According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), over 40 million adults each year in the United States, ages 18 and older, are living with anxiety. Very commonly experienced by many people every day, anxiety can be defined as your body’s natural response to stress. Preparing for a job interview, giving a presentation or traveling to a new place can all cause anxiety. Feeling anxious is a normal part of life and can actually be helpful in some situations, as it can help assess possible danger, as well as keep us engaged.

What happens, though, when your anxiety just becomes too much? When anxiety becomes excessive or is chronically elevated, it can affect our lives to a point where it’s debilitating and make it hard to focus on anything else.

Five signs your anxiety is progressively getting worse:  

1. Sleep Issues. If you find yourself struggling to fall asleep or constantly waking up during the night, this could be attributed to your anxiety.

2. Physical Symptoms. Digestive issues, chest tightness, a racing heartbeat and fatigue are all symptoms of anxiety. However, when your anxiety levels are elevated, your symptoms might be too. For me, personally, once I notice that my chest feels tight and my heart is beating faster than normal, I become even more anxious, which ultimately turns into a vicious cycle of anxiety.

3. Your Eating Habits Might Have Changed. This is a big tell for me, as I tend to enjoy food and find comfort in it. That being said, when my anxiety is bad, I generally lose my appetite and find myself eating less than normal. If you feel extremely anxious, you could end up eating less or even more than you usually do.

4. Excessive Worrying. While this can be a sign of anxiety anyways, worrying constantly about relatively small things that might not have bothered you before, could be a sign that your anxiety is getting worse.

5. Feeling “Out of Control”. Whether it’s because you can’t put what you’re feeling into words or you can’t get a break from your racing thoughts, you might feel like you’re “spinning out of control”. You can also tell if it’s “out of control” if calming techniques and tools that may have worked for you before just don’t help anymore.

Sometimes it might feel like your anxiety will never improve and honestly, it might take time. In the meantime, there are some lifestyle changes you could make to help reduce those anxious feelings, such as:

  • Reducing caffeine intake
  • Deep breathing
  • Exercise/yoga
  • Make healthy food choices
  • Take a break from technology

One thing I do in the moment when I’m really feeling anxious is to practice “box breathing”. Also known as “square breathing”, it’s a technique that can help reduce stress and anxiety by taking slow, deep breaths. You should then take a big inhale for 4 seconds on one side of the box and then hold your breath for 4 seconds before exhaling for another 4 seconds. At the end, take a pause for 4 seconds before beginning again. To learn more and practice on your own, check out this box breathing relaxation technique here.  

Along with box breathing, I also enjoy taking walks outside, journaling and listening to music. It might also be a good idea to find someone to talk to and confide in, such as a therapist or even a close family member or friend. Ultimately, it’s important to find what works best for you when your anxiety may be too much to handle.

Staff Blogger: Mollie Clupper

Mollie Clupper is working for MHA as a Communications and Support Specialist. Using her own experiences, she wants to help bring awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental health. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, drinking coffee, and spending time with her fur-niece.