Updated: Nov 29, 2021
It may be "all in your head," but anxiety affects your body as well as your mind.
In addition to worrying and feeling nervous, if you struggle with a pattern of anxiety you may experience changes in your immune function, circulatory system, and other areas. Anxiety may also be caused by physical conditions and may increase your risk for certain disorders.
Why is this important? Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting an estimated 40 million adults each year. It can take many different forms and range in severity, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, or phobias.
Whatever the cause, anxiety usually responds well to medical treatment, coaching or therapeutic support, and lifestyle modifications. If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, consider these physical changes that you may want to address.
Managing The Physical Symptoms of Anxiety:
When you’re stressed, your body releases hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, that prepare you for fight or flight. Since these physical responses are rarely required in modern life, if constantly flooding your system, these chemicals can wind up interfering with your natural body functions. While you can’t completely eliminate all stress in life, you can use strategies for dealing with it more constructive
Breathe deeply. When you’re tense, your breathing tends to become rapid and shallow. Remind yourself to slow down and breathe from your abdomen instead of your chest. You’ll feel calmer and increase the supply of oxygen and nutrients to your brain and other organs.
Boost your immune system. Take extra precautions against catching colds and other bugs. Wash your hands and keep them away from your face.
Dress in layers. Blood vessels tend to constrict as the result of chronic stress, making it more difficult to regulate your body temperature. Keep a sweater or wrap handy if you’re prone to chills.
Eat well. Anxiety has a major impact on your digestion. You may stress eat or lose your appetite, experience irritable bowels, or notice an increase in other digestive disturbances. Plan out your meals and snacks at regular intervals to give your body a constant supply of the nutrients it needs. Cut back on processed foods, sugar and alcohol whenever possible. Food is medicine and eating good food, in reasonable amounts, at regular intervals will help your body manage stress.
Limit caffeine. Bodies experiencing anxiety already tend to be jittery; try cutting back on caffeine to see if you feel more at ease. While it is best to avoid caffeine completely, at very least be sure you're not consuming it within 5 hours of bedtime.
Get Moving. Physical activity is one of the most effective and constructive methods for dealing with stress. Find a variety of movement activities that you enjoy: walk the dog, take a hike, hop on a paddleboard, take a yoga class, go for a bike ride, or hit the gym. Invite a friend or family member to join you so you’ll have more fun and increase your chances of being consistent.
Rest and relax. Anxiety often interferes with sleep, so remove any obstacle you can. Go to bed at the same time each night and keep your bedroom dark and quiet. Relax during the day with meditation, enjoying instrumental music, or a taking a warm bath with Epsom salts and essential oils.
Rule out physiological factors
If you're struggling with more than minor worries, you may want to see your doctor to talk about your challenges and rule out physical causes. There are some physiological issues that can contribute to or cause more severe patterns of anxiety it's always smart to get checked out.
Overactive or underactive thyroid. Overactive and underactive thyroids are among the most common physical contributors to anxiety. Your doctor can perform simple tests to rule out these factor, and if necessary, help you receive appropriate treatment.
Issues in the brain. Brain tumors are super rare, but they can cause psychological changes. An early diagnosis increases your chances of recovery.
Chronic conditions. Struggling with a chronic health conditions or pain can make you more vulnerable to anxiety. Let your physician and loved ones know if you need extra help.
Understanding the physical effects of anxiety can help you heal your mind and body. Talk with your doctor about your individual concerns and learn to manage stress so you can enjoy greater physical comfort and peace of mind
Anxiety hits us all from time to time. I've created a FREE, helpful tip-sheet including seven tricks to help you detail the worry train - I'd love to send it to you!