We’ve all experienced moments of anxiety, but the struggle is different for those grappling with anxiety disorders. It involves intense and excessive fear and worry, often accompanied by physical tension and cognitive and behavioural symptoms. Anxiety disorders can disrupt daily life, affecting relationships, social activities, and professional or academic responsibilities.
Statistics paint a revealing picture: approximately 4% of the global population currently grapples with an anxiety disorder (1). In 2019 alone, a staggering 301 million individuals worldwide were affected by anxiety disorders, making them the most prevalent among all mental health conditions (1).
The good news is that highly effective treatments for anxiety disorders are available. However, the reality is that only around 1 in 4 individuals in need, which equates to 27.6%, receive any form of treatment. Numerous obstacles stand in the way of individuals seeking care, including a lack of awareness that anxiety disorders are:
- Treatable health conditions.
- Insufficient investment in mental health services.
- There is a shortage of trained mental health professionals.
- The enduring societal stigma associated with mental health challenges.
Highlighting the significance of boosting awareness, expanding access to mental health resources, and reducing the stigma related to anxiety disorders is crucial for ensuring that more individuals receive the necessary support and treatment to lead fulfilling lives.
Common symptoms of anxiety may include:
- difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
- feelings of irritability, nervousness, helplessness, tension, or restlessness.
- experiencing nausea or discomfort in the abdominal area.
- increased heart rate or hyperventilation
- sweating, trembling, or shaking.
- struggling with sleep disturbances.
- a sense of impending danger, or obsessively thinking about panic.
There are different types of anxiety disorders, including:
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder: This is when someone worries too much about everyday things, an intolerance for uncertainty.
- Panic Disorder: Some people have panic attacks and fear having more of them.
- Social Anxiety Disorder: People with this disorder fear social situations where they might feel embarrassed or worry about being judged.
- Agoraphobia is when someone is scared of places or situations that might make them panic or feel trapped.
- Separation Anxiety Disorder: Some people worry a lot about being apart from loved ones.
- Specific Phobias: People with these disorders fear certain things or situations and try to avoid them.
Steps for Self-Management
To feel better and stay healthy, you can incorporate the following steps:
Structure and routine play a pivotal role in maintaining good mental health. Daily structure/routine provides stability, predictability, and a sense of control, reducing stress and anxiety. Regular schedules promote better sleep, mood regulation, and increased productivity, fostering a positive mindset and overall emotional wellbeing.
A balanced diet can help stabilise mood, reduce stress, and improve cognitive function. Nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and B vitamins have been linked to better mental health outcomes. A balanced diet fosters better gut health, influencing the “gut-brain axis,” further impacting mood and mental clarity.
Regular physical exercise, like walking and movement, is a powerful tool for improving mental health. Exercise releases endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals, reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Walking and movement also promote relaxation, boost self-esteem, and enhance cognitive function, contributing to a healthier mind.
Quality sleep significantly impacts mood and overall wellbeing. During sleep, the brain processes emotions, consolidates memories, and restores the body. Sufficient rest improves mood regulation, reduces irritability, and enhances emotional resilience. Prioritising good sleep habits is vital for nurturing a positive outlook and promoting overall mental and emotional health.
Socialising is essential for mood and well-being as humans are inherently social beings. Meaningful interactions stimulate the “social brain,” releasing neurotransmitters like oxytocin that promote positive emotions and reduce stress. Conversation fosters connection, boosts self-esteem, and provides emotional support, contributing to improved mental and social health.
Setting goals for achievement and mastery can positively impact mood and overall well-being. Pursuing meaningful objectives provides a sense of purpose, boosts self-esteem, and fosters personal growth. Achieving these goals promotes satisfaction, fulfilment, and happiness, contributing to a healthier and more balanced mental and emotional state.
Pleasant events or positive experiences enhance mood and well-being. Savouring these moments allows individuals to fully immerse themselves in joy, fostering positive emotions and reducing stress. Cultivating an appreciation for the positive aspects of life contributes to a more resilient and content mental state.
Activating the approach system or adopting a growth mindset involves embracing challenges, seeking learning opportunities, and cultivating resilience. This shift breaks the automaticity of avoidance and isolation, fostering personal growth, and enhancing overall well-being.
Engaging in creativity, whether through creative writing, music, movement, singing, or learning something new, positively impacts mood and mental health. These activities promote self-expression, reduce stress, and enhance cognitive abilities. Creativity also offers an outlet for emotions, fostering a sense of accomplishment and joy contributing to overall well-being.
Practicing gratitude, generosity, play, relaxation, and mindfulness are essential for overall well-being. Gratitude and generosity cultivate positive emotions, play fosters creativity and joy, relaxation reduces stress, and mindfulness enhances self-awareness and inner peace, collectively contributing to a happier and healthier life. Recommended practices include the 3-minute breathing space, yoga, and breathing meditation.
Avoid or cut down on alcohol and recreational or street drugs, as they can exacerbate anxiety.