Everyone feels anxious at some point in their life. The American Psychiatric Association defines anxiety as “a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations.”
It can alert you to dangers and help you prepare and be equipped to handle the situation. But for some people, anxiety can be an ongoing problem and can interfere in their everyday lives.
In a recent webinar dubbed “Thriving with anxiety: Dealing with life’s ups and downs,” certified wellness and life coach Jenica Cabaguio said understanding the nature of anxiety and how it works is the first step in learning to manage it. The webinar was presented by Mindscapes which offers customizable and scalable programs to companies who wish to support their employees through their mental wellness journey; PhilCare, a health maintenance organization (HMO); Philippine Life Financial Assurance Corporation (PhilLife); and Stitch Tech Solutions.
“Anxiety is a word we use to describe feelings of unease, worry and fear. It incorporates both the emotions and the physical sensations we might experience when we are worried or nervous about something,” said Cabaguio.
Feelings of anxiety are a normal response to life challenges such as before going on stage, a job interview, an exam, or presentation.
Cabaguio added that although anxiety can be unpleasant, it is related to the “fight or flight” response which is the normal biological reaction to feeling threatened.
When is anxiety a problem
Cabaguio cited situations when anxiety becomes a problem. One is when these anxious feelings become overwhelming and are affecting your work or academic performance negatively. Anxiety that is not short lived but persists for a long time, impacting many aspects of your lives, is also a cause for concern.
“It becomes a problem when anxiety stops us from doing the things we need to do. Or when we find that we are worrying all the time, perhaps about things that are just normal parts of everyday life or about things that may not happen,” added Cabaguio. Anxiety that is so strong can also lead to panic attacks.
Cabaguio said there are several symptoms of anxiety manifested in the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves.
“Your mind may be whirring with repetitive thought patterns, prone to dwell on negative experiences. You have difficulty concentrating, remembering things, or making decisions,” she explained.
A person with anxiety also fears the worst and feels tense or nervous, restless or agitated, scared, and panicky.
Besides, some other indications are struggling to sleep, loss of appetite or overindulging, avoiding friends and activities, losing interest or pleasure, and experiencing academic decline (for students).
Cabaguio said it is time to seek professional help if anxiety has been bothering you for quite a while, is affecting your everyday life and getting in the way of your daily productivity over an extended period.
Learning about the symptoms and treatment goes a long way in helping to understand anxiety, but there are also some things that you can do when feeling anxious.
Live in the moment
Cabaguio cited these four strategies in managing anxiety.
“Learn mindfulness skills. Learn to think realistically. Learn to confront the situations you avoid in small steps. And adopt an anti-anxiety lifestyle,” shared Cabaguio.
Mindfulness suggests that the mind is awake and aware and living in the present; rather than dwelling in the past or anticipating the future.
“Staying in touch with the present in this way, from one moment to the next, may lead you to experience yourself differently, perhaps feeling less stuck or recognizing more strength, balance and confidence in yourself,” explained Cabaguio.
Mindfulness is taught through meditation which involves deep breathing and awareness of body and mind.
On the other hand, realistic thinking involves slowing down and considering all aspects of a situation—positive, negative, and neutral—before reaching a conclusion or decision about a course of action.
To stay healthy and to avoid stress and anxiety, adhering to the “Anti-anxiety” lifestyle helps.
This means eating well, developing good sleeping habits, engaging in regular physical activities or exercise, finding hobbies and having fun with friends, learning mindfulness and relaxation skills, limiting caffeine, alcohol, and smoking, and working towards a balanced life.