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Stress & Anxiety: Symptoms, Causes, Relief, Self Help, Treatment

Mental Stress and Anxiety

All of us experience stress and anxiety at different stages in our lives. And living with anxiety is stressful enough. One might feel worried and anxious about sitting an exam, or having a medical test or an interview. Sometimes we worry about a future event.

Mental stress or anxiety is not always bad. For example, if someone has no fear of being put to the test (exam), he or she will not study properly.

Not all people have the same level of anxiety or tension. Sometimes anxiety can become unhealthy and harmful when it exceeds any level that a person can handle.

Stress and anxiety share many of the same emotional and physical symptoms – uneasiness, nervousness or worry, tension, depression, headaches, high blood pressure, insomnia (loss of sleep), loss of sexual desire and/or ability, etc.

Both anxiety and stress are very treatable indeed and don't need to lead to long lasting illnesses.

how to manage and cope with Stress and Anxiety

What is Mental Stress and Anxiety

What is Stress

Stress is a response to a threat in any given situation (such as a tight deadline at work, having an argument with a friend, etc.).

Stress response is a auto mechanism system which protects people from dangers of life. This type of response actually helps to tackle difficult situations like when you are in a meetings, work presentations, exam preparations etc, it helps in sharpening your skills and achieve targets successfully. But when it exceeds a certain level, it can cause psychological and physiological traumas leading to strained relations, performance related problems etc.

The moment you feel stress, its important to start analyzing yourself, isolate those activities which causes stress, create a technique to effectively tackle a particular activity without getting stressed and apply the same in other activities also.

What is Anxiety

Anxiety is a person’s specific reaction to stress. Unlike stress, anxiety persists even after the situation has been resolved or passed.

Causes of Stress and Anxiety

It has been found that the most stressful event in human life is the death of spouse (husband or wife). There are many other factors such as divorce, jail, death of a close family member, losing a job or retirement, conception, rise in responsibilities in workplace, unrest with people at home, ending a close relationship, change of residence or school, sexual problems, etc.

Sometimes some trivial events may lead to high level stress and anxiety for some individuals. The underlying causes of stress often have less to do with the external circumstances than an individual’s expectations for the future and their evaluation of their own capacity to meet them.

Causes of Anxiety

One cause of anxiety might be one's personality. For example, if you have low self esteem or are depressed then this might be the cause of anxiety for you. Or, personality might not be the cause of anxiety at all and simply a factor making one more prone to such a disorder.

Brain chemicals might be another cause of anxiety in many because brain chemical altering drugs frequently work for individuals suffering from anxiety disorders. This gives doctors hope that brain chemicals are in fact a cause of anxiety in many.

Heredity might be another cause of anxiety and one you can't do anything about. Doctors believe certain genes make individuals prone to anxiety and when certain events take place these individuals will likely develop an anxiety disorder.

Some of the primary reasons that a person would feel anxious have been provided below. These are just a few examples of the varied symptoms but with this, a person can better understand the wide range of triggers for anxiety.

Mental Health Factors – There are a number of mental health conditions that cause anxiety to include:
  • Panic Disorders – Along with anxiety, an individual would experience dizziness, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations on some level
  • Anxiety Disorders – All of the different types of anxiety disorders cause a sense of anxiousness
  • Phobic Disorders – There is a long list of phobias that lead to anxiety such as the fear of water, flying, spiders, and so on
  • Stress Disorders – This would include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, non-epileptic seizures, Acute Stress Disorder, and many others
  • Depression – i.e. not finding the solution to beat depression
External Factors – Along with mental health conditions, the symptoms of anxiety can be triggered by any number of external factors such as:
  • Heavy workload
  • High demands in school
  • Financial Problems
  • Serious health issues
  • Divorce
  • Alcohol and/or illicit drug abuse
  • Death of the loved one
  • Side effects of certain medications
  • Major accident or other traumatic event
  • Inadequate oxygen due to lung embolism, emphysema, and even high altitude sickness
As shown above from the instances provided, an individual could go through periods of feeling anxious. Depending on the cause but also the person and his/her reaction, these periods could be minor or serious, as well as short or long-lasting.

Signs of Stress & Anxiety 

There are two kinds of anxiety and stress inducing situations, those that happen once such as a traumatic event like a bereavement or near car crash and those that happen repeatedly such as work pressure (stress), relationship problems or negative family situations.

