The world in its current state is very demanding. Everything around us is fast-paced and there is so much uncertainty. We are constantly adapting and trying to catch up with life so much that we hardly have enough time to slow down, calmly collect our thoughts, enjoy life, and just breathe.

I get more anxiety attacks in my adulthood than ever before because I have no control over my surroundings and circumstances. Anything can happen at any given moment and change your life drastically. These are the pangs of my adulthood.

What is anxiety?

SOURCE: UNSPLASH

Anxiety is the brain’s way of reacting to stress. It’s an emotion that is common to many people and its symptoms include stress, worrying, and fear.

What is an anxiety attack?

According to Healthline an anxiety attack is a feeling of overwhelming apprehension, worry, distress or fear. An anxiety attack is triggered by a stressful event and may worsen as the event draws closer. It is difficult to diagnose an anxiety attack as it requires a number of tests and the symptoms differ per person.

The symptoms and types of anxiety

The symptoms include feeling faint and dizzy, shortness of breath, dry mouth, chills or hot flashes, restlessness, distress, fear, numbness or tingling, apprehension and worry.

Anxiety comes in many forms; there is mild anxiety which is less severe and may include being anxious about an interview, completing a task, or embarking on a new journey. Then there are severe types of anxiety that may require you to consult a health practitioner.

Types of anxiety disorders

Panic disorder: a feeling of sudden, overwhelming terror with no obvious cause. You may experience recurring panic attacks at unexpected times. A person with panic disorder may live in fear of the next panic attack.

Phobia: a deep sense of dread or panic that can be triggered by an encounter with a specific object, situation, or activity that you fear.

Social anxiety disorder: an extreme fear of being judged by others in social situations. People with this disorder struggle to talk to other people, meet new people, and attend social gatherings.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): It is characterized by repetitive, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and irrational, excessive urges to do certain actions (compulsions). A person with OCD may be aware that their thoughts and actions do not make logical sense but are unable to stop it.

Separation anxiety disorder (SAD): a fear of being away from home or loved ones, about a third of children with SAD will be diagnosed with mental illness as adults.

Illness anxiety disorder: anxiety about your health (formerly called hypochondria). A person with this disorder may misinterpret minor or normal body sensations as serious disease systems regardless of being told by the medical practitioner that they don’t have an illness.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): anxiety following a traumatic event.

Prevention measures

According to Netcare you need to:

● Recognise the cost of avoidance, take note of the time and energy spent trying to avoid something. Avoiding something may cause stress and worry leading to anxiety.

● Start learning to tolerate uncomfortable thoughts and feelings about situations. The more you expose yourself to such thoughts and feelings, the better you become at dealing with them. Consciously relaxing your muscles and doing breathing exercise can help you to think more clearly.

● Use distraction techniques (cognitive distraction such as counting backwards in 3’s or 7’s, singing your favourite song or reciting your favourite poem), and mindfulness or progressive muscle relaxation.

Aerobic exercise, in particular, releases endorphins (chemicals in the brain) that help you to feel more healthy and vital. They act as natural pain killers and improve our ability to sleep, which is very important to reduce stress.

● Avoid stimulants. Substances such as caffeine and nicotine make one feel jittery and tense, and can worsen existing anxiety. We believe that it will calm our nerves, but the physical effect on our body is the opposite.

● Eat a balanced diet. Avoiding processed and high-sugar food can help manage your anxiety, as these foods cause fluctuations in blood sugar, which affects mood. This is followed by a ‘crash’, which can cause shaking and tension. These worsen anxiety.

● Getting enough sleep allows your body to regenerate and recharges your mind. After a good night’s sleep, coping with our problems becomes more

It also helps to speak to friends and family about anything that may be making you anxious. Do not carry the heavy burden on your own. If the symptoms worsen seek medical help.

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Londekile Dhlamini

Londekile Dhlamini is one of the Pat on Brands Fellowship Program recipients - she is a Visual Arts graduate and is inspired by the arts and African cultures.

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