• Karen C. Simms

Understanding Anxiety

Updated: Nov 4

Do, Be, & Live Better


“Trust yourself. You’ve survived a lot, and you’ll survive whatever is coming.” – Robert Tew

Many people are experiencing higher levels of distress and stress, which could be characterized as anxiety. When you are experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety you can feel like you cannot survive what is coming and to trust yourself. The COVID crisis, bad news, economic challenges, and social unrest can all increase one's feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed. When these feelings result in excessive worrying, being overwhelmed or powerless, or physical symptoms of distress, like stomach aches, sleeplessness, a rapid heart rate, or numbness, they can be classified as anxiety. Although anxiety can manifest itself in any number of ways, it is normal.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association, approximately 18% of adults in the United States and 12% of teens meet the clinical criteria for an anxiety disorder. Moreover, feelings of anxiety are extremely common, even for those who do not meet the clinical criteria. Our brains need our world to be safe, predictable, and consistent, and we need to feel like we’re in control. When there is a lot of uncertainty, when we feel out of control, or when we feel threatened by real or imagined fears, then we may feel anxious. Even good changes—getting married, receiving a promotion, or moving—can cause physical stress because they break the equilibrium.

When my daughter was in college, she had someone ask her, ‘why are you so tightly wound? And she responded, ‘have you meet my parents.’ Anxiety, like many other mental health needs has both a biological and an environmental component. Some of us are simply more wired to feel more anxiety. Although there are a number of clinical presentations of anxiety, free-floating anxiety, also known as generalized anxiety disorder, ca be a reaction to change. It can also be purely an inherited biological condition. Anxiety, like many mental health needs, is now believed to have a biological component. Thus, sometimes the anxiety we experience is just a reflection of our wiring. Some people are more sensitive to changes and their bodies produce signals of alarm more easily. It might feel like you are wired for danger.

Regardless of the source of your anxiety, I hope you can try the following:

  1. First, breathe. Seriously! I want you to keep breathing! Do so deeply and slowly from your belly. Make time to breathe throughout the day. Put it in your calendar.

  2. Accept that you are feeling anxious and that being that way does not make you weak or damaged in some way.

  3. Use the anxiety as information. Is it telling you to slow down, is it telling you that you need additional support, or is it telling you that you need more safety, predictability and consistency?

  4. Move. Anxiety is physical and frequently benefits from a physical response. Walk, run, dance, or play sports regularly. Getting 30 minutes of cardio a day for four or five days a week is helpful.

  5. Seek support. Sometimes talking through your feelings can be very helpful. And there are specific cognitive behavioral strategies that can be learned that can help. There are also tools that can teach you to become more aware of your body and work to calm the stress-related feelings of your body.

  6. There are also groups and self-support strategies that can be extremely helpful. NAMI is an incredible resource. There are also apps like CALM, Dare – Break Free from Anxiety, and Headspace, and also the Anti-Stress Anxiety Relief Game. These have all been proven to be useful self-support strategies.

  7. Watch what you eat and drink. Sugar, caffeine, and some other substances can actually increase your feelings of anxiety. Try eating foods high in protein and reduce your intake of sugar and caffeine. Be aware that some strategies and substances that you might consider, such as drinking alcohol, smoking, or even consuming cannabis, may exacerbate your symptoms.

  8. Finally, trust that it is okay to ask for help. Your doctor, mental health provider, or a holistic health provider can help you to design a plan that works for you. There are a range of solutions that have been proven to reduce the symptoms of anxiety.

If you or someone you know is feeling anxious, know that you are not alone. There are proven and effective strategies that can be used to alleviate such feelings of anxiety.

Until next month! Stay well and do, be & live better! Visit me at: www.meridainkconsulting.com.

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