We all deal with the occasional bout of anxiety. This uncomfortable reaction to stress is normal but often temporary.
For many people, the feelings of worry, nervousness, or uneasiness typically pass once the stress or threat is gone. But for millions of others, the persistent racing thoughts, fear, and constant worry overrun both mind and body.
Read on to learn why everyone has anxiety, how to tell the difference between nervousness and anxiety, how anxiety is diagnosed and treated, and things you can do right now if you feel nervous or anxious.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a physical and emotional response to a stressful situation. It can manifest as excessive worry, fear, panic, or a feeling of impending doom.
Additionally, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
rapid heart rate
shortness of breath
headaches or stomachaches
feeling out of control
If you have an anxiety disorder, you’ll often experience these feelings even in the absence of a stressor. You may also experience anxiety in anticipation of a future concern.
There are several types of anxiety disorders, including:
generalized anxiety disorder
social anxiety disorder
separation anxiety disorder
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)Trusted Source, it’s estimated that 19.1 percent of U.S. adults had an anxiety disorder in the past year. Moreover, around 31.1 percent of U.S. adults experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lifetimes.
What’s the difference between feeling nervous and anxious?
Feeling nervous is a “yes” box that everyone can check at some point.
Whether it’s nerves from starting a job, going on a first date, or competing in an event, your body responds to new and often stressful situations with a mixture of uneasiness, anticipation, and excitement.
This feeling is temporary, and once you settle in or the event is over, the physical response to feeling nervous often passes.
But for some people, nerves are just the beginning of a continuous cycle of anxious thoughts and feelings that don’t pass when the event is over. Typically, the fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the situation, and it hinders your ability to function normally with daily tasks and routines.
Does everyone feel anxious sometimes?
In general, everyone will feel anxious at some point.
Worry is considered protective since it alerts you to danger. This makes you pay attention to the stressful situation and react accordingly. For most people, this feeling typically passes and you go about your life.
But if the anxiety turns excessive and you find yourself overwhelmed, feeling out of control, and worrying about situations that others see as nonthreatening, you may have an anxiety disorder
WHAT YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW IF YOU FEEL ANXIOUS
Feeling anxious or nervous? Here are some strategies that can help take the edge off.
Make time for daily meditation. Even if it’s just a 5-minute break each day, taking time to meditate can help calm nerves and decrease anxiety symptoms.
Practice diaphragmatic breathing. Otherwise known as belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing involves inhaling deeply through the nose and breathing out through the mouth. This type of breathing can help reduce negative and physiological consequences of stress in healthy adults, according to a 2017 study.
Move your body through physical activity or exercise. Exercise is an excellent tool for reducing anxiety. If possible, get outdoors. Taking a 10-minute walk is often enough to help distract your mind from racing thoughts.
Get it out on paper. Have a journal close by to jot down your thoughts or feelings when anxious. You don’t have to do anything about your feelings. Sometimes getting them out of your head and onto paper provides relief.
Skip your daily dose of caffeine. If your morning cup of coffee causes the jitters, you may want to opt for herbal tea.
Stick to a healthy, regular diet. Eating a healthy diet that includes regular meals and snacks keeps your blood sugar levels balanced, which helps keep your anxiety and nervousness in check.
Give yourself permission to say no. If a social obligation is triggering nerves or anxiety, respectfully decline the invite or have an exit strategy that allows you to leave a stressful situation.
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