Anxiety and Its Physical Symptoms: How to Relieve Them
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting roughly 31.1 percent of adults. While anxiety can be a normal reaction to stress and uncertainty, it becomes problematic when it persists and interferes with daily activities.
Anxiety can manifest internally, mentally and physically. Mentally, anxiety can cause feelings of fear, worry, and unease. Physically, anxiety can lead to symptoms such as rapid heart rate, chest tightness, and hyperventilation.
In this article, we aim to help individuals relieve physical manifestations of anxiety, by outlining various techniques that can be used to reduce physical symptoms of anxiety.
Understanding Anxiety and its Physical Symptoms
An anxiety disorder can be characterized by feelings of chronic fear and impending doom that can dramatically affect the ability to engage in normal daily activities and can increase the risk of depression and suicide.
Common physical symptoms of anxiety include sweating, shaking, headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, and chest pain. These symptoms are often quite severe and can lead to a feeling of panic and a strong urge to avoid certain situations that trigger physical symptoms.
Anxiety is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Research shows a family history of anxiety can increase the likelihood of manifesting anxiety. Similarly, exposure to traumatic events, such as abuse or difficult life events, can increase the risk of developing anxiety symptoms.
Techniques to Relieve Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
A. Breathing Techniques
One of the simplest ways to relieve physical symptoms of anxiety is to focus on breathing. If you experience shortness of breath or chest tightness, deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing can help relax tense muscles, slow your heart rate and breathing rate to reduce the intensity of physical symptoms. Follow these steps to perform deep breathing:
- Get into a comfortable position, sitting or lying down.
- Place one hand over your belly button and one hand over your chest.
- Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, drawing the air toward your belly, taking note of the feeling of your hand rising and your belly expanding.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth, emptying your lungs completely.
- Repeat for five to ten minutes or until you feel relaxed.
B. Mindfulness Practices
Mindfulness-based practices can help bring oneself into the present moment and reduce anxiety symptoms. Practices like meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and Tai Chi can help decrease physical anxiety symptoms and provide emotional regulation. These practices also reduce physiological arousal, increase self-awareness and provide overall relaxation.
C. Physical Exercise
Physical activity can trigger the release of endorphins, a neurotransmitter that produces feelings of happiness and pleasure. Exercise can be in the form of walking, running, biking, swimming, or any regular aerobic exercise. Regular exercise can provide better overall health and energy boost that significantly positively influences mood and physical health.
D. Good Sleep Habits
Establishing good sleep habits can help reduce stress and improve sleep quality, reducing physical symptoms of anxiety. It is vital to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, avoid stimulants like caffeine for several hours before bedtime. Before sleeping, practice relaxation techniques like reading, deep breathing, or calming music to help promote relaxation and better sleep quality.
E. Dietary Adjustments
Consuming a healthy diet can significantly help regulate mood and reduce anxiety symptoms. Diets rich in magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin B12 may help calm the nervous system. A healthy diet must include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and foods rich vitamin B-12 like fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy.
F. Seek Psychotherapy
Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy, can provide outstanding support in recognizing and challenging thoughts and behaviors that contribute to anxiety symptoms. This type of therapy can help an individual to develop better coping skills to manage anxiety.
An anxiety disorder can lead to debilitating physical and emotional symptoms that can have a significant impact on an individual’s daily life. To manage and relieve physical symptoms of anxiety, individuals can try a combination of techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, exercise, good sleep habits, dietary adjustments, and psychotherapy.
We urge individuals to consult with mental health professionals to determine the best technique best suited to their individual needs.
Anxiety is a challenging condition to manage, but with support and professional help, individuals can begin to live more confidently and comfortably.