8 Common Anxiety Symptoms and a Few Ways to Begin to Cool Off
By Rachael Bonaiuto, LPC
When you have anxiety, it’s easy to feel like others don’t understand what you’re going through. Anxiety itself can make you feel as though you’re suffering from symptoms, worries and concerns that are not only pronounced – they also feel inherent. Despite how personal this anxiety is to you, the truth is that anxiety is surprisingly common. I witness anxiety symptoms in most people I encounter on a daily basis – clients, students, friends, and family – in the store, at the bank, even at a red light. Anxiety is uncomfortable at best, and can become paralyzing and defeating. And it is common…. so incredibly common.
You are at home, preparing to go to a dinner party with work colleagues. You don’t want to go, you dread it, you think of reasons not to go, fantasize about your favorite elastic-waisted pants and the flavor ice cream that would accompany the movie night you’d rather have. You finally surrender to going, but begin to notice tightness in your chest. As you stare, hot and bothered, at your closet of ‘not quite right’ clothes, your neck begins to hurt and the pain causes even more fear. You snap at your partner, who gently reminds you that you need to get going. You ignore the texts from co-workers asking you if you’ve left your house yet. You can barely breath and you are frozen. You are experiencing anxiety and it is profoundly challenging.
So, what are some common symptoms of anxiety? Below are eight typical symptoms of anxiety and a few ways to manage this persistent condition.
- You feel constantly worried, tense and on edge
- You are plagued by fears that you know are irrational but just can’t shake
- You avoid situations/activities because they cause you nervousness & stress
- You have difficulty thinking, speaking, and following conversations
- You experience pain, stiffness, tension, pressure, soreness, or immobility
- Your body temperature increases or decreases without external reason
- You feel chest tremors, pounding heart, and/or labored breathing
- You don’t feel like yourself, detached from loved ones, emotionally numb
Many common anxiety symptoms show up in your body. You may first experience a knot in your stomach, and then you realize you are totally freaked out about an upcoming presentation. You feel a rapid heartbeat and tightness in your chest and later notice that you are completely anxious to drive in snowy weather. Your jaw is clenched and your breath is constricted just before you unleash the pent up worry and resulting irritability toward your child. If you can begin to notice the signals from your body that suggest you are anxious, you may find opportunity to take pause, check in, and navigate what you need in the moment.
Here are a few body-oriented tips for how to deal with anxiety:
- Find pause through breath. Inhale. Exhale. Feel your belly rise and fall. Notice the air come in through your nostrils and exit out your lips.
- Find pause through your senses. Pause to notice what you see. What do you hear and smell? Can you feel your clothes against your body? Experience your feet in your shoes, on the floor. Can you taste the salt on your lips or the flavor from your most recent meal?
- Find pause through movement. Go for a walk. Put on your favorite song and dance. Shake it out. Stretch your arms wide. Spread your legs and feel your feet rooted into the earth. Put your hands on your heart or give yourself a massage.
2. Check In:
- Notice what is happening with your breath, senses, movements
- Notice, without judgment, what thoughts and feelings you have
- Simply observe what is happening in your inner landscape
- Scan your body for tension, tightness, fear, irritability, disorientation
3. Take care:
- Ask yourself what you need? Remind yourself (or have someone else remind you) that it is okay to have needs.
- If you are having trouble accessing what you need, take another pause, a longer pause, lie on the earth and feel it beneath you.
- If you are in need of support, ask for help – from a friend, a loved one or a professional.
Anxiety can negatively impact your quality of life – the way you show up for others and for yourself. Knowing the common symptoms of anxiety can help you recognize when you or a loved one is experiencing unease. When you realize you feel anxious, it can be so valuable to pause, check in and take care of yourself in the moment. Building a deeper understanding of the symptoms and an awareness of what is happening in your body can provide access to your available resources through breath, sensation and movement. When you have access to your internal resources, you can also appreciate more deeply when you need additional support and when you are able to navigate your internal terrain on your own. This self-awareness provides empowerment, freedom and a deeper sense of compassion for self and other. Most importantly, if you are experiencing significant anxiety, seek professional help. Psychotherapy can be very effective in providing relief from the debilitating symptoms of anxiety.
(23 places young adults hide drugs: a “Where’s Waldo for clueless parents)
Linda Cain, MSED
At Risk Alternatives, L.L.C.
