Why We Are Anxious And What To Do About It

Anxiety, even if only mild, can be unnerving and a cause for concern. If you have ever experienced anxiety, you are probably well aware of the discomfort that it causes and even more aware of how difficult it is to escape it. You spend time looking for the nearest exit only to feel stuck because there appears to be no way out.

The amygdala and the hippocampus are two areas of the brain that have been found to play a role in anxiety. The amygdala stores emotional memories. The hippocampus stores and encodes threatening events. By adulthood, you have an abundance of memories — both good and bad — that carry emotional attachments. If you experienced poverty as a child, then even as a financially wealthy adult you might worry about being without. The slightest indication of lack leaves you feeling on edge. Similarly, if you were a high achieving child, the thought of failure may be responsible for your anxiety. An anxious mind considers the potentially negative outcome in all situations.

Some thoughts to remember when managing your anxiety:

  • Anxiety starts from the inside and may reflect an exaggerated sense of threat to your wellbeing.
  • If you manage your thoughts, you manage your anxiety.
  • Anxiety may be a sign that you are judgmental and too critical of yourself and others.
  • Anxiety is not all bad. It could alert us to make a necessary change in our lives.
  • Anxious people are usually talented and bright, hence the over-thinking.

What To Do About Your Anxiety

Understanding your anxiety is only half the battle. Learning that you might be the major source of your anxiety should offer relief because you have the opportunity to manage yourself. Here are some tips to help you manage your anxiety:

1. Learn something new and unrelated to your area of expertise. This requires you to get away from your normal routine and detach yourself from the outcome. Trying something new will also help you develop new problem solving skills that can be applied to other areas of your life.

2. Change your mentality. An “all work, no play” mindset is unhealthy. Treat self care just as you would an important work or school project.

3. Make time to workout. There’s a reason this tip always makes the list — it’s effective! Exercise causes a positive and beneficial type of stress, also known as eustress, which is characterized by focused energy, excitement and improved performance.

4. Stay hydrated. Dehydration could result in electrolyte imbalance and often leads to undue anxiety.

5. Heal with others. Social psychologists propose that "misery loves miserable company." This may seem a bit morbid, but there is potential for healing when other similarly-overwhelmed individuals come together. This is the same reason why group therapy is effective.

6. Incorporate brief meditation exercises into your daily routine. Simply take a moment to stop what you are doing to focus on your breathing. Even just two minutes of calm, rhythmic breathing can decrease anxiety and provide the boost you need to complete your day.

Even if you are seeing a therapist and/or taking medication, healing starts with balance…and balance starts with you.

Dr. Michele Leno, PhD, LP, is a Michigan-based psychologist and the founder of DML Psychological Services, PLLC. She provides therapy, coaching and consulting services and court-ordered psychological evaluations to adolescents and adults throughout the Metro-Detroit area.

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