Are you worried your anxiety is starting to control you more than you are controlling it? Is your anxiety considerably worse now than it was 1, 6, or 12 months ago? Are new problems surfacing in your day-to-day activities that didn’t used to exist? If so, you might be time to examine your life a little bit closer – and determine whether some things need to change, what they are, and how to change them. Here’s where to start:
Become aware of how much, and how often, you feel yourself “drowning” in intense worry.
- If your worry is starting to feel as if it is taking over your life, it might be time to start making some serious changes. It can be helpful to keep a journal for recording when and where you feel anxious, what recurring thoughts come up for you in those situations, and how many times per day (or week), you feel this way. This can give you a concrete sense of how much of a problem your anxiety actually is (which is necessary to know when assessing your improvement later on).
- Worry and anxiety are both adaptive in some cases. In fact, they have developed throughout evolution as part of our survival instinct. For example, observing your heart rate increase and feeling intense fear and anxiety amidst walking down a dark alley at night has some adaptive qualities to it – you feel that way in order to maintain your safety. Often, though, our bodies’ physical reactions have not yet caught up to modern times, or occur in reaction to thoughts we have that are not healthy nor appropriate for a given situation.
Monitor your energy levels.
- Are you constantly feeling exhausted, no matter how much sleep you get, healthy food you eat, or exercise you do? This might be another warning sign that something in your brain and body may not be quite right. If you are doing everything you can to improve your energy levels on a daily basis, and still you struggle to sustain yourself through daily activities and responsibilities, anxiety may be the culprit beyond your current control (but doesn’t always have to be!). High anxiety commonly leaves constant fatigue in its wake, which can additionally lead to difficulties concentrating or other related symptoms.
Check in with how agitated or irritable you feel. Are these feelings coming up more than they used to?
- Do you find that your “fuse” is shorter than normal, or that you’re snapping at your colleagues, friends, or loved ones more than usual? If so, abnormal anxiety could be underlying your increased irritability. Though not often talked about, frequent feelings of profound agitation or irritability are often connected to high anxiety levels.
Check in with your sleep patterns.
- Assess for disturbances. Have you been sleeping for longer or shorter times than you used to? Have you experienced any recent medication or lifestyle changes that could account for this? If not, your anxiety could again underlie these unusual sleep disturbances.
Lastly, be honest with yourself and assess for any recent, serious disturbances in your social, professional, or personal lives.
- Mental health problems, when serious, negatively impact different areas of life. Sometimes they cause you to increasingly take more sick days at work, to miss out on family or social functions, or to argue more with your partner, friends, or children. If one or more areas of your life are starting to be profoundly affected by your anxiety, it may be time to evaluate its effects on your life and whether it is time to get professional help.
The main thing to keep in mind is that if you are experiencing anxiety-related distressing symptoms on more days of the week than not, it may be time to talk to someone about it, or at the least, admit to yourself that something’s not quite right. While mindfulness techniques, healthier changes in daily routines, and increased social support may sometimes be enough to bring your anxiety back down to normal levels, in some more severe cases, seeking help from a Mental Health Professional may be necessary.
DISCLAIMER: This article is not intended for readers to self-diagnose or make any major medical decisions. Its purpose is to provide general information and education about anxiety. If you think it might be time to seek outside help, please consult with a Mental Health Professional.