A person’s overall wellbeing does not only mean being fit physically, but also having a sound mental health. Two mental health conditions that are sometimes taken for granted but can have a debilitating impact on the human body are anxiety and stress. A mix of these two can have adverse effects that can affect a person’s productivity and limit a person’s ability to live a normal life. According to the World Health Organization, stress alone, when ignored, can take its toll on one’s physical health and mental capabilities. It is believed that stress contributes to the inception or the aggravation of existing illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Anxiety, on the other hand, has physical manifestations such as inability to concentrate or sleep, rapid heartbeat, and having irrational fears. All these can have long term and short term effects if left unaddressed. Before situations go out of hand, it is but right to identify possible causes and triggers and develop a plan to beat anxiety and stress.
Getting to Know Anxiety and Stress
A research study, Stress and Anxiety, by L. Robinson (1990), defines anxiety as a psychophysiologic signal that the stress response has been initiated. However, the research also states that the stress response’s by-product, stress, is difficult to define, but it is described as a feeling of being frustrated or upset. This means that anxiety is caused by factors, internal or external, that disrupt the psychological and physical processes of the mind and body respectively. Stress is activated when the balance is disturbed. This happens when the stress received exceeds the threshold or the amount of stress the body or mind is able to tolerate. At this point, the symptoms of anxiety and stress start to develop. Examples of such symptoms are rapid heartbeat or palpitations, body aches, trouble sleeping or concentrating, muscle tension, sweating, and fatigue. It will require intervention to have the mind and bodily functions back in equilibrium.
Common Causes of Anxiety and Stress
Both anxiety and stress can distress anyone but these are most common in the working population. Work-related stressors that generally stem from competition, pressure, and the physical, psychological, and social demands of one’s job are the most prevalent causes of mental health problems in most employees. If neglected, these mental issues may also lead to depression. It has to be understood that a person does not only encounter stress at work. As a person is also exposed to personal and social problems, he or she does not only encounter stress at work, but at home as well. If not managed immediately, these issues could impair one from being an efficient contributor of the workforce, society, or the household.
How to Beat Anxiety and Stress
Recognizing the root cause of a person’s anxiety or stress is the primary step to recovery. This could be done through medical or diagnostic examinations, or even by undergoing a guided self-assessment. Being able to ascertain what factors trigger negative responses will help one avoid stressors or create an action plan that will allow him or her to better respond to or handle situations that stress him or her out. Since stress is also considered to be a symptom of anxiety, being able to address stress reactions will help one cope with anxiety more effectively.
When dealing with anxiety, one of the most practiced medical or scientific interventions is psychological therapy, specifically, Cognitive Behavior Therapy or CBT. As anxiety is the result of irrational fears or worries, CBT helps fix a person’s way of processing information. The therapy enables a patient to sift through his thoughts and allow him to choose threats to reacts to in order to minimize psychological stress. Apart from therapies that involve dialogues, another approach to treating anxiety is the use of medications. Similar to what are used to treat depression, beating anxiety may require administering selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Both these medicines help with regulating the mood of the patients.
For people who have dealt with both issues, stress may seem to be more manageable than anxiety. This may be true in mild cases where stress disorder does not need any medical intervention at all. In these instances, beating stress will only require a change in lifestyle or habits, more efficient time management, improvement in one’s relationship with himself or with other people, and a little tweaking in the way one perceives events or situations. Incorporating exercise into one’s daily routine will help improve one’s coping skills. Since exercise is a natural way to produce happy hormones, working out could help elevate one’s mood. Another way to beat stress is to manage one’s time more wisely. This means giving an allotted time for work and play. This also entails learning to value the importance of alone time or “me time”. Being able to balance this will lead to having better relationships. Not having to worry about stress in one’s social or personal life will take a lot of load off and allow for more opportunities focus on other important issues.
In other cases, a relaxation or meditation practice may also be employed to reduce stress. Although physical in nature, these forms of stress management techniques are effective in reducing mental health problems such as anxiety and stress as these help release tension, especially in the muscles, which is an accompanying ailment of these health issues. Practicing controlled breathing or guided imagery are two other options that may help someone get relief from stress.
Anxiety and stress are common challenges to people’s mental health. Both of these sound toxic, but this doesn’t mean that they are unmanageable. With the emergence of new research on mental disorders, people nowadays have a range of options to choose from in terms of recovery. Knowing that the medical field is more equipped and more knowledgeable on managing anxiety and stress are probably good reasons to feel less anxious and stressed out.