It’s one of the most common mental health disorders in America, affecting a staggering 18% of the population. You may think that 18% is a small number, in the grand scheme of things, but that translates to roughly 40 million Americans, and that’s just adults. Add in the additional 25% of adolescent children, ages 13-18, and you find yourself in a bit of shock. So, what is this thing ailing so many of us? It’s Anxiety.
Let’s be honest, we live in a hectic, chaotic, and sometimes frightening world. Those aren’t just fluff words chosen to make an impact or play on your emotions. Current events taking place across the globe are evidence enough. From the 2020 pandemic to political turmoil and civil unrest, of course, we all have some level of elevated anxiety. These are unprecedented times and navigating life while being burdened with anxiety can feel daunting. The key, however, is not just managing our anxiety, but learning how to arm ourselves against it.
Let me be clear, anxiety in and of itself is totally normal. Throughout our lives, we feel anxious over many things, like tests, job interviews, first dates, big moves, life changes, health issues, and much more. When facing something new, something old, something big, or even something small, it’s completely normal to be scared and nervous. However, that type of fear is typically fleeting. It fades when things have settled, and we can continue on our path unhindered. It’s when our anxiety lingers and becomes disruptive to our lives that it becomes a problem or, in medical terms, a disorder. And when that happens, how do we fix it?
To better understand what we can do to manage our anxiety, we first need to know exactly what it is. This can be complicated because anxiety has many faces. It can be broad and wide, or it can be narrow and specific. By definition, anxiety is ‘a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome’. See? Normal. Problematic anxiety, though, is defined as ‘a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior and panic attacks’. As hard as it is for me to say it, that is not ‘normal’. And it is especially hard because I suffered from problematic anxiety myself. At one point, not that long ago, anxiety controlled my life and dictated the way that I interacted with the world and people around me. It was extremely hard to cope with, but I found ways to lessen and manage it. In this article, I hope to help you find those ways too.
Before turning to a prescription medication, one that may be more harmful than helpful, it might be wise to consider and try a few natural remedies first. I have personally used all four of these things in some way with great success. While I am obligated to say that this short list is not intended as medical advice, I encourage you to speak with your healthcare provider and discuss some of these alternatives to prescription medication. You may be surprised at how supportive they are, like with my own Primary Care Physician.
- Therapy: Forget the stigma about therapy. It does not make you weak or weird to seek support and assistance. In fact, being able to acknowledge that you may need a helping hand, a shoulder to cry on, or just someone to talk to is a sign of strength and emotional maturity. Therapy can be in an invaluable resource, one that gives you an arsenal of tools to help you cope with life and its many peaks and valleys.
- Natural Medicines: Chamomile, Lavender, green tea and Lemon Balm to name just a few. Many of these herbs are well known for their therapeutic calming effects and can act quickly. They can also be found in just about any health food center.
- Meditation: It can be nearly impossible to quiet your mind when you have anxiety. I know from personal experience how difficult it can be, but I also know how beneficial meditation is. The thing with meditating is that it doesn’t have to be done alone or in any specific way. What works for someone else, may not work for you and that’s perfectly fine! In fact, you can meditate with your eyes open and the lights on. The goal is to calm and center yourself through thoughtful breathing and visualization. Putting on your favorite relaxing music, finding a comfortable place to sit, and simply relaxing is a form of meditation. If you’d like, find a group that meditates or make your own. Surrounding yourself with like minds and peaceful people will only reinforce your positive intentions.
- Diet: It is a known and accepted fact that our food can have a direct impact on our physical health. To say that it cannot affect our mental health is foolish. Be mindful of how your food makes you feel. Not all allergies are obvious. Some are so subtle that they can easily be mistaken for something else or dismissed as coincidental. Your food should make you feel good, energized, and satisfied. If you feel sluggish, ill, or in discomfort after eating a certain thing, try eliminating it from your diet. Common food intolerances include dairy, eggs, soy, shellfish, preservatives, gluten, sugar, and dyes.
Below I have compiled a list of the six main types of problematic anxiety along with their definitions and statistics. It’s important to remember, above all else, that you are not alone and as difficult as it can be, it is possible to overcome your anxiety. Sending you all love and light!
- GAD or Generalized Anxiety Disorder (6.8 million/3.1%): A persistent and excessive worry about a number of things.
- Panic Disorder (6 million/2.7%): Spontaneous, seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks that leave the sufferer preoccupied with fear of a recurring attack.
- Social Anxiety Disorder (15 million/6.8%): The extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance settings.
- Specific Phobias (19 million/8.7%): These can be anything that general make a person uneasy or frightened, like spiders, heights, small spaces, and more.
- OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (2.2 million/1.0%): Unwanted and intrusive thoughts that they can’t seem to get out of their heads (obsessions), often compelling them to repeatedly perform ritualistic behaviors and routines (compulsions) to try and ease their anxiety.
- PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (7.7 million/3.5%): A serious and potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist incident, sudden death of a loved one, war, violent personal assault, or other life-threatening events.
Written By: Marissa Cali