Having anxiety makes plenty of things in life more difficult, and for one simple, weird reason: Trouble focusing is a standard symptom of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which affects nearly seven million Americans. For people with GAD or other kinds of anxiety, their brains are hardwired to be more easily stimulated than the average noggin. Thanks largely to this heightened state of awareness, sometimes having anxiety can make it harder to complete everyday tasks. Luckily, there are lots of ways to combat anxiety, and the mental health community is developing more every day.
Still, if you or someone you know has anxiety, it's helpful to remember that anxiety can make simple things feel nearly impossible sometimes, and it's absolutely okay to struggle with those tasks. Sometimes the feeling that you can’t complete what seem like very simple tasks can itself cause more anxiety, but knowing that these are challenges that many people with anxiety face can help. Managing your anxiety through talk therapy, medication, mindfulness techniques, or other kinds of care can help ease the pressure that anxiety causes, and make it easier to complete the tasks of daily living.
Here are just a few seemingly-easy things that can be challenging when you have anxiety.
If you have anxiety, your appetite is likely going to be affected in some way. In my case, having anxiety can make eating feel like a chore. In fact, my appetite is so affected by my anxiety that keeping myself properly fed sometimes feels like an accomplishment. As Kimbre Zahn, M.D., told Shape in 2016, anxiety triggers the release of certain hormones in the brain, some of which suppress your appetite. "Those affected by generalized anxiety may be more likely to have chronic elevations of these hormones, resulting in prolonged appetite suppression," said Zahn.
It's not that I don't enjoy eating good food. I spend a disproportionate amount of money on fancy groceries, and I make myself eat at least three times a day. I also take healthy snacks with me everywhere, just in case I happen to get hungry. But on most days, anxiety tends to zap my appetite almost entirely. Thankfully, exercise (and weed) are two things that always help me out when my appetite is virtually nonexistent (though that may not be the solution for everyone). I've also found that keeping protein shakes and natural juices around is incredibly helpful — because sometimes it's easier to drink my meals than it is to eat them.
Breathing should be the most natural thing in the world, but for people with anxiety, breathing properly takes real effort. When you're anxious, your "fight or flight" response is frequently triggered when there's no actual sign of danger. Unsurprisingly, being on high alert all the time comes with a lot of fast, shallow breathing. On top of that, it's not uncommon for anxious people to hold their breath without even realizing it. (Personally, I catch myself doing this a lot.)
Fortunately, anxiety doesn't make breathing actually impossible, it just makes it more challenging. Here are some breathing techniques that can help when you feel like you just can't.
Indecision is an extremely common side effect of living with anxiety, and it can make something as simple as getting dressed in the morning turn into a huge dilemma. (This is one of the reasons my wardrobe fits in two suitcases, and I frequently pick out my outfits before I go to bed.) Anxious people don't have to be ruled by their indecision, though. As difficult as it might seem, it's totally possible to overcome indecision in your daily life.
Going To Parties
Not everyone with an anxiety disorder experiences intense social anxiety, and even people with social anxiety don't always seem like they're socially anxious. But for the 15 million Americans who do suffer from social anxiety, even the best parties aren't always enjoyable.
Personally, if I know I'm going to be attending a party, (even one that I genuinely want to go to) I have to pre-game with lots of alone time. I take myself for a long walk in the park or the woods, I smoke a little weed, and I throw snacks and a fully charged cell phone into my bag. I'm usually still a little bit nervous after all of that, but depending on the party, sometimes the anxiety is worth it.
Taking A Shower
The actual act of taking a shower isn't necessarily difficult, but if you're experiencing intense anxiety, taking a shower isn't as simple as turning on the water and stepping in. Because showering puts you in a vulnerable state, aka naked, normal anxiety can feel heightened. At the same time, taking a shower (or a bath) can actually help anxiety: warmth triggers the natural release of melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep, and the act of self-care is a powerful one for making you feel in control of your body.
Restlessness is one of the most common symptoms of anxiety, and it goes back to the whole "fight or flight" thing. People struggling with anxiety disorders experience a steady stream of adrenaline because our brains sense danger all the friggin' time. Basically, this means our brains keep our bodies prepared to either run away or go HAM at a moment's notice.
While this might sound awesome in theory, it actually kind of sucks. In my experience, all of that excess energy can make something that should be simple (like sitting at my writing desk for a few hours) feel like an extraordinary feat. Luckily, there are ways to combat restlessness. Exercise is typically the most effective coping method for me, but medication, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation may work, too.
Combatting anxiety isn't easy, especially when your anxiety makes it so that everyday tasks feel impossible. It's okay to feel overwhelmed by these tasks, just as it's okay to push through your anxiety. No matter what you do, know that someone's been in your shoes before, and someone else will likely come after you, too: You're not alone in your anxiety.