Anxiety is our body"s response to stressful situations. Some level of anxiety in certain situations is completely normal and is in some ways helpful. When it is at a manageable level, anxiety can cause an increase in your alertness, resulting in you being more aware of your surroundings and focus. Those anxious feelings are your body"s way of helping to keep you safe. Most of the time, this system works pretty well, but sometimes things go haywire. Fortunately, there are things that can be done to help put your anxiety back in check. Here are 3 signs that you may be struggling with anxiety.
Your sleep patterns have changed dramatically.
Anxiety increases alertness, which is a great benefit in certain situations, but it is also necessary for your mind to be able to rest at times too. Your amygdala, a tiny but important area in the center of your brain, is at the command center of your limbic system. It helps you recognize, assess, and process things like danger and threats. In short, it"s basically your brain"s command center that helps organize the rest of your body into action to protect you from harm. When a threat is perceived, sends out a message to be on high alert. Sometimes though, your amygdala has a hard time taking a rest and resetting itself. As a result, your mind races all the time. You might find yourself lying awake in bed with worries that you just can"t turn off. Maybe you are actually able to fall asleep, but your worries invade your dreams and don"t allow you to enter a full state of restfulness.
You have become increasingly irritable.
That lack of sleep or disrupted sleep and sense of confusion that often accompanies severe anxiety can also lead to irritability. Remember, during an anxiety episode, your brain is trying to ensure that you are safe. That defensiveness that you are experiencing is your brain"s way of protecting you and making sure you don"t get hurt. If you"re in actual danger, defensiveness is necessary for survival. Irritability can be a warning sign that your anxiety is starting to increase in a situation. Left unchecked, your irritability can escalate to anger and lashing out.
You notice that you"re more forgetful.
All of that sleep disruption can wreak havoc on your memory. That"s really only part of the story though. Small amounts of anxiety can increase your alertness in an attempt to protect you from danger, but excessive anxiety can result in your mind just checking out. Anxiety also affects the area of the brain that controls your working memory. So, if you find that you"re misplacing your keys all the time or you can"t keep track of important appointments and you draw a blank about the content of entire conversations you"ve just had, anxiety could be a possible culprit.
Knowing that it"s time to get help.
Anxiety is part of a perfectly normal system that your body has of protecting you. Some anxiety in some situations is healthy and necessary for survival. If, however, your anxiety has begun to interfere with your relationships, your job, or your physical and mental well-being, this is a signal that your brain is essentially short-circuiting and needs some help learning new pathways to help you cope more successfully. Having these symptoms interfere with your daily life and happiness can be an indication that it is time to consider seeking help.
Expressive arts therapy can provide you with productive ways to harness your nervousness and reduce your anxiety and let you live a fuller life.