If you're struggling to sleep well, are constantly grinding your teeth, feeling physically tense and drinking more than usual, read on. These are only some of the signs of anxiety that might indicate something is not right. Not all anxiety is destructive or unhealthy; sometimes, we need anxiety to facilitate things like public speaking or bungy-jumping. However, anxiety can become pervasive and destructive; stopping us from doing the things we want to do. High levels of anxiety can be like a constant state of stress resulting in physical symptoms such as headaches and illness. People who are anxious are often described as 'busy', 'never sitting still', 'always on the move', but can also seem depressed, lacking energy and being immobilised by their fear and anxiety.
Although we live everyday with anxiety, it can reach intense proportions and can have various faces. It can be generalised, often affecting sleep patterns and energy levels – feeling tired from not being able to sleep because your mind is racing or will not quiet down. It can be specific and relate to a current event or to a fear of something like spiders and snakes. The degree of the anxiety can be described by the effect it has on your life: sleep patterns are disturbed, an increase or decrease in appetite coupled with disturbances in bodily function, a constant feeling of alertness and an inability to be still, tiredness, lack of energy, lack of motivation, snappiness and other similar things that hamper fuller and happier living.
It should be said that anxiety can be linked to depression and can ebb and flow as depression rises and falls. Not all anxiety needs medication, but psychotherapy and balanced living can go a far way to alleviating the impact of anxiety in your life. Some steps to follow if you think you're more anxious than you should be:
- Ask yourself if it's situational or on-going.
- The answer to this will tell you whether you need therapy or not. Some situations (break-ups, job loss or interviews) can benefit from therapy as much as on-going issues (long-standing anxiety, anxiety created by childhood issues such as abuse) can. Phobias definitely need psychotherapy.
- Before you consider medication, ask yourself whether you should first try working through it with a professional psychologist who can judge your suitability to trying medication. For the record, medication is easier than therapy, but does not provide a long-term solution.
- Consider whether increased exercise (cardiovascular exercise in the mornings) and balanced diet can contribute to shifting some of your anxiety. Consulting a psychologist and a dietician in this regard may prove worth the visit.
- Ask yourself whether your life is imbalanced or disharmonious.
- Consider meditation as an accompaniment to other measures you try (although, it can be very hard to meditate if your anxiety is very high – practice makes perfect).
Untreated anxiety can become worse over time and, if left too long, can become disastrous, especially as you approach midlife. Treat it sooner rather than later.