Anxiety & coping in the world of 2024

June 25, 2024 | Amanda Cramer

For so many people, the last decade has had many stressors. The global pandemic alone has been traumatic for many of us. Extreme weather events – the Nebraska floods in 2019, the tornados, the straight-line wind storms, the seemingly increasing hail, and the excessive cold in the winter – these, too, could be considered traumatic for some. Social media, texting, and smart watches have created an illusion of being available to others 24/7, with limited mindfulness of how harmful that can be.

It’s no wonder that anxiety issues have been on the rise for many people. 

If you find yourself in a place where you are uncertain if you are struggling with anxiety, here are some common and less common symptoms that people may experience when dealing with anxiety: 

  • Racing thoughts
  • Difficulty with decision-making
  • A sense of doom
  • Irritability
  • Headaches 
  • Muscle aches
  • Panic attacks
  • Constipation or loose stools
  • Tension in stomach
  • Frequent urination
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Hair pulling
  • Teeth grinding or clenching leading to jaw tension
  • Difficulty relaxing
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Sleep issues, including insomnia, issues with falling or staying asleep, and quality of sleep
  • Loss of libido
  • Changes in weight
  • Social withdrawal

This list is not inclusive of all symptoms as we each experience anxiety in unique ways. If you are experiencing any of these and medical problems have been ruled out, it might be beneficial to talk to your primary care provider or seek the help of a mental health provider.

A therapist can help you learn coping skills that match your symptoms. The most effective coping skills may not always be what you expect. For instance, if someone is dealing with racing thoughts, meditation might not be the best coping mechanism at that moment.

Sometimes, people need more active coping skills such as changing their body temperature by splashing cold water on their face or doing brief exercises. Brief, intense exercise can help regulate heart rate for a productive reason rather than an unknown anxiety-driven reason. Meditation at bedtime might not be helpful if the body has not expended much energy throughout the day.

Many individuals try anxiety coping mechanisms they find online and become frustrated when they are not effective. If you are struggling to find what works best for you, working with a therapist, even for a short period, can often be helpful. (It can even be free if your workplace offers an EAP program.)

Seeking out resources on the internet can still be helpful; it simply requires some discernment. You can easily get caught up in the vast world of online wellness gurus. Making small, practical, mindful changes is often where people find the most success. Doing this with the support and guidance of a professional can also help. 

If you are having trouble with a particular coping mechanism that you hoped would work, try doing something that feels like the opposite. For example, if you are struggling with meditation, try incorporating more movement. If movement is a challenge, start by setting a small goal, such as walking for only 5 minutes twice a week. If you find yourself frequently running late, try focusing on what time you need to leave the house, rather than the time you need to arrive.

Amanda Cramer, LICSW, MPH, is an integrative therapist at Omaha Integrative Care. She loves the beach and spending time with her husband, two kiddos, and two pups. 

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