Know when to seek help for anxiety.

Behavioral HealthA fierce dog barks at you, or lightning strikes a tree near your house. Your heart seems to jump into your mouth, your hands begin to sweat and your stomach hurts, too. In short, you feel anxious.

Most of the time, feeling anxious doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. When you feel anxious at appropriate times, these uncomfortable feelings may prompt you to call animal control about the dog running loose or to go indoors during a storm.

However, anxiety can become counterproductive, and, when it does, it’s time to find mental and physical relief. Symptoms of ongoing anxiety include being easily startled, breathlessness, constant worrying, frequent urination, headaches, sleeplessness, sweating, tension and inability to relax, trembling, upset stomach and even hot flashes.

If constant worries are ruining your sense of well-being, try these coping strategies.

  • Breathe. Deep breathing from your diaphragm may help symptoms recede. Breathe deep into your belly—place your hand above your navel to feel your stomach expand. Then breathe out, tightening your abdominal muscles. Repeat slowly.
  • Speak gently to yourself. Known as “positive self-talk,” messages such as “this too shall pass” or a favorite line of inspirational verse may reduce your anxiety.
  • Calm your body. Plentiful, regular sleep, frequent exercise and gradual reduction of alcohol and caffeine in your diet may help reduce anxiety.

Seek Sound Advice

Sometimes, people find that their anxiety is persistent. If you feel worried much of the time for six months or more, or if you cannot control your anxiety symptoms even when you try, visit a health provider such as a doctor or counselor. He or she may teach you behavioral strategies or prescribe medications to help you. Many insurance plans now cover behavioral health screenings at no cost.

Unmask Anxiety Mimics

“It’s just stress. I’ll feel better in a little while.”

When you feel your chest flutter or your breath quicken, you may be tempted to dismiss the symptoms, especially if you know you suffer from anxiety from time to time. However, serious medical conditions may present with the same signs as anxiety attacks.

  • Atrial fibrillation (A-fib). Your heart may race up to 250 beats a minute during a panic attack or when you have atrial fibrillation. However, A-fib is a physical condition that can damage the heart.
  • Heart attacks in women may share anxiety symptoms, including nausea and sweating. For any chest pain or other possible heart symptoms, seek emergency care.
  • Hyperthyroidism. Symptoms may include nervousness, sleeplessness and heart arrhythmia. Patients may also have muscle weakness or weight loss despite healthy eating. Ask your doctor for a thyroid test if you don’t think an anxiety diagnosis covers all your symptoms.

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