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NEWS | March 9, 2020

Understanding Anxiety

By Greg Chadwick Air Force Materiel Command Health & Wellness Team

 

Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. You might feel anxious speaking in front of a large group, or driving in heavy traffic. Anxiety encompasses feelings of worry, nervousness, or dread. In moderation, anxiety isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. Anxiety can help you stay alert and focused, urge you to action, and motivate you to solve problems.

However, when feelings of intense fear and distress become overwhelming and prevent us from doing everyday activities, an anxiety disorder may be the cause.

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Once you understand what an anxiety disorder is, there are steps you can take to reduce the symptoms and regain control of your life.

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are a group of related conditions, each having unique symptoms. Examples of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and separation anxiety disorder. However, all anxiety disorders have one thing in common: persistent, excessive fear or worry in situations that are not threatening. People typically experience one or more of the following symptoms:

Emotional symptoms:

• Feelings of apprehension or dread

• Feeling tense or jumpy

• Restlessness or irritability

• Anticipating the worst and being watchful for signs of danger

Physical symptoms:

• Pounding or racing heart and shortness of breath

• Sweating, tremors and twitches

• Headaches, fatigue and insomnia

• Upset stomach, frequent urination or diarrhea

Screening for Mental Health

If the feelings of anxiety are constant or overwhelming, and are interfering with your daily activities and relationships, it may be time to assess your mental health. The mental health screening tool is anonymous and confidential. Screening results are educational, not diagnostic, but are provided so participants may find out quickly if a consultation with a mental health professional would be helpful. Take a mental health screening today at helpyourselfhelpothers.org/

Simple Strategies to Manage Anxiety

Lifestyle changes can help individuals who experience feelings of anxiety but who don’t meet the clinical threshold for diagnosis. The following can tips can help lower anxiety and manage symptoms:

Connect with others. Loneliness and isolation can trigger or worsen anxiety, while talking about your worries with others face to face can often make them seem less overwhelming.

Manage stress. If your stress levels are high, explore stress management techniques.

Practice relaxation techniques. Mindfulness mediation, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing can reduce anxiety symptoms and increase feelings of relaxation and emotional well-being.

Exercise regularly. Walking, biking, and strength training are natural anxiety relievers.

Get enough sleep. Try to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night.

Limit caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.

Stop chronic worrying. Identify the circumstances that trigger your anxiety, challenge anxious or irrational thoughts, and learning to accept uncertainty, can significantly reduce worry and calm your anxious thoughts.

Where can I go for help?

Professional counseling services are available for the AFMC workforce and their families.

Military members can contact their local mental health clinic for services. Military OneSource is another option for military and their families. For more information, call (800) 342-9647 or visit militaryonesource.mil.

Civilian employees may contact the Employee Assistance Program for free, confidential counseling services at (866) 580-9078 or visit the EAP website at AFPC.af.mil/EAP.

For more information on anxiety education materials, visit USAFwellness.com or contact your local Civilian Health Promotion Services team. Comprehensive information on mental health can be found at the National Institute of Mental Health at: www.nimh.nih.gov.