OK, so let's talk anxiety. It's a real thing. Like - a REAL, REAL thing. If you've got anxiety you know this, and no amount of anybody telling you otherwise is going to change this. Anxiety can be experienced in many ways, and affects everyone differently. Perhaps you're cool as a cucumber at work, but it wreaks havoc in your relationships. Maybe you can deal with all of your family members without breaking a sweat, but the moment it's time to deal with finances it feels like the world's coming to an end.
All you know is that it certainly is not 'only in your head' if only because you also feel it all over your body. Depending on the situation, your symptoms range from sweaty palms, a runaway heartbeat, a pit in your stomach, feeling lightheaded -- all the way to a full-blown panic attack.
On days when it's really bad, it seems like your time is divided between feeling anxious and trying to avoid feeling anxious. You're sick of it and you're starting to realize that it's just not sustainable.
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Fast forward to a few weeks or months from now. Thanks to the work you've done in therapy, you're feeling less anxious, more relaxed, and you finally have a plan. You've learned more about your anxiety, and when it tends to strike. You know that Rome wasn't built in a day, but at the same time you can see the path forward. You're starting to see the patterns between your thoughts and when anxiety rears its ugly head. You're beginning to feel empowered and more in touch with how you think and how those thoughts affect your anxiety. You understand that you have a whole bunch of strengths you can tap into and are remembering all the times you've overcome situations which seemed impossible to conquer at first. Your emotions finally feel more manageable and your feelings of anxiety and overwhelm are starting to subside.
How anxiety can impact your everyday life
Your anxiety is a normal response to a stress or a perceived threat. This said, when it becomes chronic or excessive, it sure can significantly impact different aspects of your life. Here are some common effects of anxiety:
1. Cognitive effects: Anxiety can lead to cognitive disturbances, including difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts, and memory problems. If you have anxiety, you may experience excessive worrying, anticipation of worst-case scenarios, and have a hard time controlling your thoughts. You might also experience difficulties with decision-making and problem-solving.
2. Emotional effects: Anxiety can greatly influence your emotional state. It often leads to feelings of fear, restlessness, irritability, and a sense of impending doom. Anxiety can also cause mood swings, heightened sensitivity to criticism, and a general sense of unease or tension. You might experience panic attacks, which are intense episodes of fear or discomfort accompanied by physical symptoms.
3. Physical effects: Anxiety can manifest physically, leading to a range of physical symptoms. These may include rapid heartbeat, chest tightness, shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, gastrointestinal problems (such as stomachaches or diarrhea), muscle tension, trembling, and fatigue. In chronic cases, anxiety can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to illnesses.
4. Behavioral effects: Anxiety often affects your behavior and daily functioning. It may lead to avoidance behaviors, where you intentionally avoid situations or places that trigger your anxiety. You might also withdraw from social activities, experience difficulties with work or school performance, have trouble sleeping, and engage in excessive or compulsive behaviors as a way to manage your anxiety.
5. Interpersonal effects: Anxiety can strain your relationships and interpersonal interactions. You may struggle with expressing your needs and emotions, leading to misunderstandings or conflicts. You may become overly dependent on others for reassurance, seek constant validation, or have difficulties forming and maintaining relationships due to social anxiety.
6. Impact on overall well-being: Prolonged anxiety can significantly impact your overall well-being. It can decrease your quality of life, limit participation in activities that are important or enjoyable to you, and lead to a sense of isolation or loneliness. Anxiety disorders, if left untreated, can contribute to the development of other mental health conditions, such as depression or substance abuse.