As we head into the third year of a pandemic no one saw coming, it is easy to believe Canadians are reporting increased rates of mental health challenges, with 80% of workers surveyed across Canada admitting to disruptions in their work day due to experiencing a decline in their mental health. One of the most talked about afflictions these days, along with depression and increased substance use to cope (I’ll be writing about these in future posts so stay tuned!), is anxiety.
Anxiety is closely related to stress, which is a natural part of life and actually provides motivational benefits to the human experience. But while stress is caused by an existing stressor or threat (“Ah! That bear is looking at my dog like a tasty appetizer, I better get out of here!”), anxiety continues after the stressor is gone and the threat is no longer present (“I don’t want to go into the forest, what if there’s a bear? I better stay inside and never enjoy the great outdoors again, even though I love camping and hiking.”).
Racing thoughts that accompany anxiety can look like persistent worrying, believing the worst is always about to happen, and overgeneralizing assumptions based on a single event. Numerous physical symptoms that can accompany the racing thoughts can include sweating, nausea, feeling “on edge”, shortness of breath, fatigue and diarrhea (sexy, eh?). If someone you love is experiencing anxiety they may avoid situations, constantly ask for reassurance, become irritable or frustrated easily, or feel the need to engage in compulsive behaviors to self sooth.
As we continue to fight stigmatization about mental health, anxiety seems to be one struggle that people are more open to talk about. This could be because we as a society often glorify the “high functioning” “Type A” “perfectionist” persona, the individual who seems to work around the clock, works out daily, keeps a tidy home, supports all their friends and family emotionally, and has everything pulled together while wearing a smile and bringing in freshly baked muffins to the staff meeting on Monday mornings (I have both been guilty of being this person AND resenting this person, anyone else can relate?). The pace at which this type of life style demands in unrealistic and basically impossible to maintain, leading to more extreme methods of coping that can include substance use, disordered eating and an inability to ask for help when it feels like they are drowning (again, guilty as charged).
If someone you love is struggling with anxiety, do your best to learn about all the helpful and not so helpful ways you can support them. Do your best not to enable the avoidant behaviors, try to validate their experience and not minimize how they are feeling, and encourage them to seek professional help, especially if it is starting to affect their work or homelife. If you are finding yourself a victim to the Worry Dragons, in addition to seeking help for yourself you can also make changes to your everyday lifestyle that include consistent sleep, regular healthy meals and snacks, and including exercise to your daily routine.
Dakova Health has many talented professionals who can assist with getting your anxiety under control, and we look forward to working with you in the future!