I’ll never forget the first day I was told I had anxiety…
I was in high-school, trying to deal with the divorce of my parents, achieve high grades for my VCE and navigate the varying friendship groups and at times, the bitchiness that comes with high school life.
I would regularly worry about my future and whether being an “anxious” person made me weird to others, unrelateable or unlikeable.
Although relatively popular and with a large friendship group, I’d arrive at social situations feeling nervous, sweaty palmed and worried about saying something stupid, leaving myself humiliated or centre of attention.
I was afraid of being judged and cared so much about what others thought of me, and whether they could sense my insecurities through my confident facade.
I rarely spoke to anyone about my anxiety because I thought that I was on my own and that it was unusual.
But now, as I’ve grown older and wiser, I’ve learned that every day anxiety is actually a really common thing!
If you suffer from anxiety, I truly want you to know that you’re never alone or need to suffer in silence.
In fact, anxiety is considered one of the most common mental health issues across the world.
Below, I’ll explain the differences between anxiety / an anxiety disorder as well as a really powerful way you can overcome anxiety symptoms naturally.
The Prevalence of Anxiety Across the World
Here’s some interesting facts about anxiety and anxiety disorders:
- An estimated 284 million people across the world have been diagnosed with having an anxiety disorder. And of that number, around 62 percent (170 million) are female (Our World in Data, 2017)
- In Australia, 4% of all adults are affected by an anxiety disorder every year, making it the most common health condition in Australia (Sane.org).
- Within the US, anxiety disorders are said to affect 40 million people.
This makes anxiety / anxiety disorders the most prevalent mental health or neuro-developmental disorder in the world!! That’s pretty crazy!
Here’s a break down of anxiety disorders by country:
Despite what some will lead you to believe, anxiety is a really common thing. It’s nothing to be ashamed about or concerned about.
Most people are expected to experience some form of anxiety in their lifetime whether it be every day anxiety, or from an anxiety disorder…
Which I’ll explain in more detail below.
What is Everyday Anxiety?
As a rule of thumb, feelings of anxiety come as a natural response to stressors or unstable conditions in our lives. It’s our body’s natural way to respond to fear and to try and keep us safe.
Everyone feels anxious from time to time and there are certain levels of anxiety that are both normal and even helpful in certain situations.
For me personally, I know I’m feeling anxious when:
- My heart rate increases or I can sense my heart throbbing in my chest
- I can’t put words together to describe how I feel, causing me to close up to others
- Worrisome thoughts consume and overwhelm me
- I start overthinking and excessively planning for events or situations
- Feel tension building in my chest and back
- I’m over-analysing the behaviour of others around me
- My instinct is to regain control
- I become irritable and overly emotional
- Feel hot and sweaty
There are many types of anxiety symptoms that you may feel.
You could feel anxious because you have a big exam or deadline coming up, you’re overloaded or stressed at work, you have a big social event coming up, you’re buying a house for the first time or because you need to face a personal fear (Eg. Getting an injection or climbing heights).
In these instances, anxiety is a normal part of life. It is rational, usually short-lived and is unlikely to continue after the stressor is gone.
Why Do We Feel Anxious?
Feeling anxious in certain situations, especially those requiring you to face a potentially harmful or worrying event, is not only normal but necessary for survival.
Back in our caveman days, our brain used to be on high alert for predators and incoming danger. When sensed, it would trigger an alarm and physiological response within us, usually consisting of:
- An increased heartbeat
- Sensitivity to our surroundings
- Additional sweating
- A quick release of adrenaline
All of these responses were intended to help trigger our bodies into action. Often called the flight-or-fight response. This rapid response would enable us to physically confront or flee threats in a few seconds and get to safety.
Nowadays, our environment has changed, but our bodies are wired exactly the same way.
So, rather than running away from lions or tigers, our stress response is triggered by our jobs, life, money, family life, relationships and health crises.
The problem with this is that rather than only being switched on for a short period of time or a certain event (Ie. to escape the threat) our stress response is being activated for longer periods of time.
