It's natural for everyone to experience anxiety at different times in their lives. Maybe you're worried about making a good first impression with your new partner's family, and you become anxious in the days leading up to the meeting about what you'll wear.
Being anxious even has its benefits, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). It can keep you alert when you're behind the wheel during a snowstorm, for example, or help you better prepare for a work presentation.
Yet, for over 40 million Americans, anxiety has affected so much of their lives that it's considered a mental health disorder. When that happens, it can have major emotional, physical and mental impacts on your health, so learning how to deal with it is important.
Here are some science-based, evidence-backed tips on how to deal with anxiety when it pops up, including easy self-care ideas. In addition, anxiety medications are available to help you manage and control your anxiety symptoms.
What is anxiety?
According to NAMI, anxiety may be considered a disorder when fear or worry prevents you from accomplishing everyday activities. It includes several disorders. Among them are generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder and panic disorder.
While the exact causes of anxiety disorders aren't known, several factors are thought to play a role, according to the Cleveland Clinic. These include a family history of anxiety, trauma during childhood or adulthood, certain personality traits, other mental health issues like depression, and health conditions like thyroid disorders and heart arrhythmias.
While each anxiety disorder has its symptoms, NAMI states that the one characteristic they all share is an irrational or excessive fear of a threat, despite the situation holding no real threat.
People with anxiety may also experience:
How to deal with anxiety
George Mason University clinical psychologist James Maddux counsels people with anxiety using a type of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It aims to help people identify counterproductive thinking, which can add to anxiety by negatively impacting how you feel.
Maddux utilizes CBT because it “tries to help the person understand what those [counterproductive] patterns of thinking are and to change those patterns of thinking.”
Here are five easy self-care strategies Maddux recommends for helping you deal with bouts of anxiety:
NAMI states that another therapy, called exposure response therapy, can be used alongside CBT to help people with anxiety develop a healthier response to fear.
Anxiety medications may also be prescribed by your doctor to help you improve the emotional and physical symptoms of the condition. These include anxiety medications for short-term use and antidepressants.