[Image description: An illustration of a human-like character is shown thinking. The thought bubble above their head has scribbled lines to indicate anxiety.]
Sometimes it can feel difficult to figure out if you’re suffering from anxiety, stress, both, or something else entirely. The truth is the lines can be a little blurred when it comes to the causes and symptoms of anxiety for each person. Some of the most common causes of anxiety include:
- Low serotonin levels
- A shy or nervous temperament as a child
- A family history of anxiety or other mental illnesses
- Past or present stressful and negative life or environmental events.
COVID-19 can be considered a “stressful life event” and may lead to feelings of anxiety. Other obstacles related to the pandemic that might cause anxiety could include job loss, relationship troubles, the lack of social engagement, and increased social media use.
Signs you’re experiencing anxiety
You may experience anxiety in an emotional, mental, and/or physical way. The emotional or mental feelings may include:
- Excessive worry
- Feelings of danger, panic, or dread
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
Some physical feelings that can accompany anxiety involve restlessness, increased heart rate, and muscle tension. Additional symptoms and medical concerns linked to anxiety may include:
- Rapid breathing
- Sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, or unsatisfying sleep
- Thyroid troubles
- Heart disease
- Certain respiratory disorders
- Drug misuse or withdrawal
- Chronic pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Tips for coping
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to coping with anxiety. There are, however, several measures that have proved useful to others and may be worth trying:
- Keep stress in check by going on regular walks or taking an exercise class. Consistent physical activity can do wonders for anxiety and depression.
- Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Keep your mental energy stable by avoiding greasy, sugary, high-fat, and processed foods.
- Write down your stress and anxiety triggers. Keeping a journal can help you identify obstacles to address on your own or with a therapist.
- Challenge your negative thoughts and worries. Look for opportunities to contradict, fact-check, and replace distressing thoughts with more balanced or neutral ones.
- Get enough sleep. Try to fit in at least seven hours of sleep per night. If you are having trouble sleeping, see if you can create a consistent sleep schedule, make sure your bedroom is quiet, remove all electronics from the area, and avoid large meals before bedtime.
- Find support by talking to a friend or reading about different ways to find balance in your life. Also, remember that there are resources available and you don’t have to face the anxiety alone.
Therapy can help
One of the best resources for managing anxiety can be online therapy because it allows you to get help from anywhere at any time. Your therapist can listen to whatever is on your mind and help you find, and use, the tools necessary to start feeling better. Plus, you don’t need to worry about any added stress of traveling to the therapist’s office. Online therapy is a great way to start practicing doing what’s best for you, which may mean finding support from the comfort and privacy of your home.
It is particularly important to seek therapy if you find yourself turning to drugs and/or alcohol to cope with emotional discomfort or if you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others. These could be signs that another disorder is present alongside your anxiety, which can be common.