This post was written by WhiteCoat Partner Psychologist, Dr Annabelle Chow. Find out more about WhiteCoat’s Mental Wellness service here.
It was thought that anxiety played an instrumental role in keeping us safe as a species. The story goes that complacent members of the species were the ones that got killed and eaten. On the contrary, the anxious ones were always prepared for fight or flight!
Our brain is primed to perceive impending threats, and constantly scans for potential danger around us. This is an autonomous response that prepares us to react to our challenging stressors.
For example, we might have an interview in the afternoon, and are feeling anxious about how it will go. Our stomachs might churn, our heart rates rapidly increasing, and we might start to spiral with our thoughts. The truth is, this is an entirely normal response. Simply put, the body is preparing its defences to pull through what may seem like a nerve-wracking interview.
However, when these feelings of worry and intrusive thoughts start to impact our daily functioning, we may have an anxiety disorder on our hands. We can categorise anxiety disorders by the types of excessive worry or fear. These disorders include:
- Generalised Anxiety Disorders
- Panic Disorder
- Social Anxiety
- Specific Phobias
What does anxiety look like? Are there specific symptoms?
Each type of anxiety disorder is accompanied by its own kind of symptoms. Some may experience physical or emotional symptoms, or both at once. Here are some symptoms that may arise during an anxiety attack*:
*Please note that the symptoms listed below do not determine an anxiety disorder. Only a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist can evaluate and determine an anxiety disorder.
Physical symptoms – how it affects our body
- Heart palpitations
- Headaches, giddiness, nausea
- Shortness of breath
- Inability to sleep
Emotional Symptoms – how it affects our mind
- Feeling tense and uptight
- A sense of irritability
- Worrying about the anxiety itself
- Having intrusive thoughts
Managing anxiety: What can I do?
It is okay to feel anxious – our anxiety is a normal human response to what we deem dangerous! However, here are some ways to manage your anxiety:
- Schedule your worries: set a time (about 15 – 30 minutes) to write down your thoughts. Firstly, draw a large cloud on a piece of paper. I call this the “worry cloud”. Then, acknowledge your worries, allow them to fill up the worry cloud and list all of them down. Once the scheduled time is up, keep the paper away and move on with your other activities.
- Identify matters that are within your control. Participate in steps that can influence or modify an outcome. You can do this in conjunction with scheduling your worries. If your thoughts try to escape the “worry cloud”, acknowledge them and tell yourself that these worries are now not within your “sphere of concern”. Only revisit them during your following worry time.
- Practice simple breathing exercises: “Take deep breathes, inhale and exhale”. Incorporating mindful breathing in our daily lives allows us to bring awareness to the present moment. It also helps us cope with our anxious feelings or experiences.
Managing anxiety can be a daunting ordeal. We could validate these unpleasant experiences, normalise the worries, and accept them as they come and go. Most importantly, do seek help if these worries start interfering in your everyday lives.
If you are struggling mentally or know someone who needs help with managing anxiety, please know that you are not alone. Consider teleconsulting a mental wellness professional on the WhiteCoat app at your discretion, and receive the help you need at your discretion. Click here for more information on our Mental Wellness service, or click here to go back to the blog.