We all experience stress and anxiety from time to time. But for many people, anxiety is chronic, stemming from anxiety disorders that can have a major impact on everyday life. Frequent feelings of uneasiness, worry, and impending doom take their toll on a person’s mental health and can even affect physical health.
Anxiety disorders are very common, with around a fifth of American adults and a quarter of teenagers suffering from them each year. Anxiety can be extremely disruptive to many aspects of daily life, including sleep, work, and personal relationships.
Over time, this can lead to a number of health problems that affect well-being and can even be life-threatening. Here’s what you need to know about how chronic anxiety influences ongoing physical ailments.
The Effects of Chronic Anxiety on the Body
Many people dismiss anxiety as just “worrying too much,” but the truth is that chronic anxiety that continues to persist for more than six months can have a huge impact on overall mental and physical health. People with anxiety often experience issues like depression, panic attacks, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.
On the physical side, anxiety can affect almost every area of the body. It may cause headaches and poor sleep, trigger breathing problems (like rapid and shallow breathing), increase blood pressure and heart rate, cause an upset stomach, and trigger muscle aches and pains. It can also affect your immune system.
Anxiety and Your Cardiovascular Health
For many people, the symptoms of anxiety can get very physical. You might experience panic attacks, bringing on a rapid heart rate, heart palpitations, and chest pain. Not only can these symptoms increase your risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease, but they can also increase your risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event if you already have heart disease.
Anxiety and Your Digestive System
Anxiety disorders affect chemicals and hormones in your body, which can make their way into the digestive tract. This can cause chemical imbalances and affect your gut flora, leading to problems like nausea, an upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, and even Irritable Bowel Syndrome or peptic ulcers.
Anxiety, Insomnia, and Your Immune System
We rely on our immune system every day to keep us healthy. But anxiety disorders, and the sleep problems they can cause, can affect the immune system’s ability to ward off illnesses. Many people have trouble falling asleep due to worry, and eventually, develop a weakened immune system as a result of sleep disturbances.
How to Deal with Your Anxiety
With all the devastating health effects anxiety can cause, it’s extremely important for people who suffer from chronic anxiety disorders to manage their condition as much as possible. Dealing with anxiety is challenging, but learning coping mechanisms can make daily life much more comfortable and enjoyable while reducing physical health risks. Here are some ideas for coping with overwhelming feelings of worry and uneasiness.
Incorporate Meditation and Positive Morning Habits
If you suffer from anxiety, then you’ve probably heard about the power of meditation many times. Still, it’s hard to overstate just how much this simple habit can help some people. Incorporating meditation into a positive morning routine with other calming habits can be a great way to start the day and reduce anxiety.
Avoid Processed Foods
You are what you eat, and if your anxiety is out of control, your diet and access to healthy food could be part of the problem. Processed foods and lots of sugar have a tendency to make anxiety worse, which is a problem considering just how many foods have hidden sugars.
One way to reduce hidden sugars and preservatives is to cook more at home. When you cook from whole foods, your meals will be healthier and you’ll have control over the amount of sugar you use. If you need to rely on pre-made food for convenience, check the labels and avoid overprocessed or sugary options.
Find Relief with Virtual Therapy
Seeing a mental health professional right now probably isn’t an option, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you have to cope with anxiety on your own. Virtual therapy options have expanded dramatically, providing more access to expert help than ever before.
If you have an anxiety disorder, realize that getting treatment can improve both your mental and physical health. Treatment could radically improve your life and enhance your well-being. You don’t just have to accept the idea of living in a constant state of anxiety. It could be putting your health at risk.