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Anxiety 101: A Beginners Guide to Understanding Anxiety

Let’s talk about anxiety….

You hear it every day— someone saying how anxious they are, how their anxiety is through the roof, or how their anxiety is getting in the way of XYZ. But, what actually is anxiety? 

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Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. It can show up in SO many different forms that you may not even recognize them as symptoms of anxiety. 

Have you ever felt on edge or restless but haven’t been able to figure out why? That’s anxiety. What about feeling fatigued ridiculously easily? Could be anxiety. Have you had trouble concentrating or felt as if your brain is going ‘blank’? Yeah, that’s a sign of anxiety. How about muscle tension? Check your jaw and shoulders right now, are you tensing up? Nail-biting and lip picking too, both signs of anxiety! 

Internal Vs External Causes of Anxiety

The reasoning behind feeling anxious can be caused by internal and external factors. Some of the internal factors include: 

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  • Genetics
  • Brain Chemistry and Hormones 
  • Stress
  • Un-Processed Past Trauma

Some of the external factors include: 

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Created by Jennah DuBois
  • Social Situation (public speaking, job interviews) 
  • Life Transitions
  • Having children 
  • Trauma

Helpful VS Un-Helpful Anxiety

Believe it or not, anxiety can actually be helpful for us! Let me explain: 

Helpful anxiety is basically our internal check- engine light. It’s our internal bodily process that keeps us vigilant and aware of our surroundings– potentially protecting us from danger. If you notice you are beginning to feel anxious, pay attention to that check engine light…is everything okay around you? 

On the other hand, unhelpful anxiety is the type of anxiety that doesn’t arise from potential danger coming to us. This type is particularly tricky because it often feels like we are in danger; When in reality something around us or inside us has triggered our internal check-engine light to turn on. Unhelpful anxiety can cause us to develop phobias, have a panic attack, or begin trembling along with countless physical and psychosomatic symptoms. 

Keep in mind that neither type of anxiety is more “real” than the other! Both are very real and are telling us something. However, knowing which category our anxiety falls into can give us some indicators on how we can learn to cope with it. 

Take a second to think about your anxiety symptoms…are they typically helpful or unhelpful? 

Anxiety Vs Fear

Along with determining if your anxiety is helpful or unhelpful, it is also imperative to identify if what you are feeling is truly anxiety or fear. 

How do I tell the difference you ask? Well, it starts with identifying the source of the emotion. 

FEAR is an emotion based in the present, meaning the feelings have occurred due to a natural fight or flight response. 

ANXIETY is a future-based emotion. Typically, anxiety is apprehension about something in the future, usually an unknown. 

So When Do I Know That I Should Get Help? 

If your symptoms are interfering with your daily life or the things you enjoy doing, you should seek out therapy. 

Let’s break that phrase down a little bit because we see it a lot and can start to feel like a go-to answer. 

So what does interfering with your daily life or the things you enjoy look like? Or feel like? Well, it truly is different for everyone however some ways that might manifest are: 

  • Feeling on-edge while doing activities you normally enjoy doing– like shopping or maybe cooking or even taking a walk. 
  • Feeling disconnected from your family or friends because of you’re focus is on how you might feel or are currently feeling anxious. 
  • Thinking it’s really not that bad but there are still a couple part of your day that feel hard. 

Remember, it doesn’t have to feel overwhelming to be worthy of therapy! A lot of people hold out on seeking therapy because it’s only a part of their day or they don’t feel like it’s taking over their whole life or it’s not as bad as how it could get or they’ve seen others experience. But even just feeling anxious for part of your day is still disruptive to your daily life. Even if it’s not overwhelming but affecting you, it’s worthy of seeking help. 

What Should I Do If I Don’t Have Access To Therapy?

While seeking out a therapist is obviously the number one way to help reduce your anxiety symptoms, address the causes, and even help rid you of anxiety— we know that therapy isn’t always accessible to everyone; Whether that be due to location, money, etc. 

So here are some recommendations we have if therapy isn’t a possibility for you right now: 

Recommended Resources:

Instagrams to Follow:

Apps: 

Coping skills to try! 

  • Take a slow breath (count to 30)
  • Drop those shoulders! 
  • Do a gentle neck roll
  • Take a warm bath
  • Put something that is out of it’s place, back in it’s place. 
  • Take a day trip somewhere you enjoy.
  • Ask yourself “What’s the worst that can happen?”
  • Take a break from watching the news or reading the newspaper
  • Forgive yourself for not handling the situation in a way you wish that you were
  • Cuddle a pet or a baby
  • Call your best friend
  • Get active! Yoga, swimming, weight lifting, walking are all good choices!

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