Anxiety is your body’s response to stress and is a coping mechanism which helps you deal with that stress. While experiencing anxiety may be normal during stressful times, excessive and irrational dread of everyday situations which interferes with your daily activities may already be symptoms of an anxiety disorder.
Types of anxiety disorder
Excessive worrying may be a symptom of generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder
, panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, social phobia or social anxiety disorder.
Aside from experiencing overwhelming worry, all types of anxiety disorder display similar symptoms such as:
- startling easily
- trouble falling or staying asleep
- difficulty concentrating
- muscle tension
- feeling out of breath
- excessive irritability
Causes of anxiety disorder
While anxiety disorders are mental conditions that may not be fully understood, the following factors may cause your symptoms:
irregular levels of brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine
- being female
- health condition such as heart or lung disease, thyroid problems or dietary problems
- substance use
Many cases of anxiety disorder respond well to psychotherapy
. Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy and psychological counselling, involves the identification of negative and unhealthy thoughts and behaviours that contribute to your anxiety and the replacement of those thoughts with healthy and positive beliefs. Cognitive behavioural therapy is one form of psychotherapy.
Making the following adjustments in your lifestyle may also help manage anxiety and prevent ordinary worries from turning into a disorder:
Decreased levels of the brain chemical serotonin have been associated with depression. Exercise increases serotonin levels which help treat anxiety by lifting your mood and improving sleep quality. Generally, you may feel better after exercise because physical activity also releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins and lowers levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Start slowly and gradually and aim at exercising at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week to eliminate anxiety.
Maintain a healthy diet
Stress may lead to loss of appetite or unhealthy food cravings. Unhealthy eating habits can deprive your brain of nutrients such as B-Vitamins and essential fatty acids which it needs to maintain normal levels of brain chemicals that help you cope with anxiety. Studies show that the B-Vitamins support the availability and production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. Research has also shown that there is a close link between high consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids and lower rates of depression. Increase your intake of foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna, flaxseed, and walnut and canola oil. You can also get B-Vitamins from natural food sources like egg yolks, organ meat, legumes and nuts. Avoid alcohol and sedatives which may worsen anxiety.
Practise relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques such as visualization, meditation, mindful breathing and yoga help reduce stress. These methods are easy to learn and may be practiced wherever and whenever you need to relieve anxiety.
While stress and anxiety may be inevitable in daily life, making lifestyle changes may help you manage anxiety so that you can still enjoy life.
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