At some point in our lives, we all face anxiety, depression more or less. It’s perfectly normal to have the symptoms of anxiety every now and then.
Problems arise when these symptoms start hampering our daily living habits, like eating, sleeping, loving, fun, family time, working to name a few.
Why we feel anxiety
We as human beings have gone too far in technological advancements. The amount of growth endured by Homosapiens is by far the greatest of all living beings on this planet earth.
However, the thinking and reaction pattern of our brain has rarely changed with respect to the other living beings. We see dangers similar to the dog barking in our streets or sparrows flying in our balconies.
a. Ancestral causes
Since time immemorial, our brain, specifically the emotional one, is scanning for potential dangers to save us. During caveman time these dangers were like eating by a predator, being bitten by a snake, having to sleep hungry, being left out of a group etc. And our savior, the limbic system of our brain, has designed a specific mechanism bypassing our logical brain to save us from potential dangers.
b. How brain perceives anxiety
The Limbic system connects our central nervous system with the brain and is responsible for emotional responses. Ideally each signal first shall be analyzed by Neocortex (logical brain) and accordingly we shall react. But the process is too long when a delay of millisecond could cause a death when faced with unprecedented challenges. Therefore our brain has devised a more quick response mechanism in which a small amount of signal directly goes to amygdala (part of brain responsible for emotional reaction) and we react without even analyzing the cause of the reaction. That is the reason we instantly react to a high volume sound and then realize it was just the sound of a tire burst of a car which is very far from us to cause actual danger. During the caveman period or prior to that this reaction mechanism could have saved many lives but it is proving a liability in today’s modern world where we are no longer faced with such life threatening dangers on a daily basis anymore.
c. Modern day cause of anxiety
Similar to past days’ thought processes, our brain is always in search of potential dangers in order to keep us safe. However, the type of dangers have been replaced with withdrawal of facilities like AC not working in summers, loved ones not talking, threat to our jobs, getting sick and so on. The list is just endless. Unfortunately our brain could not differentiate between thought and actuality when it reacts and consequences are the same in both cases.
Effects of anxiety on body
Anxiety not only hampers us mentally but effects are visible on the body also. Dropped shoulders, bad mood, elevated blood pressure and heart rate, too much sweating, lack of sleep, pain in chest, indigestion to name a few are somewhere related to anxiety. Prolonged anxiety could cause permanent damage to organs like heart, liver and kidneys and change brain Circuitry for the bad.
Few numbers related to anxiety
As per a 2013 study 1 in 7.3 people suffers from an anxiety disorder at some stage of their lives
Women are 1.5 times more likely to have an anxiety disorder
People with age group 35-54 suffered most compared to any other age number
The persistence varies across countries from 2.4℅ in Italy to 29℅ in Mexico.
Symptoms of anxiety
- Individuals with anxiety disorders are excessively fearful, anxious, or avoidant of perceived threats in the environment (eg, social situations or unfamiliar locations) or internal to oneself (eg, unusual bodily sensations).
- The response is out of proportion to the actual risk or danger posed
- Fear occurs as a result of perceived imminent threat whereas anxiety is a state of anticipation about perceived future threats.
- Panic attacks feature prominently as a particular type of fear response.
- Avoidance behaviors range from refusal to enter situations to subtle reliance on objects or people to cope.
Type of anxiety disorders
1. Separation anxiety disorder
Anxiety developed due to fear of separation from an attachment figure or harm to an attachment figure. Generally develops in childhood but may carry forward to adulthood as well if not treated. Most love couples have this disorder when they are forced to cope with a rejection or breakup.
2. Selective or elective mutism
Consistent failure to speakup when a situation demands. Most people in today’s world are becoming like this due increased surveillance by the government, their bosses and partners. In the nutshell the habit of saying yes even if one feels like no is the cause of this.
3. Specific phobia
Simply means out of proportion fear for a situation which doesn’t pose that much fear. Like some people react weird towards an accident, blood, water, heights, lies and so on.
4. Social phobia
Marked fear, anxiety or avoidance of social situations. Most introverts feel this. Apart from this there are several kinds of anxiety disorders like phobia of self performance, being in limelight, stress due others medical or financial condition, fear of having a panic attack etc are counted as anxiety disorders.
6 Ways to prevent or improve anxiety disorders
As discussed above anxiety disorders are related to our reaction towards a situation and not the situation itself. Therefore we will discuss the specific actions which we can take on a mind level to improve our reaction and better cope with the situation at hand.
