When I say “anxiety” I am not talking about the type of anxiety that comes with taking a test or getting married, etc. – known as situational anxiety. I mean the type of anxiety that can hang over your day like a dark cloud.
I am not 100% sure what triggers the anxiety in me, but it is usually rears its head when I have too many demands upon me with no possible way to meet them all. I always manage to get through them, but my sleep, diet and overall health can take a beating…even if only temporary. Other times, there is absolutely no apparent cause at all…it’s just there.
I have heard this described as “free floating anxiety”. I’m not sure if this is the technical term or not, but it sums up my situation nicely. It’s just kinda there. It does not ask permission to visit, comes and goes as it pleases and is not the LEAST concerned with how busy I am…very rude.
Looking back, anxiety is something that has been with my entire life. If you have virtually any form of anxiety, you are painfully aware of the symptoms; disrupted sleep, excessive stressing over events and things you should NOT be stressing over…and when it gets REALLY bad you can get a sense of impending doom that is impossible to explain. And for some reason it is invariably worse at night.
Pet Peeve Alert: If you are dealing with someone who suffers from anxiety do NOT expect a clear answer when you ask, “Well, what is it that’s stressing you out exactly?” I DON’T KNOW! If there was a clear answer to this question, there would be a clear way to deal with it. It is definitely NOT that easy. I appreciate the concern, but not the dismissive attitude implying I really ought to know what’s causing my “problem” and deal with it. End of rant.
So…what do I like to do when I recognize an issue like this? I go research it of course.
But why now? And why write about it here?
A few of reasons. First, the frequency and severity of anxiety both increase with age. Hence, it is very appropriate for a health blog called “The Boomer Blueprint”. Second, because I KNOW how common it is! It is everywhere. It is in my family, it is in the workplace, your friends and relatives suffer from it. The list goes on…
Finally, I recognize there are concrete steps you can do about it. Maybe not make it go away, but at least to put some coping mechanisms in place.
NOTE: Right about here I need to note that I am NOT a physician. I am not trained to treat anxiety. This is just my way of summing things up, recognizing an issue and maybe throwing out a tip or two that can work for you or someone you know.
Here is what I have come across in the literature…
First the bad stuff…let’s get this out of the way.
– Anxiety can have a very negative effect of the brain as we age. People who suffer from chronic anxiety can suffer from compromised brain health over time; predisposing them to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
– Anxiety is strongly associated with depression. Awareness of this connection is vital.
– Anxiety can cause a cascade of negative health issues: poor sleep patterns (also known to age the brain) and hence an increased desire for carbohydrate rich foods (weight gain). The weight gain, of course, brings on a host of other problems…
So, if you recognize the roll of anxiety in your life, where do you start?
Let’s go from easiest to implement to more aggressive:
– Deep breathing exercises and proper meditation training. Before you dismiss this option, DON’T! The science is overwhelming about the beneficial effects of even a few brief moments of deep breathing and relaxation techniques. Study a DVD, go to a seminar or take a course. Do SOMETHING along these lines. Breathing is a powerful treatment and largely 100% free. Start here. Few things put me back in charge of my mindset and bring my anxiety levels down more than deep breathing and guided meditation.
I went to a presentation at Yang’s Fitness Center about 6 months ago with meditation and Tai Chi expert Ramel Rones and learned some great techniques to reduce anxiety levels which I use regularly.
I even have an app on my phone to help. (It’s called Mindfulness, btw). Try it…it’s also free. 🙂
– Supplements: I read a study just this morning which prompted this entire article! Increasing substances in the brain like DHA can prevent cognitive disease. This means DHA from fish oil as well as my personal favorite supplement – Curcumin. This is the substance in turmeric which in turn gives curry its distinctive orange color. A minimum of 2 grams of DHA each day along with about a gram of curcumin can have a very positive impact on brain health. Both also decrease inflammation which is emerging as a primary cause of cognitive disease.
– Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: If you are someone you know suffers from anxiety to the point where the effects disrupt their daily life, you need to consider talking to someone about it. Professional Counselors can provide more advanced coping skills which can greatly improve quality of life. Taking the first step here is the hardest part. Just put your concerns aside and do it.
Of course, there are medications which work wonders, but these should be closely tied to the physician/therapy option above. It is important to stay away from self-medicating. An all-too-common occurrence across our society.
I hope some of this was helpful. After all, this is a health blog and everything is connected…