Anxiety affects us all at one point or another. While people don’t necessarily get stressed out over the same things, the effects of anxiety over time are all similar. Prolonged bouts of stress can lead to physical disorders like depression, heart attack and stroke, to name a few.
The scariest thing about stress isn’t what it can cause, however. It’s the fact that it can exasperate just about any ailment, and make things worse before they get better.
Here are a few common symptoms of prolonged stress:
- Frequent headaches, jaw clenching or discomfort
- Light headedness, bouts of dizziness
- Insomnia, nightmares, frequent, reoccurring and disturbing dreams
- Trouble learning and processing new information
- Feelings of loneliness or worthlessness
- Increased frustration, irritability and edginess
Anxiety can have many possible effects on the sufferer. Short-term effects can be increased heart rate and difficulty concentrating. Extended periods of anxiety can lead to long-term negative effects on the body like elevated chances of a stroke or heart failure.
Most mental healthcare is provided by primary care physicians rather than mental health specialists. Although strides have been made to detect and treat anxiety, there’s still plenty of work to be done in primary care settings.
Anxiety and Mental Health
A team of researchers from RAND partnered with a number of universities to study the impact anxiety disorders can have on patient health. Among the 480 adult patients who had recently visited a primary care physician, the study found that patients suffering from anxiety disorders were more likely to have both physical and mental ailments and a lower quality of health.
According to the findings, the impact of an anxiety disorder is about the same as that of irritable bowel syndrome. The study also found that anxiety disorders negatively affect productivity. Patients with an anxiety disorder were much more likely to miss at least one day of work in the previous month.
Relieving Test Stress
In the world of academia, students must face the pressures presented by anxiety with regularity. In general, it is normal to feel at least some level of anxiety before an important test. However, some test-takers allow the stress monster to take control.
Here are five tips for combating stress before it gets out of hand:
- Breathe: Close your eyes and focus on inhaling and exhaling. It sounds easy, but deliberately expanding your chest as you inhale a deep breath relaxes your muscles and coaxes them into working normally again.
- Set aside personal time: Balance is key between work and play. The brain needs time to recoup and process information, so at times, it is acceptable to do something other than study. Take a walk to get some fresh air, enjoy dinner with your family, play outdoors with your kids and pets or even brew a cup of tea. These can all be welcome distractions, provided they’re done in moderation.
- Work it out: Exercise produces endorphins, and those feel-good pheromones help alleviate stress. Exercising gives your body a task to focus on. It keeps your mind occupied and doesn’t allow it to drift back to the source of your worry. Don’t use exercise as an escape from your problems, however. Rather, use it as an ally, something to give you a boost of positive vibes before you get back to work.
- Sleep: Staying up all night to study is terrible for your health. Burning the midnight oil and working yourself into a zombie stupor isn’t a badge of honor to wear. It actually means you probably weren’t as prepared as you should have been and now time is a factor. Realistically, you won’t remember anything you looked at in the wee hours of the morning and your mind won’t be sharp the next day when it’s time to perform. Sleep is your friend, don’t neglect it.
- Take control of your preparation: Panic comes from a lack of control and preparation. Your test preparation is in your hands. By organizing your workload and sticking to a plan, you can avoid a panic attack in the 11th hour. The more structured your approach is, the easier it can be to handle the tasks ahead.
When uncontrolled, stress is very dangerous. It can severely affect people both mentally and physically, and if it’s left unchecked, it can lead to devastating health complications. Use the tips above to help combat the demons of excessive stress, exile it from your life and release its grip on your happiness.