THE ANXIETY MONSTER: Naming the Demon
Anxiety is a common mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. According to the dictionary, anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. To put it bluntly, anxiety is your body’s way of reaction to stress.
I’m assuming everyone reading this blog knows that feeling. Anxiety feels like something is in the pit of your stomach on the first day of school. It’s the overwhelming fear when you have to give a speech in an hour. It’s the sense of dread when an assignment is due tomorrow. It’s when you are made aware that the project might not be completed in time. It’s that moment right before the roller coaster takes off. It’s that fear when the elevator sounds like it will be stuck between floors. It’s the perception that someone in the room does not like you. It’s what happens when your child doesn’t answer your texts or calls. Get the point? We’ve all faced it.
For the purpose of this blog we can think of anxiety as an overall state combining fear, worry, and uncertainty. It’s physical and emotional. It’s often a reaction to something that hasn’t happened yet and may never happen. It’s largely anticipatory. And. It. Is. A. Monster! The Anxiety Monster. In fact, I’ve been working on a book by this title for about three years. Hopefully it will be done this year.
While anxiety is most often focused on a particular event, it is possible to have anxiety in a more general sense. These are often classified as anxiety disorders. You may face it occasionally. Or, maybe… Every. Single. Day.
While statistics may vary depending on the source and the population studied, did you know that according to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 275 million people worldwide have an anxiety disorder. In the United States, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness, affecting approximately 40 million adults (18.1% of the population) each year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a significant increase in anxiety levels among people worldwide. Most polls show anxiety skyrocketed during 2020-2021. According to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), 47% of adults in the United States reported feelings of anxiety related to the pandemic.
Like depression, women are more likely than men to experience anxiety disorders, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Anxiety disorders often develop early in life, with the median age of onset being 11 years old, according to the ADAA. However, many people do not seek treatment until many years later. Sadly, anxiety disorders are highly treatable, but only about one-third of people receive treatment, according to the ADAA.
It's important to note that these statistics may not reflect the full extent of anxiety, as many people may not seek help or receive a formal diagnosis. However, the truth is clear. Many people struggle with occasional or even chronic anxiety.
How can you overcome anxiety? When my book is finished I will provide 30 possible ways. Since there are many methods to reduce anxiety, and what works best for you may depend on the severity and specific causes of your anxiety, you should seek a strategy for success. Here are some general strategies that may be helpful:
Just Breathe. You would be surprised to know that deep breathing can significantly lower stress levels. I tell people it’s easy and anyone can do it. Just breathe.
Meditation. I believe mediation leads to progressive muscle relaxation and can lower your blood pressure. At least that’s been my experience. Especially when I meditate on Bible verses and inspirational quotes.
Exercise. Regular physical activity can help reduce anxiety and improve your overall mood. Even taking a short walk or doing some light stretching can be beneficial.
Sleep. Lack of sleep can make anxiety worse, so it's important to prioritize getting enough restful sleep each night. Go to bed early. Sleep longer on your days off. I also highly recommend taking naps when you have the time.
Diet. Don’t hate me but this may be even more valuable than exercise. Limit your caffeine and don’t drink alcohol. Both caffeine and alcohol can worsen anxiety symptoms, so it's best to limit your intake or avoid them altogether.
Maintain Healthy Relationships. Stay connected with other people. Social support can help reduce anxiety, so make sure to stay connected with friends and family. This is where I strongly advocate Christian fellowship. Spend time with like-minded people that will encourage you to avoid stressors. Also, it has to be said that you need to avoid toxic relationships.
Counseling & Prayer. Seek professional help when needed. If your anxiety is severe or interfering with your daily life, consider seeking the help of a mental health professional. They can help you develop a treatment plan that may include therapy, medication, or a combination of both. Don’t be afraid to ask for prayer and/or counseling.
Remember that everyone's experience with anxiety is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. It may take some trial and error to find the strategies that work best for you. This is one reason why I feel my book can help you. Be looking for it in the Fall of 2023.
You can learn to manage your anxiety. There is hope. Take your mental health seriously.
You are loved.
Dr. Ray Reynolds
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