Anxiety and stress inducing situations which happen once are more easily controlled, the event happens and the subject addresses and deals with the issues arising from that situation. The mind files the experience away as a memory and the person moves on. With events that happen constantly over a period of time the subconscious is affected and certain bodily systems can be 're-set' which causes the physical manifestations of stress.

Stress Symptoms

Stress symptoms can be classified under four broad headings namely cognitive, physical, behavioral, emotional symptoms.
  • Cognitive symptoms - memory slippages, constant worry, concentration lapse, pessimistic thoughts.
  • Physical symptoms - frequent cold, faster heartbeats, constipation, reduced sex drive, body aches etc.
  • Behavioral symptoms - sleeping disorders, use of alcohol, cigars, changes in eating habits, nervous feelings etc.
  • Emotional symptoms - depression, over excitement, short temper, loneliness, moodiness etc.

Anxiety Symptoms

The most common anxiety symptoms are:
  • Trouble Concentrating / Lack of focus – Often, a person dealing with anxiety would have a difficult time concentrating. As a result of this, a great deal of time would be spent in completing even the smallest of tasks or things would go without being completed at all.
  • Worry / Tension, to the extreme – You may have irrational worries or concerns about loved ones, things, situations. Some degree of fear would be expected with anxiety but this can evolve to the point of experiencing terror.
  • Irritability – As symptoms of anxiety increase and intensify, a person would start to feel more and more irritable. Unfortunately, the behavior that goes along with this puts a tremendous amount of stress on family members, friends, and intimate partners.
  • Anger – This too is a common symptom connected to anxiety caused by a feeling of being overwhelmed. Typically, an individual would begin by feeling agitated and irritated, which eventually would lead into full-blown anger.
  • Restlessness – It is also common for someone with anxiety to find it difficult to relax. There seems to be an ongoing need to be doing something, which can lead to obsessive behaviors and intense stress. You might be on “edge” a lot, restless, uptight. You may have feelings you are not familiar with but know they shouldn’t be there.
  • Sleep Disturbances / Insomnia – Anxiety causes issues with sleep. It's probably the most common. For some people, the issue is insomnia (for some, it is the inability to sleep whereas for others, it becomes almost impossible to stay asleep after going to bed). When you have insomnia (hard to fall and/or staying asleep), you are a little more “cranky” and irritable than usual. Even you notice it.
  • Heart Palpitations – The worse anxiety becomes the more a person would have physical problems. One of the most common is heart palpitations in which the heart beats hard and fast. Shortness of breath is another symptom that often accompanies heart palpitations.
  • Aches and Pains – Some people might have aches and pains of the joints and muscles when dealing with anxiety.
  • Headaches – This physical symptom often occurs with many of the most common anxiety disorders. Sweating, muscle tightness, nausea and frequent urination are also present. You notice these things because they are not, or at least didn’t use to be, normal for you.
  • Jitters – A phrase often used to describe the feelings of anxiety is “having the jitters”, which means internally, the body feels tense, jumpy, and jittery. In more severe cases, a person’s skin might feel as if it were crawling with bugs. As part of this, an individual would likely startle easily to sound or even touch.
  • Sweating – When a person is going through a serious period of feeling anxious, sweating could become a problem. However, because profuse sweating is also a sign of other health problems to include heart attack, if someone noticed increased perspiration that cannot be controlled it would be essential to talk to a doctor, especially if chest pain and shortness of breath are also present.
  • Tingling – The last of the less common symptoms of anxiety is a tingling sensation of the fingers and toes. This particular symptom can become so bad that an individual would have trouble grasping firmly onto objects and in some cases, walking.
Anxiety symptoms range a great deal from person to person. If you experience panic attacks along with anxiety symptoms, these may present their own set of symptoms.

Anxiety in Children Symptoms

Unlike most people believe, children are more susceptible to anxiety disorder than the rest of the adult population in the world. And while adults are very capable of handling stress and anxiety, kids are usually dependent upon the help of their parents or caregivers. Otherwise, they suffer some a more emotional and mental disorders. Dealing how to help children and anxiety symptoms identification can be a challenging role parents need to be very familiar about.

One of the most common types of anxiety disorder in children today is what child experts call Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Children with this type of problem constantly worry about the things that occur at school, in the home or with his environment. They are usually perfectionist and always seek for reassurance and approval from others especially to those who are close to them such as family members and other relatives.

