Feeling unusually jittery, nervous, or apprehensive lately? You’re not alone. There are plenty of reasons to feel anxious, ranging from an overly demanding schedule and lack of exercise or sleep to having too much coffee (a notorious nervous system stimulant) or even listening to a steady stream of worrisome news.
But these normal feelings of anxiety or nervousness are different from anxiety disorders–the most common mental health problem in the U.S. The hallmark of anxiety disorders–which include panic disorders, phobias and social anxiety disorders–involves excessive fear that is out of proportion to the situation, leads to avoidance of situations that trigger anxiety, or interferes with the ability to function. And while the exact cause of anxiety disorders is not known, a combination of genetics and environmental stressors are likely factors.
First step: See your doctor
If extreme nervousness is taking over your life, talk to your doctor, who can rule out any underlying medical cause. If an anxiety disorder is diagnosed, a mental health professional can help with a treatment, which usually involves talk therapy or medications or both.
How to quell the jitters
Whether or not you have an outright anxiety disorder, making healthy lifestyle changes that lower your stress levels can help calm both your body and mind and curb worry and anxiousness. The following tips may seem familiar, but consider that they may actually be effective toward helping restore a steady control as you go about your day and perhaps help usher in sound sleep at night.
Build in a time-out every day. Even just sitting in your parked car for ten minutes to close your eyes and breathe deeply before you walk into the house can help you downshift and short-circuit anxiety.
Investigate—and practice—the tried and true relaxation techniques. Yoga, Tai Chi, and mindfulness-based stress management, or even relaxing in nature, are just a few of the proven strategies that help calm the nervous system and lower the mind/body response to stress.
Move your body. Walking, dancing, tennis, trotting a few blocks alongside Fido—it really doesn’t matter how you move, just as long as you do it every day.
Say no to an overload of responsibility. Remember, delegating chores to others or declining some social invitations, for example, can open up room in your crammed schedule so you can function more efficiently.
Try keeping a “worry journal.” If excessive worries are revving you up, devote a set amount of time each day—say five minutes—to write down those nagging concerns in a journal and set it aside to carry during your day. This can help corral those intrusive thoughts that hijack you from performing up to par or enjoying pleasurable moments.
Switch to non-caffeinated drinks. Try experimenting with decaffeinated teas, or drink more water. Sometimes, when we feel like we need an extra jolt, it can really be because we are dehydrated, which depletes energy.
Make friends with non-worrywarts. Listen to what they tell themselves to remain calm when they face an apprehensive situation. Self-talk like “I can handle this” rather than “I can’t deal with this” can help keep the anxiety response in check.
Shut out distressing news! If the news makes your anxiety go through the roof, remove the news apps and constant feeds from your phone or computer. Consider listening to uplifting podcasts on your commute. At first, limiting the barrage of news may make you feel more nervous that you’re missing something, but eventually, you may feel calmer and less reactive.
- If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to our EAP+Work/Life Program and are having difficulty with anxiety or other personal problems, call us. A Health Advocate Licensed Professional Counselor can help you with coping skills to help lower your anxiety. We can also connect you with resources to help you better balance your work/life. It’s confidential and if needed, we can provide referrals for additional support.
- If you’re a Health Advocate member with our Advocacy services, contact us to speak with a Personal Health Advocate who specializes in behavioral health. The Personal Health Advocate can help you identify resources for help.