How to Recognize and Manage Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Physical Symptoms of anxiety can range from mild to even somewhat severe, causing major panic attacks.

In this post, I want to discuss how to recognize and manage the physical symptoms of anxiety.

All of us deal with some form of anxiety and/or stress from time to time. However many people (including myself) suffer from an anxiety disorder. I have an “over-anxious” brain or a Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Anxiety is the body’s reaction to stress, the body’s way of alerting you to threats, real or perceived. I say perceived, not imagined because those of us with anxiety disorders are not crazy, we do not imagine fake dangers. We rather overthink situations. We tend to always be on high alert, thinking of ALL possibilities and scenarios. Therefore, we may perceive danger where we don’t need to.

So far, that all sounds like it’s only in our thoughts and our brains, but let’s look further at how those anxious thoughts and the stress can affect us physically.

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Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

How does it feel? First, let’s talk about ways that most people feel some anxiety.

Most everyone has felt a bit anxious on occasion, either being nervous, shy, or afraid of an event or situation. Having to speak publicly, especially for the first time is usually something that makes everyone a little nervous or anxious. So think how it might have felt. Hands get sweaty? Legs a bit shaky? Perhaps your stomach felt a bit queasy. Those things can all be related to feeling anxiety.

This is usually common and mild anxiety related to specific events that you can manage and get through. However, anxiety can become more serious and turn into a disorder if it continues a long time, causes significant distress, or starts to interfere with your daily life.

Here are a few of the main anxiety disorders:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Panic Disorders
  • Social Anxiety
  • Separation Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder

What Are The Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety and stress can affect each person a little differently. Some disorders may have symptoms specific to the fears linked to that anxiety. But in general, anxiety has many of the same physical symptoms.

Here is a list of the most common physical symptoms of anxiety:

  • stomach pain, nausea, or digestive trouble
  • headache
  • insomnia or other sleep issues (waking up frequently, for example)
  • weakness or fatigue
  • rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • pounding heart or increased heart rate
  • sweating
  • trembling or shaking
  • muscle tension or pain

For more information about how the physical symptoms of anxiety feel, read this article by Healthline.

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Managing Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

When a person has mild or only occasional, or normal anxiety related to situations, it isn’t that difficult to manage the physical symptoms of the anxiety.

Sometimes it can be as simple as avoiding the situations and events that cause the person anxiety.

But what happens when the anxiety is more profound or happens daily? What if the situations are so common that the person cannot simply avoid them? The anxiety is then interfering with daily life and it becomes a real problem.

Therefore the person must find ways to try and manage the physical symptoms the best way possible.

Refocus Your Thoughts

When you first start to feel anxious over something try to refocus your thoughts. A lot of therapists have been known to say “change your mind”, however, I personally know that I cannot simply change my mind once I’ve become over-anxious about something.

Once the perceived threat or fear is in my mind I can’t just tell myself that it will not happen that way.

So what I have to do is try to refocus my thoughts. I try to let my thoughts figure out a plan to handle that situation my anxiety is fearful of at that moment, and focus on being able to handle it, whatever “it” is at that time.

This may not work for everyone, but however it works for you, try to refocus your thoughts away from whatever is causing the anxiety.

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Calming Your Mind and Body

Again, once the anxiety has begun and you are feeling the stress, you need to try to take a moment to relax.

Meditation works for a lot of people. Deep breathing exercises also work very well. Take a walk, listen to music, whatever is calming for you personally try to do that if you are at a place where you can.

Personally, my oldest daughter (who also suffers from severe anxiety) and I normally have to “vent” to each other when either of us is overly anxious or stressed. This is our “outlet” for our anxiety.

Concentrate on clearing your mind and relaxing your body as much as you can.

Learn Your Main Triggers

Learn to recognize what are your main triggers for anxiety and stress. You can’t always avoid everything in life that causes you stress. But if you start to notice the main triggers for major anxiety, then you can work to limit your exposure to those triggers.

Sometimes it may happen to be a person in your life that happens to always be very negative that brings extra stress and anxiety to you. We do not need negative people in our lives.

However, we cannot always avoid them. If a coworker or close family member is the negative one in your life, you may not be able to totally avoid them, but try to limit your conversations and interactions. You must take care of yourself above all else!

Learn what you can or cannot control, then try to adjust to each situation as needed in order to cope.

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Seek Treatment

If you are experiencing physical symptoms from anxiety on a regular and consistent basis over a continued amount of time, then you may need to seek treatment.

The first place to start seeking treatment is with your primary care physician. Your primary doctor can help assess your symptoms and the severity of your anxiety. He/She can then refer you to a therapist or psychologist if needed.

As well as seeking medical and mental treatment you can also try social groups online and offline in your community. Support groups can be very helpful.

For more information and links to some helpful online support groups for anxiety, check out this link by Very Well Mind.

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional Support Animals can be another great source of comfort to help manage physical symptoms of anxiety for some people.

There is a difference between emotional support animals for anxiety and service dogs for anxiety or other disabilities. Emotional Support animals can be certified as such and will be allowed privileges for housing and travel, but it does not allow them into all shopping areas.

A service animal requires a different level of registration and must be trained to perform a service that helps with the disability. Such as the dog would be trained to react to its owner’s anxiety when it starts and perform a task that would calm the owner’s anxiety or panic. Registered service animals are allowed anywhere in public establishments that the owner goes to.

Read more about Emotional Support Animals in one of my previous posts by clicking here.

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Wrap-Up

Speaking from personal daily experiences, as well as from experiences of helping my daughter deal with anxiety and the physical symptoms we both suffer with, I can honestly say it all becomes exhausting!!

One way I can best describe it for you (if you’ve never really experienced it) is that I am constantly feeling overwhelmed.

My thoughts are continually going from one thing to the next, but not like someone with ADD, not at all. Someone with ADD usually has difficulty staying focused. I stay focused on what I’m thinking about. The problem is I’m normally thinking and focusing on too many things at once. Until I am mentally and physically exhausted. All-day. Every day. Then I even have difficulty turning off my brain to go to sleep.

Then as if all the “what if” scenarios that continually go through my brain aren’t exhausting enough, when something unexpected or negative happens the anxiety can quickly spiral out of control.

That is when I get an instant headache, upset stomach, and a pounding heartbeat. If I am unable to calm down quick enough, then my blood pressure starts to rise, I become dizzy and on some occasions, I have hyper-ventilated and passed out.

When my anxiety and stress reach this level I have to concentrate on my breathing and calming my thoughts. My dogs help me with this. Also talking on the phone with my daughter helps me work through it.

It is very important to have a plan and a support person that helps you.

Leave me a comment to let me know what you think! Share your ideas of ways to recognize and manage stress and anxiety.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter so you never miss a post!

Until next time,
Sharon

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