You Can't Just "Get Over" Anxiety - And Here's Why

November 9, 2017




Amara Rose

If you've been injured on the job or on the road, you were probably pretty shaken up at the time. 

What people don't talk about is ongoing anxiety, the kind that doesn't go away once an accident is history. Suppose you're physically recovered from a car crash, yet still feel tense and worried most of the time. Your mates might say, "Get over it!" But anxiety isn't a bad hair day. Once anxiety has taken root, it impacts every aspect of your life, suffocating your ability to function normally. What's happening to you is real, and more widespread than you might think.

In a typical year, over two million Australians will experience anxiety. It's the most common mental health condition in the country. Anxiety doesn't play favorites, either; it can affect anyone, at any time, even Academy-award winning actress Emma Stone. The more you understand anxiety, the better equipped you'll be to triumph over it, as Emma did.

Overwhelmed And Overthinking

There are many types of anxiety, from Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) to panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and specific phobias. People with GAD feel anxious about problems such as money, health, family and work. They may feel as if something can go wrong at any moment, or that they can't cope, even when there are no outward signs of trouble. Other symptoms may include:

  • Feeling restless or edgy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Becoming easily tired, yet finding it hard to fall or stay asleep
  • Muscle tension (sore neck, shoulders, back)

Help! I'm Having A Panic Attack!

Chronic anxiety might also morph into panic disorder. If you're a highly sensitive person, a traumatic event such as an accident can push you over the edge into a full-blown panic attack, characterized by chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating, trembling, and a racing heart. An all-consuming panic attack can cause sufferers to think they're having a heart attack — or even going mad. Yet ten minutes later the sense of impending doom passes, leaving you limp, exhausted, and wondering what happened. However, a few panic attacks does not mean you have, or will develop, panic disorder.

Anxiety Destroys Digestion

Anxiety also affects your digestion. In addition to the dizziness, sweating and shortness of breath typical of a panic attack, with chronic anxiety you can feel nauseous and numb, leading to symptoms such as acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, food intolerances, asthma, and heart conditions. Eating isn't much fun when you feel this way — and it's not the best weight loss plan.

Work And Study Suffer When You Do

If you have the hallmarks of an anxiety disorder, going to work or school is going to be fraught with, well, anxiety. Getting and staying motivated, not to mention concentrating on a project, is much more difficult if your stomach's in turmoil, you're perspiring profusely, feel tired and irritable, and are trying to hide these symptoms from unsympathetic coworkers or fellow students.

Is Anxiety Wrecking Your Relationship?

Relationships, by their very nature, can make us anxious. If you're experiencing anxiety, it can be a chicken-or-egg scenario: is the relationship causing your anxiety, or is your anxiety having a negative effect on your relationship? The former is probably true for most people at some time in their lives, whether we're talking about friends, coworkers, or spouses. For someone with anxiety, such as GAD, how does this play out in a relationship? People with anxiety may be more:

  • Suspicious
  • Vigilant
  • Easily hurt
  • Passive/aggressive
  • Intrusive

Putting Anxiety In Its Place

While you may not be able to totally vanquish anxiety, you can take a tip from Emma Stone and show it who's in charge. The actress admits she still has anxiety, but it no longer runs her life. Here are some guidelines to make anxiety manageable and put you back in the driver's seat:

  • Get a proper diagnosis. Whether you opt for a GP, mental health professional or complementary healing practitioner, find out exactly what's going on, so you can plan an appropriate course of action. An accurate diagnosis is the first step to alleviating your anxiety.
  • Choose a healing method. Are you open to psychological and other counseling interventions? The many therapies available for anxiety include, but are not limited to:
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a type of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy that helps people accept difficult emotions and avoid "overthinking". Recommended for GAD, PTSD, panic disorder and social phobias.
  • Art therapy, and Dance and Movement Therapy (DMT)
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), shown to be beneficial for PTSD.
  • Applied Muscle Tension for injury phobias
  • Mindfulness Meditation
  • Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP)

Select a therapy based on your type of anxiety, and what you and your health practitioner feel will serve you best.

  • Change your diet. Caffeine and alcohol aggravate anxiety, so aim to reduce or eliminate them. You can help calm anxiety by eating a nutritious diet filled with the kinds of foods your mum always tried to get you to eat.
  • Exercise. Mild exercise changes your brain chemistry, which improves mood, aids digestion and sleep, and keeps your body in good shape as well.

You don't have to suffer in silence. Share your anxiety symptoms with someone who understands, and can help you on the road back to balance.  

Amara Rose

Health and wellness contributor to Smith's Lawyers blog


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