After all the past year’s uncertainty, you have nerves of steel if anxiety left you untouched. Moms in general tend towards having higher rates of anxiety than the general population, and this disorder can wreak havoc on your life even when a pandemic doesn’t send you into a tailspin.
This condition is a tricky mistress, often appearing disguised as other symptoms. You might not make the connection between your emotions and the physical effects without spending time in mindful self-reflection. Here’s how anxiety manifests — and how to manage it and get on with life.
It Ties Your Muscles in Knots
Does your back sometimes ache like you spent an hour on the lat pulldown machine, even when you skipped the gym? When your partner massages you, do they find knots the size of Texas?
Prolonged anxiety causes you to tense your body in preparation for fight-or-flight. However, since modern pressures rarely entail fleeing angry bears, you develop painful muscle knots from the unreleased strain. The fibers adhere to each other, sometimes trapping nerve strands within, causing excruciatingly tight lumps.
As a result, you might develop chronic back pain issues, one of the leading causes of disability. The antidote: regular self-care. If you can’t afford a massage therapist — or hesitate due to COVID-19 — relaxing in a bubble bath or working out the kinks through exercise can help. You can also invest in handheld massage devices to ease those stubborn spots that always need extra work.
It Affects Your Heart
Heart disease remains the number one cause of death for men and women. Unfortunately, research out of Australia suggests that excess stress can rewire your brain to keep your blood pressure high. Those racing thoughts that keep you ruminating at 3 a.m. could contribute to premature death.
If you have ever had a panic attack, you might have mistaken it for a cardiovascular event. While you might learn to tell the difference if you have these episodes frequently enough, you should always have any novel chest pain looked at by a professional to rule out heart trouble.
Panic attacks usually create more of a sharp, stabbing pain in the center of your chest, whereas a heart attack often feels like a pressure that extends down your arm and up into your jaw or back. Typically, the former resolve within a few minutes, although they can last longer, while heart attacks tend to get worse with time.
Pay attention to the onset, too. While both panic and heart attacks can suddenly strike, the latter often occurs after physical exertion, such as walking up a flight of stairs. The bottom line — seek medical attention if you are unsure. Rapid treatment can result in better outcomes if the issue is physical in origin.
You can mitigate anxiety’s effects on your heart by taking measures to protect this organ. Consider adopting or giving up the following behaviors:
- Maintain a healthy weight: Too many unwanted pounds increase pressure on your heart — after all, it has to distribute blood over a wider area. Excess weight also increases your Type 2 diabetes risk, further imperiling your ticker.
- Quit smoking: Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes can cause your arteries to harden, increasing heart attack risk. It also elevates your pulse and blood pressure.
- Reduce alcohol consumption: Please dispel the silly myth that drinking red wine is good for your heart. Even one drink raises blood pressure. The effect reverses when you drink in moderation, but prolonged excess can lead to ongoing hypertension.
- Exercise: Your heart is a muscle. To keep it strong, exercise it through 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each week.
- Practice stress-reduction techniques: Your stress-reduction methods might vary from building ships in bottles to hitting an aerial yoga class. Participate in something that tames your tension every day.
- Seek professional help: It’s more challenging to escape modern pressures like too many bills for your paycheck to handle than to stay out of lion territory. If you can’t tame the factors contributing to your anxiety, consider seeking professional help.
It Adds Unwanted Pounds
You might be one of the fortunate few who reacts to life’s stressors by losing your appetite. However, for most folks, the stress hormone cortisol activates the brain’s hypothalamus, sending out “I’m hungry” signals. Your body thinks it’s under a prolonged assault and demands nourishment to prepare for a continued onslaught.
What’s worse is that you tend to crave foods high in sugar and fat. In prehistoric times, these foods provided the necessary calories and energy for survival — but this demand shrinks in the face of modern problems like micromanaging supervisors.
The answer to managing this anxiety manifestation is to get mindful. Recognize that your hormones fuel your body’s increased fuel demands and make wise food choices. You’re less likely to pack on the pounds with a salad if you can’t focus until you tame the growling tiger in your tummy.
Understand How Anxiety Manifests and How to Manage It
Anxiety manifests in many ways — you need to recognize and manage the problem. Please use the tips above to tame your tension and safeguard your health.