World Mental Health Day 2019: How to deal with anxiety

Updated: Oct 10, 2019, 15:16 IST | mid-day online correspondent | Mumbai

Almost everyone has heard of the term 'Anxiety' and it is one of the most socially accepted mental health concerns

This picture has been used for representational picture
This picture has been used for representational picture

The term anxiety has descended from the Latin word 'anxietas' which means to feel choked or throttled. In addition, the term includes the cognitive and behavioural responses one experiences to a perceived danger. Almost everyone has heard of the term 'Anxiety' and it is one of the most socially accepted mental health concerns. If we take a step back and contemplate why anxiety is socially accepted, we come to the conclusion that it is because of everyone experiences anxiety at some point of time in their life and it often used interchangeably with the term stress.

In fact, recent statistics indicate that an estimated 284 million people have experienced an anxiety disorder in 2017 (Our World in Data, 2018). This high prevalence makes anxiety a relatable concern, and if it is relatable then we can understand it and if we can understand it, it is no longer that scary.

Tanya Vasunia Psychologist & Lead - Clinical Collaborations says, "Even with this high prevalence rate, society's knowledge on managing anxiety is disturbingly limited. This could be due to the fact that given our socio-economic climate anxiety has become a part and parcel of life and the fact that awareness about anxiety being a significant concern is limited."

This begets the question of how anxiety is different from stress- for many, as previously mentioned, they mean the same thing. Clinically, these two terms have very different meanings.

Symptoms of Anxiety

According to Tanya Vasunia, "Symptoms of anxiety include: elevated heart rate, sweating, difficulty breathing, ruminating thoughts of negative outcomes to various situations etc. These symptoms eventually affect someone's ability to carry out tasks which in turn leads to a deterioration of quality of life. Stress, on the other hand, may be defined as an emotional strain which occurs due to a demanding circumstance. Stress tends to subside once the situation is resolved, while anxiety doesn't necessarily require a situation and continues even after a trigger or stressor no longer exists."

If we acknowledge that anxiety is something that we are likely to face, it is imperative that we learn to employ strategies that assist us in dealing with it. Clinically, small lifestyle changes can help reduce anxiety significantly. Though it might sound clichéd but sleep, exercise and planning a daily routine are extremely helpful steps when it comes to managing anxiety. For those who already follow this- reducing caffeine, engaging in breathing exercises or mindfulness activities would be great additions to your anxiety management strategies. However, it is essential to note that even with the above-mentioned strategies, if your anxiety is persistent, seeking a professional consult is a healthy, safe and essential next step.

Dealing with Anxiety

"For those struggling with anxiety, every day is an exhausting rollercoaster of emotions. It is a persistent feeling that you are unsafe and at any moment everything that you love or enjoy can be taken away. We, as a society, need to fight the normalisation of anxiety- living with ruminating thoughts, fear of the worst and constant worry is not normal and definitely not okay. Prolonged anxiety can lead to the development of symptoms of depression and in extreme thoughts of suicide and self-harm," says Vasunia.

Vasunia concludes, "We must take into account that anxiety not only has an impact on our mental health but physical health as well and these consequences extend into all avenues of life. Anxiety isn't just stress, it is more than that. It is the gateway mental health concern or other more acute concerns like Depression, Eating Disorders and Panic Disorder among many others. We need to make identifying warning signs a priority and addressing the symptoms a necessity. Our mind is our greatest strength but if it is not healthy if it is also our greatest weakness."

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