Perhaps you are wondering why your ruminating brain is robbing you of peace and sleep. Or questioning whether that uneasy feeling in your body, or whirring of your mind is anxiety, or something else. Well, read on because I’m going to share 6 signs of anxiety.
I have always said that as a therapist, I love anxiety! Not because I am enamoured by the feelings or thoughts it brings to my client’s (and my) life, but because there is so much that can help us with reclaiming precious headspace from anxiety! There is so much hope that we can find our peace again.
But first, it’s good to identify anxiety itself! Anxiety manifests physically in the body because it’s like an alarm system that responds to a feeling of risk or stress. It’s intended to give you a burst of energy so that you can fight or flee, freeing yourself from the perceived danger in order to save your life! Whether what triggered your alarm system is external in your surrounding environment, or internal such as a thought that has come into your head, anxiety can be set in motion as your body can’t determine what is real or imagined. So finding a way to regain control of what can feel like a runaway train makes the world of difference.
See if you identify with any of these physical or mental symptoms.
Physical signs of anxiety:
Let’s first look at some of the physical feelings that come with anxiety.
Digestive symptoms. Because there is a strong connection between your brain and the health of your gut, anxiety is known to impact your digestive system. Anxiety triggers the release of hormones that disrupt your body’s rhythm. You may feel nauseous, or experience diarrhoea or constipation. It’s also not uncommon for your appetite to be impacted. You may find you crave certain foods, or alternatively you lose your appetite entirely!
Top tip: Avoid caffeine when feeling anxious as it speeds up digestion. Consider taking probiotics to support your gut health.
Headaches and tension. Causing mild to severe pain, anxiety headaches can have you wanting to crawl back into bed. Along with the stress that anxiety can provoke, feeling tired, relying on caffeine, and hormonal changes can add to the likelihood of a headache rolling in.
Top tip: Try some self-massage by rubbing your temples, and practice some neck stretches to help alleviate any tension that might be contributing.
Racing heart. It can feel scary when your heart begins to race, and it’s understandable why some people fear they’re having a heart attack. You might tremble and feel restless and sweaty, but it’s simply your body’s release of stress hormones supporting you to fight or flee the thing that is causing you stress and fear.
Top tip: Engage in some box breathing exercises to help regulate your breathing. Breath in for a steady count of 4, hold for 4, exhale to the count of 4, and hold for 4 again.
Emotional/mental signs of anxiety:
Anxiety can really feel like it takes over your mind at times. Here are some of the signs to look for.
Feeling low or overwhelmed. Anxiety can feel heavy and draining, and sometimes it might feel like the sparkle has been taken out of your eyes! We can feel like avoiding the things that trigger the anxiety which can make our worlds feel increasingly small sometimes.
Top tip: It may be tempting to take a step back in relationships when feeling anxious, or avoid social interaction, but remember that is when you need the most support. Sharing the burden won’t turn you into one!
Sleep problems. When you’re feeling anxious, your body is running at high alert. We need to feel safe and calm to be able to fall into a fulfilling sleep, so if you’re feeling anxious, you might experience sleep to be disrupted or hard to come by.
Top tip: Try counting back from 100 in 3’s to halt the cycle of overthinking, and focus on tensing and releasing different body parts in turn.
Rumination and overthinking. You want to stop thinking or worrying about a certain thing but it feels impossible. The thoughts come thick and fast, growing in volume and detail. They can feel unpleasant, scary and intrusive.
Top tip: It can be incredibly helpful to speak to a counsellor or therapist to help untangle and disempower anxious thoughts. Your doctor can refer you, or The Counselling Directory offers private options. In addition, speaking those thoughts out to a trusted friend or family member means they can offer some valuable reassurance or support.
Now, this list is absolutely not exhaustive, and anxiety can manifest very differently for everyone. For some it might be a pressure in the chest, for others it might be the feeling of a dozen dancing butterflies trapped in the ribcage. For some pins and needles all over, for others a feeling of heat rises up. But if you feel like anxiety is stopping you from being able to engage with and enjoy life, please seek support by speaking to your doctor, a therapist or a trusted friend or family member. Alternatively, any of these symptoms can point to other health issues, so it’s always beneficial to get checked over.
I am a strong believer in ‘where there is help, there is hope’, and with the right support, awareness and techniques you can reclaim precious headspace and the sparkle in your eye. I know, because I have!