It’s not stress that kills us; it is our reaction to it.” This quote by Hans Selye summarizes America’s very stressful society today. The economic and family pressures are particularly high for African Americans. Want proof? Jay Harold has a post that talks about this economic reality. Read more
Anxiety disorders affect nearly 1 in 5 American adults(1) each year. People with these disorders have feelings of fear and uncertainty that interfere with everyday activities and last for six months or more. Anxiety disorders can also raise your risk for other medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes, substance abuse, and depression.
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention. Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness and involve excessive fear or anxiety. Anxiety disorders(2) are the most common of mental disorders and affect more than 25 million Americans. But anxiety disorders are treatable, and a number of effective treatments are available. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives. There are several different types of anxiety disorders(3). Examples include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health discusses anxiety disorders in detail.
Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
People with generalized anxiety disorder display excessive anxiety or worry for months and face several anxiety-related symptoms.
Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms include:
- Restlessness or feeling wound-up or on edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating or having their minds go blank
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty controlling the worry
- Sleep problems (difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless unsatisfying sleep)
People with panic disorder have recurrent unexpected panic attacks, which are sudden periods of intense fear that may include palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate; sweating; trembling or shaking; sensations of shortness of breath, smothering, or choking; and feeling of impending doom.
Panic disorder symptoms include:
- Sudden and repeated attacks of intense fear
- Feelings of being out of control during a panic attack
- Intense worries about when the next attack will happen
- Fear or avoidance of places where panic attacks have occurred in the past.
Social Anxiety Disorder
People with social anxiety disorder (sometimes called “social phobia”) have a marked fear of social or performance situations in which they expect to feel embarrassed, judged, rejected, or fearful of offending others.
Social anxiety disorder symptoms include:
- Feeling highly anxious about being with other people and having a hard time talking to them
- Feeling very self-conscious in front of other people and worried about feeling humiliated, embarrassed, or rejected, or fearful of offending others
- Being very afraid that other people will judge them
- Worrying for days or weeks before an event where other people will be
- Staying away from places where there are other people
- Having a hard time making friends and keeping friends
- Blushing, sweating or trembling around other people
- Feeling nauseous or sick to your stomach when other people are around
Evaluation for an anxiety disorder often begins with a visit to a primary care provider. Some physical health conditions, such as an overactive thyroid or low blood sugar, as well as taking certain medications, can imitate or worsen an anxiety disorder. A thorough mental health evaluation is also helpful because anxiety disorders often co-exist with other related conditions, such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
7 Steps to Stress Less(4)
In honor of Stress Awareness Month, Psychiatrist Gabriela Cora, M.D., provides these tips to reduce stress:
Step 1. Analyze your situation.
Assess your current level of performance, productivity, health and well-being. How is your body feeling—tense and tired? Are you able to focus and be present at home and at work? Are you in tune with your vision and values? If conflicts exist, don’t ignore them; think about how to resolve them and plan on improving this situation.
Step 2. Learn about the negative effects of stress on your physical and emotional health.
Identify the biological factors and the environmental sources of stress and review strategies to manage them. Educate yourself about better ways to manage your time and bring those ideas into action.
Step 3. Establish your priorities and set boundaries.
Take charge of your schedule. Make sure that members of your household share responsibilities so that it is not only up to you to tackle household chores.
Although technology makes it possible to have 24/7 access to coworkers, be sure to set clear boundaries between work and home. It’s important that new technologies—emails, smartphones, wearables—work for you and not vice versa. If you have trouble disconnecting, explore your smartphone’s options for a scheduled “Do Not Disturb” period each night.
Step 4. Develop a master plan of action.
First, identify what is not working for you and then create a pro-active plan of continued improvement.
Some things in your plan are nonnegotiable to live a healthy life and manage stress. Those non-negotiable things are:
- 30 minutes of daily physical activity, which will help us maintain all aspects of our health.
- Eating well, which means three nutritious meals each day.
- 7-8 hours of sleep each night to replenish your stamina is key if you want to sustain periods of intense activity throughout the course of the day.
Step 5. Relax.
Learning and incorporating relaxation techniques as a part of your regular schedule will be a long-standing benefit in your life and will assist you in creating a strong core that can maximize sustained success. Drink caffeinated, and alcoholic beverages in moderation as these can keep you from getting restful sleep.
Step 6. Build solid relationships.
The support of and connection to family, friends and colleagues are known to sustain those under stress. Incorporate into your schedule an adequate amount of time to build and sustain these relationships. This is beneficial in the short-term to enjoy your time with them and in the long-term as you build a solid network of support.
Step 7. Revisit your plan on a regular basis.
What works for you today may not work for you next year. Children need different kinds of care as they get older and new jobs come with different requirements of your time. Change is inevitable and offers a wonderful opportunity for constant improvement.
Resources for Coping with Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety and stress are a given in the African American Community. Fortunately, there are resources available to help. This include:
- National Institute on Mental Health(5)
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America(6)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness(7)
Click this link to get free Health and Wealth information to improve your life. Play the free “Slow Roll Through Civil Rights” Game found on the Jay Harold website. Enjoyed this post? Share it and read more here.