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At some point in each of our lives everyone experiences some degree of anxiety. While most people only experience anxiety when there is an unanticipated change of life events, other experience it much more frequently and severely. Anxiety is defined by the American Psychological Association as “an emotion that is characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes.” While anxiety is a normal emotional like others such as happiness, sadness and anger; it’s important to know the risk factors and techniques for dealing with it when it occurs.

There are several different factors that can increase someone’s chances of experiencing severe or more frequent anxiety. Some of the more common ones include trauma, chronic health conditions, stress, or the misuse of alcohol or drugs. In fact, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. and that they affect 40 million adults and 18 and older annually. That’s why it’s important to be self-aware and implement preventative wellness tactics. Before any effort to manage anxiety can be effective, one needs to look at possible causes, commonly referred to as triggers, and try to determine with of those leading to anxiety effect you.

The same way that triggers vary from person to person, coping techniques vary by the individual. A good place to start is with very basic forms of self-care like eating nutritiously balanced meals, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake and exercising often. These are the best starting point in your efforts to overcome your anxiety because they are factors that you actually have control of in your life. The logical mind fears uncertainty and tries to control every outcome. I’ve learned from personal experience that the most straight forward way to combat that impulse is to focus on what I do have control over so that the stuff I don’t have control over is inevitably not my focus. Another great method to reeling in anxiety is practicing redirecting your train of thought when it becomes negative to the positive things in your life. Meditation is a renowned practice in accomplishing this task. According to Healthline media, another natural way to reduce anxiety or panic attacks is getting enough quality sleep each night. This can have a profound impact on your mood, energy and mental function.

If you are consistently experiencing severe anxiety that is disrupting your quality of life, the best thing you can do for yourself is to speak with a mental health professional to learn how to properly cope and eventually overcome. If you’ve decided it’s time, the first step is to visit your primary care physician to determine whether your chronic anxiety is related to an underlying health condition. Whatever the case may be a physician can refer you to a mental health specialist like a psychiatrist or a psychologist or both. A psychiatrist is licensed to diagnose and treat mental health conditions and can prescribe medications as well as other treatments. In contrast a psychologist is a mental health professional who can diagnose and treat mental health conditions solely through counseling, not medications. 

Keep in mind that whatever your approach is, it is important to find what works for you, however peculiar it may seem, and implement that as your lifelong mental wellness routine. Also, remember not to shame yourself or others when dealing with a bout of anxiety. It is a normal human reaction to the unpredictable nature of life and like other emotions we can sit with it however uncomfortable it may be and then send it on its way. Anxiety doesn’t have to destroy you. It can make you stronger, when you face it and realize that it’s just another emotion to manage.