And most importantly, that you are not alone.
Editor's Note: If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.