Fear And Anxiety

Published on August 26th, 2015

Updated on March 12th, 2022

These two concepts are often used interchangeably but I think there’s a difference. To me, fear simmers underneath surface anxiety. Let me give you an example using a pot of boiling water. On the stove there are usually four heating elements. You decide to make spaghetti for dinner. You fill the pot with water, set it on the burner, and turn on the heat. What happens? Intense heat from the burner results in boiling water. In this example, fear is represented heat and anxiety is represented by boiling water. I may not be able to see the hot burner, but I can feel the heat and observe the turbulent water. In order to understand my anxiety, it may be informative to understand the fear that drives it. For me, if I am aware of the fear that fuels my anxious responses, I can then pinpoint the cause and work to develop coping skills with my therapist.

So, what are a few common symptoms of anxiety? Physical responses may include restlessness, insomnia, appetite fluctuations (either increased or decreased appetite), and food cravings for “comfort food.” Other symptoms may include agitation, inability to relax, shallow breathing, and more.

What can I do when I’m feeling anxious? Mindfulness meditation or developing a yoga practice that focuses on deepening your breath may be beneficial. Reducing caffeine intake is also another common way to alleviate anxious responses and calm the nervous system. Learning to recognize that a situation or feelings of panic are temporary can result in a more peaceful response. Diet is another way to reduce worry. Some foods that may lower anxiety include those that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, calcium, B vitamins and tryptophan. Balanced nutrition is important to a physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy you! Personally, I find that having a proactive life approach has worked well to reduce tensions. In other words, I try to accomplish daily tasks early so I don’t fall behind. I develop a schedule, prioritize my tasks, and check them off as completed. For me, this is one way to cope with every day uneasiness. And, if my daily concerns are lower, I have more energy to devote elsewhere.

Life is full of constant change, which makes most of us vulnerable to feeling anxious at one time or another. Many people face anxiety during major life transitions. Common transitions include job loss, divorce or relationship loss, career change, relocation, death, or illness. For others, chronic anxiety maybe a daily experience preventing us from participating in enjoyable activities. A person who has experienced trauma may need further evaluation for generalized anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder. Regardless of your situation, seeing a therapist can be helpful to identify and improve your symptoms or simply enhance your ability to cope. While most people experience one or more of these anxious responses, if they become chronic, it is important to seek medical and mental health care from licensed professionals.

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