Are you wondering how to stop worrying? Perhaps this article will help. Stress and anxiety have a way of sneaking up on you. An event, trauma, or the anticipation of a confrontation can leave you feeling anxious. However, sometimes the nervousness, a natural response, is overwhelming to the point of being debilitating.
Perhaps your mind constantly worries, or you experience physical sensations, such as shaking, shortness of breath, or trouble swallowing. When does a small case of the jitters turn into chronic anxiety, worry, and fear?
12 Signs of Anxiety
When faced with how to stop worrying, we first need to clarify if what we are experiencing is true anxiety and fear. The natural response when faced with the unknown, such as public speaking, is sweaty palms, a mild headache, and stomach upset. This is your body reacting to the stressor, in this example, standing in front of a crowd and giving a speech.
With chronic anxiety, the reactions do not abate, even after the stressor is gone. You may be unaware as to why you are exhibiting the signs of anxiety. They may come on suddenly, such as with a panic attack, or slowly build until you feel you need medical attention. They may be due to an event or trauma from your past, or a worry you have about the future.
Here are the 12 signs of anxiety they may help you identify if chronic anxiety and fear are becoming a problem in your daily life:
- You begin thinking intrusive thoughts or having nightmares about the thing that worries you.
- You start experiencing physical reactions such as sweating and trembling.
- Your heart rate increases or you feel you are having heart palpitations.
- You have trouble breathing, shortness of breath or hyperventilating.
- You experience gastroenterological issues like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
- You feel a tightness in your chest or have trouble swallowing.
- Your ability to concentrate decreases and you feel confused at times.
- You feel exhausted or wish you could escape.
- You lose interest in hobbies and other things you once enjoyed.
- You develop insomnia or you are unable to stay asleep the whole night.
- You are told by friends and family that you seem moody or irritable.
- Your anxiety is affecting your daily life.
Chronic worrying and anxious thoughts can take a toll on your physical, mental, and social wellbeing. You might avoid going out with your friends. You may worry about what other people are thinking or saying about you to the point that you do not want to be seen in public. This isolation can cause other mental health conditions such as depression.
The Dangers of Chronic Worrying and Anxiety
The fight-or-flight response is activated when you feel anxious about a threat or an event. Your body’s nervous system releases a cascade of hormones to ensure you will react, either to defend yourself or to run away. Unfortunately, the nervous system can’t differentiate between a bear chasing you and the trepidation you feel about your unpaid and extremely overdue electric bill.
The stress hormone cortisol, although useful in dire circumstances, can create havoc throughout the body when it’s released continuously. Cortisol in large amounts in the bloodstream can raise your triglyceride levels, unbalance blood sugar levels, and inhibit thyroid function.
Chronic anxiety and worry can cause:
- Weight gain and inflammation due to the adrenaline and cortisol overload
- Headaches and migraines
- Mood swings and irritability
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
- Elevated bloodwork levels
- High blood pressure
- Acne and skin disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive behaviors
- Respiratory (asthma, hyperventilation) and musculoskeletal problems
- Increased risk for heart attack or stroke
- Increased risk for immune disorders, illnesses, and metabolic disorders
- Higher risk for developing eating disorders and substance abuse problems
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Lower libido in both men and women
- Erectile dysfunction in men
- Menstruation problems and irregular periods in women
- Reproductive problems in both men and women
Living in a state of chronic anxiety, worry, and fear is not what God intended when He created these bodily systems within us. However, everyday life causes us to lose our primary focus – of Jesus Christ and our Father God – and concentrate instead on the troubles from the past or the ones we anticipate for the future.
Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:31-34 NKJV)
How to Stop Worrying
Since fear is such a raw emotion, it can be difficult to know how to stop worrying. How do we control our response, or at least, minimize the symptoms of anxiety?
When you catch your thoughts focusing on the worry and the anxious feelings creeping up, stop and take a deep breath. Give yourself a moment of grace. Try to focus your attention on something else. Some people play games that require concentration like chess or other strategy games to keep their minds occupied. Other people choose to read a book where they must follow the storyline.
Praying also helps to “clear the clutter” in your mind. By releasing all your fears and anxieties to God, you can let the worry go and trust that He will give you the wisdom and foresight when it is needed.
Taking a brisk walk, doing housework, or exercising can keep your mind busy while regulating your heart rate and breathing. After a good sweat, your body releases endorphins that make you feel happier and more confident.
Consider learning about meditation or taking up a yoga practice. Both are relaxation activities. Consistent yoga (and stretching) will release the tight muscles from stress in your upper back and shoulders which can relieve tension headaches.
Some people find journaling helpful. You don’t have to fill up a notebook with your emotions (unless you want to), but the act of getting your racing thoughts onto paper serves as a cathartic activity. You may choose to type your words out on a laptop or tablet, but you activate the critical-thinking region of your brain when you handwrite your feelings.
Learn how to manage your time better. Sometimes chronic anxiety is present in perfectionists and procrastinators. Perfectionists want everything done all at once the right way the first time. If they can’t do the task at once or they don’t know how then they may procrastinate.
Procrastination adds another level of stress to their already busy schedules. Overwhelming anxiety is the body’s way of telling them to slow down. Break large activities down into small steps, so you are not paralyzed by the enormity of the task.
Sometimes the best advice to overcoming anxiety is practicing the word “no.” In a world where people tend to try to please everyone else, it is not necessarily healthy for you to agree to take on every responsibility. Learn to say “no” a little more often.
Finding Professional Help
Figuring out how to stop worrying may be harder than you thought. Perhaps you were able to alleviate some of the symptoms by using the suggestions above but need guidance or accountability. A professional mental health counselor can provide you techniques and support to help you with overcoming anxiety.
If anxiety is affecting your daily life, speak to your primary care physician. He or she may give you a referral to a local therapist, counseling center, or facility. Some patients prefer a faith-based counseling center that will strengthen their walk with the Lord and treat the anxiety following Biblical principles.
If you have an idea for the root cause of the anxiety and fear, find a therapist who specializes in that area. For example, if the anxiety stems from a traumatic experience, search for a counselor specializing in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or abuse. If you believe your anxiety is due to getting older and worrying about the future, you can find therapists who work in the field of gerontology.
Also, you may want to discuss how to stop worrying with your pastor or church leadership. They can point you to hundreds of passages in the Bible that tell us to not fear, to be strong and of good courage.
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