Finding Options Supporting Success
1. Hidden behind things on shelves
2. Hidden in a slit cut into my mattress
3. Hidden in custom sewn pockets in my clothes
4. Hidden in dashboard of my car or tiny compartment
5. Hidden in pillow cases in my closet
6. Hidden in shoes underneath sole
7. Hidden in fridge/freezer
8. Hidden inside A/C and heating vents and drop down ceilings
9. Hidden inside an empty deodorant bottle
10. Hidden inside guitar or guitar case
11. Hidden inside handle bars of my bicycle
12. Hidden inside my bra/underwear
13. Hidden inside my makeup case
14. Hidden inside my retainer case
15. Hidden inside my VCR, or in any discarded equipment (TVʼs, PCʼs, etc.)
16. Hidden inside my wallet / purse
17. Hidden inside old snowboard boots or any seasonal equipment or clothing
18. Hidden inside pockets of clothes hanging in the back of the closet
19. Hidden inside socks and stuff in toes of shoes
20. Hidden inside stereo speakers
21. Hidden inside stuffed animals
22. Hidden inside the battery compartment of old TV remote controls
23. Hidden inside video game boxes, DVD and CD Cases
The young people in this survey were all “professionals”
in the field of drug and alcohol abuse, i.e. everyone had a
primary struggle with drug and alcohol related issues.
Do Not Reprint Without Written Permission
© 2006 – Sober College ™
Q; How can I help my adolescent have a fun, productive, and safe summer?
A: Summers can be a unique challenge for parents of adolescents. On the one hand we want to honor their desire for making more of their own decisions regarding summer activities, as the shift to independence is a key developmental task for adolescents. On the other hand, we still need to encourage healthy choices and ensure that their summer includes opportunities to enhance their social and emotional development.
When adolescents are bored and have nothing productive to do, this often leads to an increase in engagement in a wide range of at-risk behaviors. Specific concerns include experimentation with drugs and alcohol, engaging in risky behaviors that can result in physical injury, and unsafe sexual behavior. Research has shown us that when adolescents under the age of 15 experiment with drugs and/or alcohol, their risk of developing addiction and/or psychiatric issues later in life significantly increases. We also know that summers can often represent a shift in new and increased experimentation with drugs and alcohol for young adolescents. It is important to strike a balance between well deserved down time and participation in fun, structured activities.
Consider a respectful, collaborative discussion with your adolescent about summer plans and activities. Let them know that while you want to see them doing some structured activities, it is important that they feel good about what those specific activities may be. Take advantage of the activity information in this month’s Thrive newsletter as a springboard for these discussions. Whether it’s getting a job, recreational activities with the family, participating in an art class, signing-up for a one-week camp, or working on home projects with Mom and/or Dad (and getting paid?), try to create a balance of down time and structured activities. Periodically checking in with them over the summer can also be beneficial.
Helping your adolescent proactively develop an effective summer plan now will be more effective than waiting until problems emerge over the summer and attempting to deal with them reactively.
By Dr. Jan Hittelman
Q: I had a disturbing conversation with a friend about a parent’s experience with alcohol poisoning. The child had already been in trouble with the police, over alcohol use; and had passed out drunk again, when the parent was called to pick up the teen. The parent did not take the teen to the Hospital because the parent was afraid that the police would be involved again. I’ve known several teens in the past, whose lives were most likely saved by prompt medical attention. Is there any assurance that we can give parents that Medical Care asked for by a parent or guardian is not subject to reporting, so that they will do what is right for the child?
-Parent of 2 Teens
A: In June 2005 the Colorado General Assembly passed a series of laws (House Bill 05-1183) that include protections for the minor and up to two additional persons from prosecution if they call 911 to report that the minor is in need of medical attention due to alcohol consumption, give their names, stay on the scene and cooperate with medical and law enforcement personnel when they arrive. You can read the exact language of the law by clicking on: www.state.co.us/gov_dir/leg_dir/olls/sl2005a/sl_282.htm
These laws were enacted due to “incidents of death related to underage binge drinking”.
The danger of not taking someone who is suffering from alcohol poisoning to the hospital is that they can die. Alcohol is a depressant and when too much alcohol is ingested, there is a risk of slowing down the respiratory system and the person simply stops breathing. Tragically a parent would simply assume that they’re “sleeping it off”. It is important to be safe not sorry and seek medical attention.
When Gordon Bailey died from alcohol poisoning several years ago at a C.U. Fraternity, his parents were interviewed. Surprisingly they indicated that they themselves did not really understanding the fatal nature of alcohol poisoning and were haunted that they never sat their son down and educated him about this. The good news is that you can. After educating yourself on the subject, be sure to educate your children. And don’t wait until they’re in high school. These conversations should begin no later than the beginning of middle school, if not earlier. It is important to revisit this and other potential self-harm behaviors (other substance abuse including cigarettes, sexual behavior, bike helmets, seat belts, and other risk behaviors) frequently as your child develops and matures.
