Overcoming anxiety

It’s natural to experience feelings of anxiety throughout your lifetime however the level and frequency of anxiety differs from person to person and thousands of Aussies are diagnosed each year as suffering from an anxiety disorder.

Often anxiety is brought on by ‘normal’ life situations like a shortage in cash flow, a trip to the Dentist or a job interview, however at other times the cause of anxiety is not known. Anxiety creates feelings of worry, fear, or dread, and it’s a common reaction to real or perceived threats. Anxiety can be triggered by brain chemistry and it’s also genetic—so it may not be directly linked to a particular situation or life issue.

How do you know if you might be at risk?

There are different types of anxiety disorders, based on their symptoms. Generally they include feeling apprehensive and/or powerless, and having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom. Anxiety can cause physical symptoms as well, including heart palpitations, sweating, rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, body aches and pains, trembling, and fatigue.

Are you frequently feeling anxious? When you do, does it feel overwhelming, and seemly out of your control? Does it impact your work, relationships, sleep or appetite?

If the answer is yes, then you should talk to your health care provider so they can assess your symptoms, rule out any underlying medical causes, and if necessary, provide a referral to a regarded mental health provider. Talking with your GP about your emotional health ensures you’ll receive the care you need to overcome such issues.

Certain medications (such as codeine) may have side effects that mimic the symptoms of anxiety, including dizziness, rapid heart rate, headaches, and restlessness.

How are anxiety disorders treated?

Symptoms of anxiety can be manageable with the right treatment approach.

Firstly, lifestyle modifications such as eating a balanced diet, reducing alcohol and caffeine intake, incorporating exercise, and balancing work and personal life can make a dramatic difference. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, acupuncture, and breathing exercises can also help to slow down your heart rate and decrease anxiety.

Sometimes, counselling with a mental health provider is also recommended. This may include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques to help you identify, understand, and change your thoughts and behaviour patterns.

If you’ve tried counselling, lifestyle changes, and relaxation techniques and you still feel anxious, it may be time to talk to your GP about medication. There are many types of medications that are effective in relieving symptoms of anxiety and quite often, combined medication with counselling is recommended to address the underlying cause of your anxiety.

Feelings of stress and anxiety are part of being human and can’t be avoided altogether. “Good” stress can help us get things done quickly, meet deadlines, and warn us when there’s danger. But if stress and anxiety is impacting your daily life, then it’s worth paying closer attention to your symptoms, making appropriate lifestyle changes, and exploring treatment options.