Anxiety looks and feels different for everyone. While some people experience extreme nervousness over anything and everything, others dread only public speaking or air travel. The way anxiety feels varies from person to person as well - you may have experienced any combination of the symptoms listed in this article, or maybe even other experiences that I don’t include here. Either way, your anxious feelings are valid.
When thinking of anxiety, you might think of the classic signs of anxiety as constant overthinking, sweaty palms, or trouble sleeping. However, there is often a lot more going on that we don’t think of as signs of anxiety. That indigestion you’ve been experiencing may not be from Taco Tuesday, it could be a side effect of anxiety! The fatigue you’ve been fighting or the ache in your back might not be from your old mattress, it could possibly be your body’s response to anxiety! While these physical sensations can be attributed to a multitude of things, it’s important to recognize the effects of anxiety on the body.
Let’s break it down: there are two kinds of symptoms, physical and mental. Mental symptoms can include constant and overwhelming worry, nervousness, trouble concentrating, racing thoughts, restlessness, irritability, trouble sleeping, and an “on-edge” feeling. But anxiety is more than just a feeling. As a result of our brain getting into the fight-or-flight mode, there are a wide range of physical reactions in the body. Physical symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, stomach or chest pains, heart palpitations, nausea/indigestion, sweating, shaking, and headaches.
It’s important to be aware of the physical symptoms of anxiety because they are often overlooked, or mistaken for physical illnesses. We’ve all been there, wondering if we’re not feeling well because we’re nervous, or if we’re nervous about not feeling well. As a child, I remember frequently calling my mom and asking her to pick me up from school because I had a stomach ache, but in hindsight, I really had separation anxiety. What may seem like “just a headache/stomachache” can be a result of all of the stress we’ve put our mind and body through.
It’s also important to be aware of the physical symptoms of anxiety so you can prepare for them. It can be scary when your heart begins to race and your breathing accelerates and you’re not sure why! If you notice yourself or a friend experiencing any of the physical symptoms listed above, be sure to take a step back and check in.
Acknowledging that a sensation is coming from anxiety is the first step to reducing your anxiety. In other words, once you recognize that you're feeling anxious, you can then take the steps to calm yourself. If you'd like to read more about how to decrease your anxiety, click here.
Thanks for reading! Lauren