If you have symptoms such as panic attacks, unreasonable nervousness, numbness of body, or problems focusing before an important event, you are not alone. Most people experience anxiety at some point in their life—a certain level of anxiety can even help you stay alert. It is consistent exposure to stress triggers that can lead to chronic anxiety—a psychosomatic condition plaguing 36 million Americans—and keep people from sleeping, being productive, staying healthy, and potentially disrupt vital functions of the body.
How does anxiety affect our body?
Research on the impact of anxiety disorder shows it hampers the emotional response in the brain. When a situation triggers anxiety, neurotransmitters carry the impulse to the sympathetic nervous system causing an increase in heart and breathing rates, tension in muscles, and changes in the flow of blood from the abdomen to the brain. The response puts the body on an alert causing headaches, nausea, and diarrhea. Much like tightening a chain linkage beyond its capacity can cause the links to break, the persistent stress response cycle can significantly impact the body for the worse.
Anxiety has been found to have an impact on digestive tract with implications in form of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and dyspepsia. Studies at Harvard Medical School and Lown Cardiovascular Research Institute concluded that both men and women with heart diseases are more likely to suffer stress induced heart attack.
Symptoms of Anxiety and/or Depression
- Lack of concentration
- Disturbed sleep
- Feeling Lonely
- Erratic behavior patterns
- Loss of interest
- Six Anxiety Types and Their Symptoms
Six Anxiety Types and Their Symptoms
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
May experience persistent anxiety over concerns related to health, finance, and other common life events—worry is usually bigger than the actual situation. One feels lethargic, edgy, and has trouble sleeping or concentrating. This causes headaches, muscle tension, sweating, and negative thoughts that hamper the flow of work in routine life.
Panic attacks, as the nomenclature rightly suggests, are not simple. These are different from GAD because the anxiety is not about insecurities of leaving a job or similar worries, a person having a panic attack feels a sense of sudden doom leading to breathlessness, faster heart beat, and a fear of having a heart attack. These physical and mental sensations are intense. Symptoms of panic attacks include
- Sense of dread that can overwhelm
- Chest pain
- May feel like a heart attack
- A sense of death
- Sweating, shivering, hot flashes or chills
- Dryness in the mouth
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea, dizziness
- Numbness, pins and needles
- Gut churning.
Also recognized as social phobia or the fear of performing poorly in public. This condition usually surfaces in cases of public speaking, eating or drinking in public, dating, and meeting new people. Its symptoms include
- Shaky hands and voice
- Faster heartbeat
It is the fear of situations where you may find it difficult to escape like public spaces, crowded spaces, on a flight, or using public transport. Something as simple as leaving your home can cause anxiety under this condition.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD can be in the form of uncontrollable recurring undesirable thoughts, repetitive behavior patterns—cleaning, washing hands, repeatedly checking the locks—as a way to escape recurring thoughts. For a person with OCD, repetitive behavior is a temporary recourse from the obsession.
Some types of OCD include
- Contamination—The patient constantly feels contaminated or dirty and so he/she compulsively cleans and washes just as often.
- Checking for security—Constantly checking one’s environment for possible security threats.
- Intrusive negative thoughts—Repetitive thoughts that are negative and cause fear or sadness.
- Hoarding—Strong urges to collect things to an unhealthy degree.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD has its roots in a physical or emotional trauma or traumatic event —exposure to violence, military combat, natural disaster or a life threatening accident. This primarily happens to the individual involved in the incident, but can also occur in a witness of an untoward incident.
Symptoms of PTSD include recurring memories and triggers associated with the event and intense feelings of pain or fear. It may happen from just thinking about the event or the thought that the event could recur.
Solutions for Anxiety Management
While anxiety has severe repercussions on one’s mental and physical health, there are long-lasting holistic solutions to dealing with it.
To take the first step towards setting yourself free of anxiety, it is important to acknowledge the condition and its symptoms. Denial of the issue prolongs the disorder, inviting more harm to the body. Once the person is aware of the problem and its effects on the body, it is easier to take a corrective course of action.
Most people struggle with seeking help either due to preconceived notions about what counseling may or may not achieve for them, from not knowing where or whom to seek help from, or from embarrassment or shame.
For anxiety counseling, therapists commonly administer cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that focuses on recognizing, comprehending, and changing thinking patterns consciously. CBT places an emphasis on helping individuals learn to be their own therapists. Through exercises in the sessions and homework, patients develop coping skills, whereby they can learn to change their own thinking, problematic emotions, and behavior..
Alternative treatments involving yoga, deep breathing practices, and meditation have been found to tremendously complement the success of counseling therapies like CBT.
Recent body of research found that the practice of yoga may help diminish the symptoms of GAD. The main solution that yoga seemed to produce for people was reduction of irrational worrying, a trigger for anxiety. A regular practice of yoga increases self-awareness and helps bring about calm and relaxation in the event of stressful situations. This awareness allows sufferers to distinguish the real from the unreal, the truth from the imagined. By allowing patients to be witness to the symptoms of anxiety in their body and mind, a sense of distance or detachment from the symptoms occurs which then allows them to deal with the symptoms better. Yoga includes asanas (body postures), pranayama (deep breathing tools), meditation, and a deeper understanding of the essence of yoga as a union of mind, body and spirit.