Some physical symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder are muscle tension, headaches, soreness, having trouble getting a good sleep, nausea and stomach aches and easily gets tired. Psychologically speaking, kids become irritable and unable to relax and concentrate. They have uncontrollable thoughts and imaginations about the future and some other things that might take place around them.

Another form of anxiety disorder is Separation Anxiety Disorder. This happens when children experience distress when they are away from their parents or their caregivers. Children with this problem normally have difficulty leaving home for school or they refuse going to school for the fear of being separate from his caregivers. They have very low self-esteem in social settings and they lack the ability to meet new friends. They have frequent physical complaints too such as headaches and stomach aches.

Panic Disorder is also very common among young kids. With this disorder children easily get extremely nervous about many things around them like the case in generalized anxiety disorder. This one however are panic attacks in a more sudden form. Children with this problem have discrete episodes of intense fear from impending danger or assumed doom. Panic Disorder is also becoming very common lately in children and anxiety symptoms for this one are rapid heartbeat or palpitation, trembling or shaking for no apparent reason, lightheadedness, may easily faint, losing control or the thought of going crazy, shortness of breathing, nausea and other physical distress.

Specific Phobia is a form of disorder also that can be acquired by children and anxiety symptoms for this one are very similar from cases of anxiety disorders mentioned above. With this problem, children have persistent fear over an object, a situation, or a person. Their exposure to the things or situation they fear or have phobia about lead right away to immediately provoking an anxiety reaction.

There are more to the list but the symptoms generally revolve from the four anxiety disorders we have discussed about. Remember that dealing with children and anxiety symptoms early can decrease the chances of making the problem worse and your children can continue to grow and progress in a much more comfortable and peaceful way.

   See also:
     1. Anxiety in Children

Stress Relief

How to Relieve Stress

When life throws you lemons, make lemonade! Sure, you’ve heard this a million times, but you feel as though the recipe has gone a little sour. In other words, you haven’t found anything that helps with relieving stress. Life is hectic enough and by not learning to cope with the issues, it can be mentally and physically exhausting. However, don’t feel as though you’re stuck without a solution. There are relaxation techniques for stress that can be used to alleviate any symptoms caused by this annoyance - headaches, depression, and insomnia are just to name a few.

   Read also: 10 Ways to Relieve Stress

So, you woke up late this morning and have been rushing throughout the day. You have yet to have that first cup of te or coffee and the kids are being sluggish. Traffic is horrendous, the kids are being loud, and you’re late for a morning meeting. It is safe to say that life has thrown you a lemon tree; so what is your next step?

The very first thing to do is breathe; just take a moment, close your eyes, and breathe. Being in a rush causes anxiety and tension; the only way to relieve these symptoms is with relaxation. Taking deep breathes puts the body into an extremely calm state; slowing the heart rate, relaxing the nerves, and de-stressing the body.

Another way to relieve tension is to focus your mind on something else other than the issues at hand. For instance, closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing will be able to reduce the anxiety surging through your body. You can count, if you wish, to divert your attention toward tranquility rather than stress. Picturing a beach with waves rolling in, plus counting the beach chairs, multiplied by deep breathing equals a meditative state.

Congratulations; you have just accomplished what many people pay a psychologist to do. You should feel proud and ready to conquer the rest of the day.

Sometimes stress can be more than what we can endure. When life becomes too hectic for your mind and body to handle, the brain releases a notorious stress hormone called Cortisol. These techniques can assist in balancing the chemical so that the effects are not as serious, but it does not control it. In order for the stress relieving techniques to be beneficial, you need to incorporate them into your daily routine.

   Read more here: Stress Relief Techniques

Another relaxation way to manage stress is by drinking hot tea - especially green tea or chamomile; these flavors have a calming agent that helps reduce tension within the body. Combining the previous techniques with a hot cup of tea can really be beneficial in the battle of fighting stress.


The rest, however, is psychological and there are some relaxation techniques that will help with this as well. For example, make a point to smile and laugh more often. Research has shown that people who portray happiness tend to reflect the actual emotion. Have you ever heard that a smile is contagious? Guess what? It’s a true statement! By smiling, the brain releases endorphins that override the stress hormone and will also relax the entire body. It’s a simple way to insure tranquility.

But, one of the most effective ways to relieve stress is to change your way of thinking. It is easier said than done, but quite promising when it’s accomplished. Looking at situations with a negative aspect will only cloud your judgment, so do everything in your power to prevent it. Regardless of how crazy and stressful the situation may be, always remember that you will get through it. At this point, it’s up to you whether the experience is memorable in a positive or negative way.