Now, many find it difficult to switch off, even after the stressor is gone.
With anxiety, the fight-flight response is overstimulated, depleting your internal resources. This causes you to feel exhausted, tense and irritable by the time you finally settle down.
This is very different compared to someone with an anxiety disorder.
What are Anxiety Disorders?
According to Anxiety.org, people who suffer from anxiety-related disorders feel a great degree of fear, worry or nervousness, even after the stressor has subsided.
In some cases, they may even feel unsafe due to intrusive, extreme, negative, unrealistic or exaggerated thought patterns.
People with anxiety disorders tend to worry about hypothetical disasters or perceived threats rather than real ones. They overthink and “over plan” in an attempt to prevent something from happening.
They may choose not leave their house for an extended period due to fear.
Anxiety disorders often interfere with the individual’s daily functioning and activities including going to school, work, going outside and with developing close relationships. It can also affect how they process emotions and behaviours.
Anxiety disorders are believed to develop over time and can be caused by a combination of factors including:
- A family history of the disorder
- Physical health
- Personality traits, or a
- Stressful life event or traumatic experiences.
Understanding the difference between everyday anxiety symptoms and an anxiety disorder is important and is why you should seek the services of a licensed health professional for an accurate diagnosis.
Self-diagnosis is never a good idea.
Common Types of Anxiety Disorders
Here is a brief list of some common anxiety-related disorders. I’m not going to go into detail about them all in this article but will explain them in more depth in a future article.
- Generalised anxiety disorder: Usually involves excessive worrying about anything and everything and not something in particular. It could even be worrying about worrying in certain cases.
- Social anxiety disorder: This relates to people who avoid social situations due to fears of embarrassment, doing something wrong and being judged by others, often resulting in them pulling out of events.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Panic disorders: People who have this disorder often experience repeated panic attacks, and feel extreme and anxiety worry about having future attacks
- Specific phobias: Relates to an intense and often irrational fear of a certain object or situation (e.g. Needles, Birds)
- Agoraphobia: Is a disorder related to feeling extremely anxious about having a panic attack in certain situations and not being able to escape or get help
How to Overcome Anxiety!
Since being diagnosed with anxiety, I’ve tried many things to regain control over my thoughts and emotions. I was never interested in medication, and luckily my anxiety has never been bad enough to warrant it.
Since learning about mindfulness and how to meditate, I am SUCH A DIFFERENT PERSON!!
- My stress & anxiety symptoms have decreased
- I feel happier and more content than ever
- I have a better understanding of myself and my body
- I am more self-aware and aware of others
- I have greater control over my thoughts and emotions
- I find pleasure and gratitude in the small things
- I’m not as impacted by others or their opinions of me
- I’m much less go go go all the time – and can now find a state of peace and comfort that I’ve never had before
- I’m more focused and productive than ever
- I’m more resilient in stressful times and able to keep a level head space.
Meditation has truly been a god send for me…
That is why I created the “Journey to Calm” Meditation Course am now working my way towards becoming a certified meditation teacher.
You can read more about how I use meditation to manage my anxiety & stress here.
My aim is to help other women to better manage their stress and anxiety symptoms naturally, before turning to medication.
In the Journey to Calm course, I cover everything you need to know regarding meditation, building a meditation routine and reduce your stress and anxiety symptoms naturally.
If you feel:
- Tired of feeling stressed and anxious, but have no idea where to start or what to do,
- Constantly overwhelmed, or like you’re too busy / don’t have time to unwind,
- Unhappy or unfulfilled in your current life or with yourself, but are not completely sure why,
- That there may be something wrong with you or you’ll have to deal with anxiety for the rest of your life,
- You just can’t seem to stay MOTIVATED,
You’re in the right place!
Start your meditation journey with the FREE Lite version of the complete Journey to Calm Course, below.
In this 5-day mini version of the course, you’ll learn about the basics of meditation and how meditation & mindfulness can be used to better cope with stress and anxiety symptoms.
Get started today towards becoming a happier, healthier and calmer version of you.