What Can Yoga Do for You?
- Body’s stress response
- Regulating cortisol levels (stress hormone that can cause blood pressure and sugar levels to rise)
- Cardiovascular response
- Switching the body’s rest mode on (parasympathetic nervous system is activated in resting period that eases heart rate and works up digestion)
- Stimulating the vagus nerve which is directly linked to the well-being
Yoga positively affects the autonomic balance. Autonomic balance is the balance achieved between the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system. While the latter is active during an anxiety-causing situation or flight-or-fight response situation, the former corresponds to a body’s resting phase. By affecting the balance, yoga can simultaneously increase your present moment awareness while allowing deep rest for the body and an eased heart rate. This balance can positively affect mood and memory and activate neurochemical systems linked to attention, wellness, and positivity—in other words, the body’s capacity to deal with stress triggers.
Yoga bolsters mental well-being. Yoga enables you to be more physically active, improves neuroendocrine functions that control hormonal secretions in the body, promotes weight loss, and improves sleep and overall fitness. By managing symptoms of anxiety, yoga may help reverse the anxiety loop.
Yoga may reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) or cardiovascular risk factors. Research concluded that people with heart diseases are more likely to suffer a stress-induced heart attack. A gift of yoga is that it makes you self-aware. This self-awareness is crucial in making healthier lifestyle choices and behavior modifications, a major goal of therapies like CBT. Studies done on patients with heart failure showed that yogic breathing worked on the cardiac and respiratory function by pushing more oxygen into arteries and tissues. Better sleep, stress-free life, and improved mood directly work on reducing CVD risk factors.
We go on vacation and return tired and tanned. However, a yoga retreat is a vacation for the mind, body, and soul—giving it total rest. Whether you are just starting out or are a seasoned practitioner, whatever your path, consider taking a yoga retreat for your next holiday.
Nestled atop the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina, the breathtaking Art of Living Retreat Center offers special wellness retreats curated for tackling mental health disorders including anxiety and depression through Ayurvedic therapies, diet, yoga, and detoxification of the mind and body. In this personalized program developed for your specific needs, you
- Practice and learn yoga under the supervision of highly trained faculty in an idyllic setting
- Cleanse via Panchakarma (detoxification) therapies administered by seasoned therapists
- Eat nourishing, tasty food, some of it sourced right from our organic garden
- Reconnect with nature on our beautiful campus
- Attend lectures and workshops focused on diet and lifestyle choices for restored health, vitality, and lifelong well-being.
A Yoga Sequence for Anxiety
These poses work on the stress centers in the body. Practicing them with total awareness and joy can bring incredibly calming results to the mind and body. A calm mind is better equipped to deal with the same stressful situations that a wavering, restless mind may struggle with.
- Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
- Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
- Janu Shirsasana (One-Legged Forward Bend)
- Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)
- Marjariasana (Cat Stretch)
- Paschimottanasana (Two-Legged Forward Bend)
- Hastapadasana (Standing Forward Bend)
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)
- Sirsasana (Headstand)
- Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
Also, make sure to read our article 7 Easy Yoga Poses for Depression and Anxiety.
Pranayama or Deep Breathing Practices
These practices increase your lung capacity, trigger release of happy hormones, help you sleep better, produce a sense of relaxation, and may immediately calm down the mind. For those who meditate, pranayamas are the best preparation to get into a meditative state. Some of the breathing techniques that can help fight symptoms of anxiety include
Meditation is “the delicate art of doing nothing and letting go of all the efforts to relax into your true nature which is love, joy and peace,” says Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, global humanitarian and spiritual master who founded the International Association for Human Values and the Art of Living.
A common problem that patients of anxiety disorder deal with most prominently is a mind that is constantly whirring with thoughts. They seem to be incapable of sitting still on their own. Sudarshan Kriya Yoga has been revolutionary in allowing patients of anxiety to deal with this restlessness and uncontrolled thoughts. It is a powerful rhythmic breathing technique being practiced by more than 4.5 million people worldwide. No matter what the state of mind is, how many thoughts one has, or how restless the body is, 10 minutes of SKY breathing is instantly calming. Cognized by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the practice is concluded with an effortless meditative state where practitioners report clarity of mind, prolonged moments of thoughtlessness, slower and steadier heart rate, and calmness of being. Sudarshan Kriya uses specific cyclical, rhythmic patterns of breath to bring the mind and body into a relaxed yet wakeful state.
Yoga Nidra or Yogic sleep
Sleep plays an important role in your physical and mental health. Unfortunately, anxiety disorders may deprive you of getting the sleep you need. What can help you bridge the gap between the amount of rest you got and the amount of rest your body needs, is yogic sleep. A 20-minute break for yoga nidra—or yogic sleep, which is a structured power nap—is a meditative way of giving yourself deeper rest. Different parts of the body are relaxed as you bring awareness to them. You feel rested and re-energized mentally and physically at the end of the meditation.