7 Signs Your Anxiety is Out of Control (and How to Soothe It)
There’s only so much you can take—a global pandemic, an economic shutdown, sheltering at home, social injustice, societal unrest—it’s enough to make your anxiety go through the roof. But how can you tell if it’s just heightened stress or if your anxiety is a real problem?
Here are 7 signs that your anxiety is out of control and 7 strategies to soothe it.
1. Your sleep is disrupted.
Having trouble falling asleep or tossing and turning throughout the night is a common red flag of anxiety disorders. And it’s a 2-way street. Anxiety can lead to sleep issues, and a lack of adequate rest can ramp up nervousness and stress. In addition, when you sleep for 7 hours, it turns on 700 beneficial genes, but without 7 solid hours of shuteye, you lose out on this important process.
Soothing Strategy: Make sleep a priority. Create a calming nighttime routine and consider natural supplements that promote relaxation, such as magnesium, melatonin, GABA, 5-HTP, l-theanine, and vitamin B6.
2. You have trouble catching your breath.
If you feel like you can’t take a deep breath, you may be worried it’s a sign of COVID-19 or a garden-variety cold or flu. But feeling like you can’t catch your breath is a common indicator of anxiety. The tree branches in the lungs are wrapped with smooth muscle, and when you’re anxious, those muscles clamp down.
Soothing Strategy: Learning diaphragmatic breathing can help loosen those muscles in the lungs so you can breathe freely again. Here’s a very simple yet powerful breathing technique. Breathe in for 3 seconds, hold it for 1 second, breathe out for 6 seconds, hold it for 1 second. Do this 10 times, and you’ll start to feel more relaxed almost immediately.
3. You have an ANT infestation.
ANTs are the automatic negative thoughts that infest your brain and ruin your day. If you’ve got an army of ANTs swirling in your head, they can drive anxiety.
Soothing Strategy: Be careful what you listen to. Don’t subject yourself to hours of TV news, which is constantly spewing out frightening stats and ghastly projections. And understand that you don’t have to believe every stupid thought in your head. You can challenge your thoughts. Whenever you feel sad, mad, nervous, or out of control, ask yourself if what you’re thinking is true. During these difficult times, mental hygiene is just as important as washing your hands. You need to disinfect your thoughts, so they won’t steal your mind or ramp up your anxiety.
4. You’re trying to calm your stress with sugar.
During the pandemic, a lot of people have put on the “Quarantine 15.” If you’re stress eating with cookies, cakes, and candy or other foods that quickly turn to sugar—think pasta, bread, potatoes, and rice—it’s a sign of anxiety. Be aware that sugar may provide short-term relief, but it adds to anxious feelings in the long-term. And packing on the pounds doesn’t help either. Research on 35,000 brain scans shows that as your weight goes up, the physical size and function of your brain goes down.
Soothing Strategy: If you’re struggling with sugar cravings, try intermittent fasting, which has many brain benefits and can diminish cravings. Wait 14 to 16 hours after eating dinner before having breakfast. For example, if you finish dinner at 7 p.m., don’t have breakfast until 9 a.m. or 11 a.m.
5. You’ve stopped caring about taking care of yourself.
If you’ve lost the will to work out or go for a walk even though you know you’ll feel better afterward, it can be a red flag that anxiety has taken control. You may feel so worn out by the chronic bombardment of stress that you don’t want to do anything.
Soothing Strategy: Do something! Even if you just take a 5-minute walk outside or you change up your routine in some small way, it can help get you out of a funk and reset your frame of mind. To get inspired, combine physical activity with things you love, such as listening to an audiobook or a podcast while you go for a walk.
6. You’re more irritable.
If you’re uncharacteristically snapping at your family, your neighbors, or the grocery store checker, it could be due to relentless anxiety. In a 2017 study in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, over 90% of people with generalized anxiety disorder said they felt very irritable during periods of especially high anxiety.
Soothing Strategy: Before you snap at someone, ask yourself this question: Does it fit? Will saying something nasty to your spouse, coworker, or friend help you get you what you want in life? To help you get irritability under control, figure out what you want out of life, and write it down. Then every time you’re about to snap, take a moment and ask, “Does it fit?” If your behavior isn’t going to help you get what you want in terms of the big picture, don’t do it.
7. You’re experiencing repetitive negative thoughts (RNTs).
If you’re ruminating on negative thoughts—repeatedly worrying about the future or fretting about something that happened in the past—it’s time to get serious about your anxiety. RNTs are really nasty thoughts. They’re like ANTs that link to other ANTs, then stack together and attack your mind. A 2020 study in Alzheimer’s & Dementia shows that RNTs are associated with an increased risk of dementia, so it’s critical to change your thinking patterns.
Soothing Strategy: If you’re mired in repetitive negative thinking during these uncertain times, try a little TLC. Researchers have found in extremely stressful situations, people who struggle tend to think that things are permanent (this will never change!), global (it’s everywhere!), and out of control (I’m powerless to do anything!). People who are able to thrive in challenging times think differently, telling themselves that the situation is Temporary (this will pass), Local (it isn’t happening everywhere), and Control (I have control over my own behavior). Try the TLC approach to help calm anxiety.
Anxiety, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and other mental health issues can’t wait. During these uncertain times, your mental well-being is more important than ever and waiting until life gets back to “normal” is likely to make your symptoms worsen over time.
At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.