There are many stressors that can cause anxiety, such as COVID-19 and the uncertainty of it all, especially being a woman attending higher education, a working woman, or a mother of school-aged children in NYC that needs to adjust to changing times. Other stressors can include estranged relationships, financial problems, and world events. Throw in dealing with physical illness of you or a loved one and it’s no wonder why anxiety disorders have skyrocketed in the last few years.
We are no longer living in the “ignorance is bliss,” era. With social media and everything online, we can find information with a click, which isn’t always good for our mental health. At NYC Therapeutic Wellness, we understand your fears, and our female counselors can relate to the stress that comes with exclusively being a woman. Did you know anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America? They affect 40 million adults aged 18 and older. That equates to 18 percent of the population.
In today’s blog, we break down stress and provide a guide to de-stressing, so you can once again enjoy all that life offers.
Looking to therapy for your stress? Visit us.
Statistics on Stress-Related Anxiety
Stress is good thing—believe it or not. It can help us stay focused to get that report finished or prepare ourselves for a celebration or event. However, when stress becomes chronic or overwhelming, it’s not so good anymore. When your nervous system is on high alert constantly, it can wear you down and enter a conditioned state; this can lead to an anxiety disorder, or if it’s allowed to escalate, into a panic disorder. If you don’t seek help, it can turn into a viscous cycle, where you start to fear the fear of having an anxiety or panic attack.
It doesn’t help when a pandemic hits and a whole city or state is on lockdown, such as what happened with COVID-19. Since the beginning of the pandemic, anxiety levels have risen over 20%. From January 2019 to January 2021, the percentage of adults reporting symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder rose from 11 percent to 41 percent, nearly half of the country experiencing anxiety from the stress of COVID-19.
Following are more stress-related statistics from the Anxiety & Depression Association of America.
- As of January 2021, 23 percent of adults reported having increased levels of mental stress in the U.S. than the previous month, and 35 percent have reported symptoms of an anxiety disorder.
- Only 36 percent of those suffering from anxiety receive treatment, even though anxiety disorders are highly treatable.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is the most common anxiety disorder and affects 3.1 percent or 6.8 million people nationwide. Women are twice as likely to be affected than men, and usually goes together with major depression.
- Social anxiety disorders affect 6.8 percent of the U.S. population and affect both men and women equally. SAD typically begins as a teen, around aged 13. 36 percent of individuals that experience symptoms of SAD will go more than ten years before seeking help.
- 19 million American adults have specific phobias, and it affects women twice as likely as men. Symptoms usually start in childhood, around the age of 7.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD affects about 3.5 percent of people or 7.7 million of the U.S. population.
How Stress Affects Mental Health
As stated above, high stress can wreak havoc on our mental health, leading to conditioned states and chronic disorders that can be anything from uncomfortable to downright terrifying. However, stress can also lead to substance abuse, depression, sleep problems, even pain and other bodily symptoms, due to the adrenaline released during anxiety. Here are some signs and symptoms of how stress affects mental health, from cognitive and emotional symptoms to physical and behavioral symptoms.
- Memory problems
- Difficulty in concentrating or thinking
- Lack of confidence or negative thinking
- Catastrophic or “what ifs” thoughts
- Constant worrying
- Difficulty in making decisions
- Feeling hopeless or helpless
- Feeling depressed, unhappy, or guilty
- Low morale
- Feeling agitated or unable to relax
Physical symptoms include:
- Stomach problems, such as nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
- High blood pressure
- Loss of sex drive
- Rapid heart rate
- Muscle tension or other physical comfort or pain
Behavioral symptoms include:
- Social withdrawal
- Sleeping issues
- Change in eating patterns
- Neglect of family or work responsibilities
- Nervous habits like teeth grinding, nail biting, foot tapping, or pulling hair (trichotillomania)
- Increased use of alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, caffeine, or other substances
- Decrease in performance or productivity
As you can see, stress-related anxiety can cause a variety of symptoms, with some making you feel as if there is impending doom, which is no way to live your life. Below is a stress-reducing guide to help you in navigating the waters of anxiety, so it doesn’t control your life.
A Guide to De-Stressing
First and foremost, practicing self-care is crucial to reducing stress. How is your sleep, appetite, exercise level, and mindset? A great way to begin destressing is to start a stress journal. Write down everything that is bothering you and why. Write down how stress affects you. For some people, they eat more, exercise a lot, tap their foot constantly, or they have chronic tension in their stomach, back, or neck. Once you figure out what is stressing you out, you can tackle it. Remember, your brain is neuroplastic, meaning that it can create new brain connections and pathways, so you CAN overcome an anxiety or panic disorder with the right tools.
The most important thing to discover is that your mindset determines how your brain will react to stress. If you think stress is a good thing and that it keeps you motivated, your brain won’t react with major anxiety, usually. If you think of stress as the end of the world, your brain will react accordingly and release a ton of adrenaline, thinking it’s protecting you from harm.
Change your mindset on how you think about stress and anxiety. If you notify your brain that you’re in no danger and are safe, it will get the message. It may take some time, depending on how long you’ve been in a conditioned state, but the brain will change.
Learn about mindfulness and practice it. When you can tune into your emotions and sit with them, you can typically tell where the triggers have come from and how best to calm them. It doesn’t take too long to practice mindfulness, about 5 to 10 minutes. The important thing is to notice your body, where you feel tension, pain, or anxiety symptoms. Feel your breath. Are you breathing from your chest, or have you learned to belly-breathe? Notice when your mind wanders and bring it back to your body. Doing this enough can help you destress.
Exercise is a wonderful destressor since it releases your natural endorphins (feel good hormones) and helps you get fit and healthy. Cardiovascular programs help to get your heart rate where it needs to be, for the endorphins to kick in, but the reward is great. If you haven’t exercised much, just plain walking in fresh air is enough to get your stress level down. Yoga is an excellent practice to begin, as it helps center you and help you relax while you deep breathe.
Take a mental health day. Seriously. Do something you enjoy. Get away from the internet and all the politics. Hike, go swimming, golf, whatever you love to do. Focus on the activity and not your stress. Many workplaces allow for mental health days, especially with the charged environment lately. You are worth it, so don’t feel guilty.
Get professional help. It’s OK to see therapy from a qualified counselor such as what we have here at NYC Therapeutic Wellness. Counselors have the education and experience in assisting clients in overcoming their stress-related anxiety issues. You can get cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy, (DBT) emotion-focused therapy (EFT), eye movement desensitization + reprocessing (EMDR), family therapy, and more.
NYC Therapeutic Wellness Can Help
Too much stress can affect you mentally, emotionally, and physically. It can lead to anxiety and panic disorders, and it can also have negative effects on your family. At NYC Therapeutic Wellness, our counselors are compassionate and non-judgmental. We can help and stand ready to answer your questions and address your concerns. We understand your pain and want you to lead an enjoyable life, full of beauty and love. Please get in touch with us today at our NYC office, (917) 847-7556.
Claim your life back from anxiety, today!