“I’m so stressed out right now.” We hear this often and may say it, too. A big meeting at work coming up, a dip in your bank account, and tension with your significant other can trigger feelings of nervousness. But sometimes this nervousness crosses over into anxiety, and sometimes anxiety crosses over into a full-blown disorder that hinders your life. Here are 5 things you need to know about anxiety.
1. Your body knows you’re anxious, even if your brain doesn’t
Sometimes we’re not aware we have anxiety at all. But, even if your conscious mind doesn’t recognize that you’re anxious, your body does. Some physical symptoms of anxiety include muscle tension and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If you feel muscle aches and frequently find yourself balling your fists and clenching and unclenching your jaw, or your stomach aches and you suffer from constipation or diarrhea, these may be signs of anxiety. A psychotherapist who specializes in mind-body work can help you bring your brain and body in sync and uncover what’s causing your anxiety.
2. Anxiety can be a cover for anger
Anxiety is more acceptable in our culture than anger is. People fear anger but feel sympathetic toward those with anxiety. So sometimes people substitute anxiety for anger. The anxiety acts as a defense against admitting you’re upset. You may fear that expressing your anger toward a parent or partner could lead to abandonment, so you hold it in. You’re jumpy, your thoughts race, you’re always worried and in constant motion. To figure out if your anxiety is a cover for anger, the next time you feel anxious, sit by yourself in a quiet place and explore your nervous feelings. Breathe and let your emotions rise and evolve. See if your worrying turns to anger. I discuss this technique in depth in my book, Mindful Anger.
3. Anxious around other people? It could be social anxiety
At home, your anxiety subsides. But when you’re around other people or there’s an event coming up where you’ll have to interact with others or speak publically, your anxiety goes into overdrive. If you spend the week before a party thinking about every little thing that may happen, you avoid going at all or afterward you dwell on everything you said or did, you may have social anxiety. Symptoms of social anxiety include stomachaches, muscle aches, a sped up heart rate, and the feeling that everyone is watching and judging you. If you think you might have social anxiety, try meditating before you go out. Spend a few minutes breathing calmly and center yourself. Picture everything going perfectly. Whenever your mind drifts to worst-case scenarios, bring it back to an image of everything going well.
4. If your anxiousness never subsides, you may have Generalized Anxiety Disorder