Once, when I went to a conference and took a class about mental health, a speaker said that having Anxiety is like always hearing boss music, but the boss never actually appears. People said that this was an interesting and accurate description. Having diagnosed Anxiety is commonly confused with feeling anxious in today’s world. But what is the difference between these two?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, is the full name for what is normally referred to as capital-A Anxiety. It’s a diagnosable condition. The main difference between GAD and feeling anxious is that lowercase-a anxiety goes away, while GAD typically does not on its own. According to Jaime Herndon from Healthline, “[Feeling anxious] is a normal response to stress, and isn’t always a bad thing. But when it gets to be uncontrollable or excessive to the point where it affects quality of life, this may be indicative of an anxiety disorder.” GAD can be characterized as a sense of doom or fear that follows a person wherever they go, or by a heightened state of excessive worry. Healthline gives a number of other Anxiety symptoms: trouble concentrating, difficulty sleeping, irritability, fatigue, muscle tension, repeated abdominal pain, sweaty palms, and rapid heartbeat. On the contrary, feeling lowercase-a anxious about something is more a feeling of short-term nervousness that most people experience from time to time. It’s often about a certain event, and when the event is over, the feeling dissipates, as Herndon confirms.
The question then becomes, what can be done for diagnosed Anxiety? Aside from the obvious answers of therapy and medication, there are a few easy techniques to curb Anxiety. One of these is a grounding technique. Essentially, it gets a person out of their head and puts them back in the physical world. While there are many approaches to this, one that has been proven to be helpful is by following a senses method. It begins by listing five things someone can physically feel in the moment, followed by four things they can see, three things they hear, two things they can taste, and one thing they can smell. This can greatly help relieve Anxiety in moments of anguish. Another technique is box breathing. This is where one concentrates on breathing, breathing in for a certain amount of time (typically four seconds), then holding it for that same amount of time, exhaling for the same time, and then pausing before breathing in for the same number of seconds. Doing this for several minutes in a row can help quell the sense of panic someone with GAD may feel. “Resetting one’s breath, or working to make the breath leave fight-or-flight mode, is good for both the mind and body,” as Medical News Today explains.
This is only an introduction to how to best manage Anxiety. Be sure to talk with a doctor if any of the aforementioned symptoms sound familiar. UVU Health Services offer help to students who are looking for help managing Anxiety or any other form of mental health though counseling and connections to helpful resources. Anxiety is both manageable and treatable, if one is willing to look for help.