Ironically the two most dangerous drugs on the planet are the two that are legal; cigarettes and alcohol. This sends a very confusing message to our children. Particularly because parents and our general culture model the use of these two drugs far too often.
If you are aware that your child is regularly abusing alcohol, it is critical to intervene.
Depending on the seriousness and chronicity of the alcohol abuse, some of the interventions that may be necessary include: Alcohol classes, driving restrictions, substance abuse treatment, and attending Alcoholics Anonymous.
By Dr. Jan Hittelman
After the school day has ended, it is estimated that 40 percent of young people’s time is often unstructured, unsupervised, and unproductive (Carnegie, 1992). Several studies have documented increases in a variety of at-risk behaviors for youth during the hours immediately after school, especially between 3:00 and 6:00 P.M. When youth participate in quality after school programs, the benefits are dramatic.
Dr. Beth Miller (Miller, 2003) summarized the research on after school program participation, which found that after school program participation reduced negative behaviors (e.g. juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, dropout rate, conflicts between youth, school suspensions) and increased attitudes and behaviors linked with school success (e.g. better school behavior, better emotional adjustment, better work habits, improved relationships with parents, improved grades).
While many families routinely involve their elementary-age children in after school programs, there is a significant drop-off among middle and high school youth in after school activity participation. Ironically this is often when after school program participation is most critical, as the percentage of students who are unsupervised significantly increases at this time. For example, 23 percent of 10-year-olds spend some time caring for themselves compared to 44 percent of 12-year-olds (Capizzano et al., 2000). There is also overwhelming evidence that many students experience a marked decrease in school engagement during the middle school years. Data on nearly 100,000 students from the Search Institute suggests “the middle school years are typically a time of lowered interest, motivation, and effort in school” (Scales & Leffert, 1999). During the middle school years, children are also going through dramatic physical, emotional and cognitive changes, transitions that translate into new potential strengths as well as new risks (Dryfoos, 1990; Jackson & Davis, 2000).
Duffett and Johnson (2004), in a survey of youth in middle and high school grades, found that even youth concur with the importance of after school program participation. Seventy-seven percent of the youth surveyed agreed “a lot of kids get into trouble when they’re bored and have nothing to do.” Eighty-five percent agreed that kids who participate in organized activities such as a team or a club after school are “better off ” than those who have a lot of free time on their hands.
By Dr. Jan Hittelman
Being an effective parent can feel like a real uphill battle. This can be particularly true when our children are adolescents. A major challenge for parents of adolescents is that their developmental tasks include shifting from dependence to independence and experimentation. As a result, issues related to compliance with parental requests and experimentation with drugs, alcohol and other risky behaviors often make this a very difficult time. Both the challenge and solution for parents is to remain firm in their efforts to provide guidance to their children as early as possible, even when it seems most unwelcome.
Consider experimentation with marijuana. Local surveying of high school youth typically indicates that almost half have tried marijuana. Some youth and health service providers believe that these percentages are underestimates. Many parents of adolescents indicate that they too experimented with marijuana in their youth. Thus the conclusion often drawn is that teens will be teens and experimentation is inevitable, so why fight a losing battle? The more road blocks, through open discussion and efforts to provide firm boundaries, the better the chances are that your child will either not engage in this behavior or if they do, will hopefully not “over engage” to the point of irrevocable results. It is very difficult, for example, for the most expert professional to predict which youth will simply experiment with substances like marijuana and move on and who will develop lifelong patterns of chemical dependency. Similarly, we also know that marijuana is the second-most frequently found drug (after alcohol) involved in automobile accidents and the primary substance abused by adolescents in drug treatment.
It is also important to note that even the most vigilant parent may be unable to prevent their child from developing substance abuse problems, but there are steps that you can take to reduce the chances:
• Encourage ongoing discussions about substance use. Research shows that kids whose parents talk with them regularly about drugs and alcohol are 50 percent less likely to use them. For tips on effective ways to have this conversation, check out: www.TalkingWithKids.com and www.TheAntiDrug.com.
• Be clear that any experimentation with drugs/alcohol is unacceptable. For students who believed their parents would strongly disapprove, current marijuana use was 5% versus 30% for youth who believed their parents would somewhat disapprove.
• Ask questions about parties that your children attend in terms of drug/alcohol use and adult supervision. When hosting a party understand your legal responsibilities and provide appropriate supervision.
• If you suspect substance use, consider an assessment and/or drug testing to determine the severity.
• Be a good role model. Parental use of drugs/alcohol sends a message that it’s OK to do.