1. Accept the situation as it is
First step is not to curse ourselves for our habitual response of anxiety towards a normal situation. By doing so we can clear the tug of war in our brain between our actual situation and ideal situation. Anxiety starts when we try to avoid reality and run from it. If you are feeling fear just accept it, if you are sad just accept it. It will bring a great deal of clarity in your mind. Just try it. It can be hard Initially as the anxiety itself is created because of avoidance of the situation and not accepting it
2. Understand your algorithm
Everybody does have a reaction and thinking pattern which are developed over the course of many years and experiences. Take a note of it. For example there might be a situation in which your boss or someone you love stops you in between the talk and you become silent for a longer period of time. This is your reaction when someone stops you in between a conversation and your way of acting as usual. Next time try to be more neutral and express positive opinions even if someone interrupts you in half.
3. Gather knowledge
Knowledge is power. The old saying holds true in every situation. We fear the unknown, therefore the first step to erase fear is to know what we fear. Collect as much knowledge as possible of anxiety, stress, our emotional response, people behavior and everything we could possibly think of. By doing so, we can better control and fine tune our responses for unfavorable situations and stay calm and positive.
- Business ideas
- General knowledge
- Important days
- Life Lessons
- Professional Success
- Social Life सामाजिक बुद्धिमत्ता
4. Face your fears
We fear what we have not faced before. As our exposure to a fearful situation increases our fear intensity starts to decrease and ultimately it completely fades from our memories. Push yourself to face the uncomfortable situations even if it’s the slightest one. Like waking up 15 minutes early, doing that presentation even if your boss doesn’t ask you to do it. Adding that extra information even if it is not asked by your boss. This will gradually build confidence inside and you consequently reduce stress and anxiety.
5. Upgrade yourself
This one is the best of the lot. When faced with a difficult situation, we must try to solve it on our own. Seeking help should be the last choice. This can be achieved by upgrading ourselves and leaving our comfort zone behind. Every year we must see a different ourselves with upgraded skills. Even the smallest of skills like writing an email, practicing calmness, meditation, a new sport habit, reading a book, eating healthy food etc could be anything.
6. Have meaningful relationships
Relationships could be a friend, partner, parents, brother, sister, son, daughter or a colleague. Most people today have shallow relationships in which they only have shallow talks and bonds without any real connection among them. This is another cause of stress and unfulfilled desires. Have meaningful people in your life even if the connection is short lived but it should add value to your life. Improve on existing relationships if the things are not going easy. When we are with someone in any kind of relationship we must be fully present with our mind and body to enjoy the time rather than just waiting for it to pass by.
7. Attitude of gratitude
Having a growth mindset is essential but not on the cost of your own life. Pushing for betterment is important but not on the cost of living itself. We should seek improvement but first must start living and feel the current situation. What you already have is a dream for millions of people out there.
If you keep pushing for more you might not have a time for enjoying what you have already achieved. Therefore it is of utmost importance to feel satisfied with the results you have got irrespective of what you aimed for. In the end we can only control our actions and not the outcome. The Gita says:-
कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन । मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भुर्मा ते संगोऽस्त्वकर्मणि ॥ Gita Chapter 2, Verse 47 You have the right to work only but never to its fruits. Let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction.
Anxiety is a common disorder which hamper our progress like no other thing. Because people do not recognize it to be a deases and keep on loosing opportunities in life because of hidden fears. Anxiety could be different kind based on situation and past experiences. Additionally it is not wrong to have anxiety, what’s wrong is not taking any action about it. Most common actions which we can take is on the mind and behavior level. Know yourself better, practicing gratitude, knowledge and facing your fears are the long term actions to completely get over the programmed fears inside us.
Frequently asked questions
1. What are Complications of Anxiety
It can lead to, or worsen, other mental and physical conditions, such as:
Depression (which often occurs with an anxiety disorder) or other mental health disorders
- Substance misuse
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
- Digestive or bowel problems
- Headaches and chronic pain
- Social isolation
- Problems functioning at school or work
- Poor quality of life
2. When to see a doctor
See your doctor if:
- You feel like you’re worrying too much and it’s interfering with your work, relationships or other parts of your life
- Your fear, worry or anxiety is upsetting to you and difficult to control
- You feel depressed, have trouble with alcohol or drug use, or have other mental health concerns along with anxiety
- You think your anxiety could be linked to a physical health problem
- You have suicidal thoughts or behaviors — if this is the case, seek emergency treatment immediately