According to the National Institute of Mental Health about 18% of adults in the United States experience an anxiety disorder while only 37% of those receive treatment. Meaning that about 63% of adults affected do not seek out services for treatable anxiety disorders. There are many triggers that increase stress and anxiety such as relationship conflicts, financial hardship, and school or work demands. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report 26% to 40% of workers responding to surveys reported that their jobs were very stressful. That is important because stress and anxiety impairs functioning whether that be academic or occupational, leading to injury or lower productivity. The first step to wellness is becoming aware of your physical and psychological reactions to stress and anxiety. Below are some common signs of stress and anxiety:
- Headaches or backaches
- Muscle tension and stiffness
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Nausea, dizziness
- Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
- Weight gain or loss
- Skin breakouts (hives, eczema)
- Loss of sex drive
- Frequent colds (impaired immune functioning)
Furthermore, scientific evidence suggests that stress impacts your physical health. Many medical conditions are caused or exacerbated by stress, including:
- Chronic pain
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Autoimmune diseases
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Skin problems
- Know yourself – Understanding how you experience stress is a vital step towards identifying what is causing you stress and preparing for or preventing it in the future.
- Identify causes of stress – Knowledge is power. Once you know what your triggers for stress or anxiety are, you can take steps to minimize its effect.
- Eat healthy – Good physical health promotes good mental health and vice versa. Stressed people tend to overeat or make unhealthy nutritional choices, so choose healthy foods and eat in moderation.
- Be proactive not passive – Don’t just sit with your hands crossed waiting to feel better, cope with stress actively by engaging in healthy stress relieving activities such as exercise, art, music, or dance.
- Get plenty of Zzzzzz – Poor sleep hygiene can leave you tired and cranky in the morning making you more susceptible to stress, so get the recommended 8 hours of sleep on a regular basis.
- Laugh, it is good for the heart – Laughing produces feel-good brain chemicals that relief stress and promote wellbeing.
- Live in the now: Many people experience anticipatory anxiety for something that hasn’t happened or ruminate over past events not realizing that in the actual moment there is nothing stressing them.
- Social support – The ability to seek out and have social support has been associated with resilience, the ability to bounce back from stress. There is a reason why humans are social beings.
- Seek professional help: When symptoms persevere and begin to impact functioning in other areas of your life such as school or work, therapy has been shown to help.
Author: Dr. Yoendry Torres, Clinical Psychologist