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Anxiously Battling Anxiety

They say public speaking in front of a large group can cause as much anxiety as the death of a loved one. With a few easy steps you can give a talk where anxiety is the only casualty.

What do chewing on your fingernails, twirling your hair, drumming with your fingers, frequent urination, picking at things, difficulty in concentrating, and constant fidgeting all have in common? Sure, they’re all nervous habits, but what more can they possibly indicate? If just hearing this list makes you anxious there’s good reason, because they can all be signs of anxiety.

Experiencing occasional temporary anxiety just comes with the territory; it’s part of life in the21st Century. However, if it becomes persistent, intense, extreme, or out-of-proportion to an actual threat, it can indicate a more serious condition or even become an actual disorder. Studies have found that there are several elements that predispose an individual to chronic anxiety including, heredity, personality type, and brain chemistry. These are probably the most difficult and resistant elements to work with, and they often require professional treatment.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) results from past negative experiences such as war, abuse, trauma, or even extreme poverty. They become imprinted on the mind and also may require outside trained intervention to put them in the rearview mirror.

Other influences that can make a person anxious are living with uncertainty, employment troubles, financial difficulties, relationship trust issues, loss of control, serious illness, or injury. Extending the list of culprits can be violence to the senses from things like noise, pollution, rapid changes in the environment and technology, pressure from deadlines, and having too many irons in the fire.

Anxiety may result from unreal expectations and the demands from one’s self or others to be the perfect spouse, parent, student, or any other role we play. It is increased by the size of the gap between what is expected of us and our actual performance. Interestingly, I have read that public speaking in front of a large group can cause as much anxiety to some people as the death of a loved one.

Anxiety is an unpleasant emotion which looks and even feels a lot like fear. The difference is that fear is usually a reaction to a real danger, whereas anxiety is an over-reaction or worry about an imagined or future threat. The rub is that they both cause similar physiological responses in the body. Things like increased blood pressure, heart palpitations, hyperventilation, chest pain, sleep problems, chronic indigestion, dizziness, sweating, trembling, and even panic.

Chronic anxiety gets in the way of normal life and enjoyment. The triggers can’t always be eliminated, but there are things we can do that help us deal with and even diminish their impact. An Australian study found that excessive sitting is linked to an increase in anxiety. The implications are that modern life with our jobs sitting at computer monitors, as well as watching TV, playing video games, and messing with our smartphones are making us more and more anxious. The solution for many of us is to slow down, find a quiet place to meditate, get out into nature, exercise, breathe deeply, listen to soothing music, and occasionally turn off your electronic social media.

Following the solution isn’t always easy, but if take five minutes out a day to relax and center ourselves we can learn to handle our own anxiety and smile a little more.

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