So, the next time life gives you lemons, forget about making lemonade. That recipe stopped working a long time ago. Why don’t you grab a cookbook and create a lemon meringue pie instead!   

Anxiety Relief

Anxiety Self Help & Support

Many people who successfully recover from anxiety symptoms often use a combination of treatments that include self-help. Whether it's through trusted self-help techniques or through their own creativity, people have overcome major obstacles using self-help techniques.
  • Take necessary steps to tackle what it is about these situations that you find stressful.
  • Make sure you have time for things you enjoy to do.
  • Take up a relaxing hobby maybe Yoga or palates.
  • Make sure you get enough regular sleep.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet of three meals a day. (See: Foods that Help with Anxiety)
  • Take regular moderate exercise.
  • Learn to relax at every opportunity.

When tackling anxiety it is most important that you are able to avoid the vicious cycle your symptoms are able to generate so you can effectively stop anxiety in it's tracks. When your thoughts and fears prolong the anxiety you are suffering then it is the time you need to implement calming or take yourself to a safe place in your mind.

To cope up with anxiety one requires a support system consisting of friends and family, support groups and when appropriate mental health professionals.

You can take the help of online therapy to recover from anxiety. Studies show that online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is just as effective as traditional face-to-face therapy. If you need dedicated online-based team of consultant therapists, cognitive behavioral therapists, practitioners and support staff that collaboratively works to help people in need of emotional support you may join by clicking here → CBT based Online Therapy.

   See also for Ways to Relieve Anxiety: Techniques to Reduce Stress and Anxiety     

Anxiety Treatment: Anxiety Medication

There are of course practical issues surrounding the treatment of stress and anxiety symptoms; stress inducing factors have to be addressed to avoid constantly being exposed to them, however, the psychological element of stress, the element which produces the symptoms, has to be addressed too.

Anxiety medication and particularly anti-depressants can be very effective in treating anxiety and are often used in a combination with other forms of therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Although to achieve complete remission of these symptoms, which is the obvious goal within any treatment, you may need to make some very important changes in your life.

Most often people can manage there anxiety well if it can be initially reduced by medication. Psychiatrists often prescribe benzodiazepines, a group of tranquilizers that can reduce debilitating symptoms and enable a person to concentrate on coping with anxiety problems. This medication is highly addictive and should not be taken for longer than a month at a time.

Because of problems of dependency, doctors usually prescribe some form of tranquilizers and sleeping pills only as a temporary measure for severe or disabling anxiety. They are given at lowest possible doses, for the shortest possible time, and not longer than about four weeks. The side effects may include feeling sluggish, unable to concentrate, and not caring about anything. Withdrawal symptoms may occur, if you take them for any length of time. These can seem worse than the original anxiety-feeling. The long-term use of tranquilizers has also been linked with having panic attacks.

Anti-depressants were primarily developed to treat depression but are also effective for anxiety disorders. Although these medications start altering brain chemistry after the very first dose, it usually takes about 4 to 6 weeks before symptoms start to fade. It is important to continue medications long enough to let them work.

Which medication you are prescribed depends entirely on your previous medical history and the severity of your anxiety. The physician treating you will take all of this into account before issuing you with any form of medication to treat your illness.

Types of Medications:
  • Anti-Anxiety Drugs such as benzodiazepines, Buspirone, Clonazepam
  • Beta-Blockers such as propranolol
  • SSRIs also known as selective Serotonin re-uptake inhibitors
  • MAOIs also known as Monoamine Oxidase inhibitors
  • TCAs also known as Tricyclic anti-depressants
  • SNRIs also known as Serotonin and Noradrenaline re-uptake inhibitors

 

CONCLUSION

Doctors these days are encountering frequent stress and anxiety related cases for treatment. But before going for a doctor, we are able to relieve some or even all of our own stress. All we need to do is to have a practical assessment of the situation. Everyday we need to spend some time relaxed, do meditation, enjoy your inner self and then start your days activities. Yoga, meditation, deep breathing techniques are helpful for your mind and body and brings about balance which will assist in mitigating related factors. Also we can relieve stress immediately by diverting our attention by listening to music, going for a stroll etc. This will gradually create a change in the mindset . Still, if you are not able to overcome stress, then you can contact your doctor for psychotherapy and counseling.

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