We all feel anxious at times, and a certain level of anxiety is, in fact, helpful and healthy as it helps us to perform at our best. If your anxiety is very intense and lasts days or weeks however, you may be experiencing anxiety disorder.
When you are anxious, the physical changes in your body prepare you to fight or to run away. Adrenalin is released which causes your heart to beat faster to carry blood where it’s most needed. You breathe faster to provide the extra oxygen required for energy. You sweat to prevent overheating, your mouth may feel dry as your digestive system slows down to allow more blood to be deflected to your muscles. Your senses become heightened and your brain becomes more alert.
These changes enable the body to take action and protect itself in a dangerous situation, and is known as the ‘fight or flight’ reaction. Once the danger has
passed, other hormones are released, which may cause you to shake as your muscles start to relax. Although anxiety might be useful in some circumstances, often the threat isn’t a physical danger. You might be anxious because of your current circumstances, childhood experiences, future fears, or a mixture of these.
Anxiety can be heightened by excess sugar, poor diet, lack of sleep, caffeine and drug and alcohol use.
Sometimes, anxiety can take the form of a panic attack. This is the rapid build-up of overwhelming sensations, such as a pounding (and sometimes irregular) heartbeat, feeling faint, sweating, nausea, chest pains, breathing discomfort, feelings of losing control, shaky limbs and legs turning to jelly. It can make people afraid that they are going mad, blacking out, or having a heart attack. They may
be convinced they are going to die in the course of the attack, making this a terrifying experience.
Increased anxiety can cause physical symptoms, changes in the way you think and in the way you feel. You may find yourself being anxious about being anxious and avoiding situations which might heighten your anxiety.
Relaxation and breathing techniques, meditation, exercise, sufficient rest and a healthy diet can all help to manage anxiety. It is important to talk to someone about how you feel. You can talk to friends, family, health professionals. Your GP might suggest a talking therapy and/or medication to help you manage your anxiety.