Anxiety

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal, often healthy emotion and is our body’s natural response to stress, it is attributed to our fight or flight response and helps us avoid danger. Characterised by a worry or fear of what’s to come it is an emotional state or reaction to stress that can illicit both psychological and physical symptoms including feeling worried or afraid, tense and on edge or nervous and scared. While physical symptoms can include a racing or pounding heart, nausea and sleep problems.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia and while it’s normal to feel anxious about things such as an important life event or difficult situation this ordinary anxiety is a feeling that comes and goes but does not interfere with your everyday life. However, when these symptoms become more prolonged, persistent, out of proportion to the trigger and begin to interfere with daily activities it may be an indication of an anxiety disorder. Types of anxiety disorders can include panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Self -Management Techniques and Reducing the Risks

While if you are suffering consistently from symptoms of anxiety you should consult a doctor, having coping strategies in place for more mild cases may help you feel like you are more in control.

Self-management techniques for mild anxiety can include:

  • Stress Management: Learning to manage stress to help limit potential triggers.
  • Exercise: From decreasing muscle tension to the release of endorphins It is well researched that physical activity is associated with decreased symptoms of anxiety
  • Breath work: Often anxiety can cause rapid breathing and shortness of breath. If you feel this coming on, try to focus on each breath. Focus on long deep inhales and exhales and continue until your breathing slows.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Activities such as meditation and yoga to help relax the body and slow the mind.

Other lifestyle changes to reduce the risk and onset of anxious feelings can include:

  • Reduce caffeine intake
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Keep a regular sleep pattern
  • Outdoor activities

More serious cases of anxiety or anxiety disorders may require professional help such as counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy or medication. Please be sure to see your doctor if you feel you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.

Katie McGrath
Exercise Scientist

 

 

References

 Goyatá, S.L.T., et al. (2016). Effects from acupuncture in treating anxiety: integrative review.

Revista Brasileira de Enfermagem. 69(3)

Goldstein, L.H., & Mellers, J.D.C. (2006) Ictal symptoms of anxiety, avoidance behaviour, and dissociation in patients with dissociative seizures. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 77, 616–62

Stonerock, G.L., Hoffman, B.M., Smith, P.J., & Blumenthal, J.A. (2015) Exercise as Treatment for Anxiety: Systematic Review and Analysis. Annals of Behavioural Medicine. 49(4), 542–556.