On average, 1 in 4 Australians experience anxiety in their lifetime. That means over 2 million Australians experience anxiety every year and it is the most common mental health condition in Australia, as reported by BeyondBlue.
On the Mind for Life radio show, we discussed the topic of anxiety as well as our own personal journeys dealing with it. Everyone is different and so is their experience with anxiety. We hope the following information will guide you. Although anxiety is common, it can be handled well with knowledge and support.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. While stress is a common reaction to a situation where we feel under pressure, it usually passes once the difficult situation has passed, or ‘stressor’ is removed. Anxiety is the feeling of stress after the ‘stressor’ is gone. Anxiety is caused by a combination of factors with reactionary stress being only one of the possible causes.
What causes anxiety?
- Family history of mental health problems – Some people who experience anxiety conditions may have a genetic predisposition towards anxiety and these conditions can run in a family.
- Personality factors – Research suggests that people with certain personality traits are more likely to have anxiety. For example, children who are perfectionists, easily flustered, lack self-esteem or want to control everything, sometimes develop anxiety during childhood, adolescence or as adults.
- Ongoing stressful events – Work stress or a job change, a change in living arrangements, pregnancy and giving birth, family and relationship problems result in developing anxiety to cope with the changing conditions. trauma.
- Physical health problems – Chronic physical illness such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease can also contribute to anxiety conditions.
- Substance abuse – Some people who experience anxiety may use alcohol or other drugs to help them manage their condition. In some cases, this leads to a substance use problem along with an anxiety condition.
What are the signs and symptoms?
There are a number if signs and symptoms that you might experience. These are not designed to provide a diagnosis, if you want to get more information, please visit your GP.
The symptoms of anxiety conditions are sometimes not all that obvious as they often develop slowly over time and given that we all experience some anxiety at various points in our lives, it can be hard to know how much is too much.
- Physical: panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, restlessness, or feeling tense, wound up and edgy
- Psychological: excessive fear, worry, catastrophizing, or obsessive thinking
- Behavioural: avoidance of situations that make you feel anxious which can impact on study, work or social life
Strategies to manage your anxiety
There are a range of strategies you can try to manage your anxiety. What works is different for everyone and it can take time to find the strategies that work best for you.
- Slow your breathing. Try deliberately slowing down your breathing. Count to three as you breathe in slowly – then count to three as you breathe out slowly.
- Focus on the present moment. Anxiety can make your thoughts jump straight to the terrible past or to the terrible future that hasn’t happened yet. Try to bring yourself back to where you are now. Practising yoga and meditation regularly helps.
- Get outside and practice a healthy lifestyle. Staying active, eating well, going out into nature, spending time with family and friends and doing the activities you enjoy are all effective in reducing stress and anxiety as well as improving your wellbeing.
- Change your self-talk. What you say to yourself, you believe. Reframe the situation that is making you anxious, rather than jumping to the worst-case scenario. Look at the facts for and against your thought being true.
- Be kind to yourself. Listen to your body, if you are tired; rest. If you are hungry; treat yourself to a nutritious meal. Remember that you are not your anxiety. You are not weak. You are not inferior. You have a mental health condition. It’s called anxiety.
How can Mind for Life help me?
Anxiety is common, but the sooner people get support, the more likely they are to recover. Visit mindforlife.org.au and fill out our form, we will contact you and put you in touch with health practitioners who can assist you.