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Anxiety, stress, and worry. What’s the difference and when to seek help.

Almost nobody is worry free, but worry associated with anxiety is a step above the regular stress we experience in our daily lives. 

Anxiety is a very common condition that almost everyone will deal with at some point in their adult life. While it might sound and feel scary, anxiety can be treated very effectively. The level of anxiety that we feel in our daily lives is dependent on our understanding and management of our symptoms. When anxiety is allowed to grow, it can quickly take over your life and prevent you from enjoying the things you love. 

The Lifecycle of Anxiety: 

Step 1: The Cause

The causes of anxiety can be genetic, situational, or both. It is not caused by any one thing, and most often it is caused by a combination of things like bad experiences, stress, chronic illness, and chemical imbalances in the brain. Mental health professionals will identify the root causes and give instructions on how to proactively manage and treat anxiety. 

The type of anxiety you have and your experience managing anxiety is highly dependent on the root causes. Situational anxiety is triggered by overwhelming or traumatic life events, whereas genetic anxiety is often caused by a predisposition for chemical imbalance in the brain. You might be anxious about something more serious like retirement, medical issues, or bills. Or you might be anxious about everyday things like driving on the highway, impressing your friends and family, or the way you look. Identifying the root cause of these worries is a critical first step in treating and managing anxiety. 

Step 2: The Presentation 

Anxiety presents itself as an intense feeling of fear, nervousness, or worry that’s way too strong for the situation at hand. Most often anxiety is forward facing, meaning your fear and worry are directed towards future events or activities. It may be long lasting, even debilitating, and greatly interfere with your daily life. Worry and fear are normal, but when these feelings last too long and feel too strong, you might have anxiety. 

We effectively treat anxiety every day, and understanding your anxiety is an important first step in healing your mind. Our clinicians identify anxiety through a number of behavioral and physical symptoms that patients present. 

The most common symptoms of anxiety are: 

  1. Overwhelming fear 
  2. Procrastination 
  3. Irrational worry 
  4. Numbness
  5. Trouble falling or staying asleep
  6. Sweating
  7. Muscle tension
  8. Nausea or stomach aches
  9. Trouble concentrating
  10. Trouble breathing
  11. Dizzy, faint or lightheaded
  12. Trembling and shaking

Step 3: Growth 

Anxiety grows through avoidance. Anxiety can come on suddenly, even for people who have no previous history of anxious tendencies. Because of the fear brought on by the sudden onset of anxiety, we begin to avoid the things that scare us. When a “scary” thing is avoided, there is an immediate, but short-lived, sense of relief. But when we avoid things that make us anxious, it can cause our problems to pile up. When it becomes harder and harder to face a mountain of anxiety provoking issues, a mental health professional can help pull you out of this dangerous cycle of anxiety and avoidance. 

Step 4: Treatment 

There are a number of methods that our clinicians have developed to help patients treat the onset of anxiety, here are a few of the ways you can work with your body and mind to help you feel better. 

Train your Body

  1. Calm your body down and control your breathing. Inhale and exhale slowly at a pace that feels right for you.
  2. Get up and move. Walk briskly and pay attention to your body. Even changing locations can help you feel physically and mentally better.
  3. Meditate and practice mindfulness – paying attention to your surroundings using your five senses. What do you smell, hear, feel? Surround yourself with soothing scents, squeeze a stress ball, or take a drink of water paying attention to the feeling of coolness as you swallow.  Focus on your body position – unclench your jaw and shake out your limbs to “loosen up.”  Learning how to become physically attuned is important.  WellQor therapists can teach you these coping skills and how to apply them to various situations.  

Train your Brain

  1. Think it through – take a minute to put things in perspective and reduce distress by asking yourself,  “Are my thoughts and actions helping or hurting me right now?” Changing the way we think about something can be helpful. Talking to a third party like a WellQor therapist can help you put things in perspective.   
  2. Develop an awareness of what triggers your anxiety and identify patterns. You can’t fix something if you don’t understand the cause.
  3. Reframe your thoughts. Often irrational thoughts influence how we feel.  We tend to catastrophize and exaggerate the problem, or we tend to think of the worst possible outcome and assume it to be true. By learning to question your own thoughts, you can correct many of these cognitive distortions.

About WellQor

WellQor is a telebehavioral healthcare company focused on mental health for mature adults. With a national network of licensed mental health providers specializing in mature adult issues, WellQor helps people 50 and older with therapy for depression, grief, anxiety and other mental health issues in the context of mid-life and later life experiences. Our counselors and therapists help seniors and mature adults with major life transitions, changes in health and mobility, developing mental health issues and temporary periods of stress or depression often associated with aging. WellQor patients access services on an easy-to-use, secure web and mobile telehealth platform that makes things both simple and private. Visit WellQor.com for more information and to check insurance coverage by state.

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