It’s safe to say that anxiety in our modern culture has become a prevalent condition. However, there still exists a social stigma, or taboo, that leads many people to often ignore the symptoms of anxiety. Further to this, and from my own experience, there is a scarcity of basic education on the topic, which leads to many people living through life by ‘flying under the radar’ – living with mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety and taking these experiences as the norm. Below are listed five common symptoms of low level anxiety that I have found to be commonly ignored:
1. Living by an ‘I should…’
One of the core phrases of Generalised Anxiety is the expression ‘I should…’. This belief often leads people to making unrealistic to-do lists, trying to make themselves feel ‘productive’, sets unrealistic expectations, prevents them from sitting still and often blocks the path to adequate rest. For example, Stephen has decided to sit down after a long day at work, however he thinks that he should be doing something more productive, therefore he switches rest time for more physical labour. This then becomes a habit and can lead to more excessive worry further down the line. Some examples of ‘I should…’ phrases are:
“I should be doing the washing up. There’s no time for play!”
“I should have finished this assignment by now, I’m useless!”
“I should be successful but I’m not.”
“I should build the shed, put up the shelves, wash the car, feed the kids, mow the lawn, take the dog for a walk, wash clothes…”
There is nothing wrong with being driven and structured with our time. It can help with proficiency in day-to-day life. However, many people with anxiety are often dictated by ‘I should…’ statements, which can lead to anxiety becoming worse. Just keep an eye out!
2. Irritable Bowel Syndrome / Digestion Problems
When anxious, one of the first tasks the body postpones during the ‘fight or flight’ response is the process of digestion. Think about it, if we were being chased by lions, why would the body be concerned about digesting that ham sandwich we ate before? Unfortunately, when food digestion is slowed right down, it can cause temporary problems in our digestive tract. This includes the stomach, intestines and colon. This can create problems such as:
- Trapped Wind and discomfort
- Stomach and Intestinal Pains
- Mixed consistency stools
- Rib and chest pain
- Tiredness and Lethargy
Of course in our daily lives we’re not being chased by lions, but trying to live a ‘normal’ life. I.B.S has huge links (but isn’t exclusive) to anxiety, so it is worth checking and analysing our digestion when we’re at varying levels of anxiety. Through my experience of working with people at the Panic Room, people often evade the core issue by micro-analysing their diet and cutting out ‘trigger’ foods. This includes gluten, sugars, carbohydrates, fats, etc. What I found remarkable was that once the anxiety was focused on and tackled, the symptoms of I.B.S reduced significantly.
The core component of anxiety is the chemical adrenaline. When the body has been processing adrenaline, we can often feel tired and deflated. People who live with anxiety – particularly Generalised Anxiety – often spend most days processing some level of adrenaline. It is of no wonder then why people with GAD often find themselves yawning, tired and exhausted. I have found that this is often confused for depression, although this can lead to depression if the habit is continued. If you’re tired a lot but can’t quite pinpoint why, then it might be worth analysing how anxiety maybe playing a part in it.
Are you or someone you know a bit of a ‘worrier’? This is a label commonly given to people with an excessively anxious personality trait. However, this is often misinterpreted as a symptom of anxiety. To catastrophize is to believe in the worst case scenario of a given situation. For example, you could be excessively worrying about your family during a road trip, believing the worst news from the doctor, or becoming so utterly frightened at the prospect of your child being two minutes late on their way home from school. Phrases like “oh don’t tell Grandma, she’s a worrier” could actually be an acknowledgement of someone’s anxiety problem. If you’re prone to catastrophizing then this maybe because your thoughts are exacerbated by an anxiety problem.
It’s important to be aware that fear from catastrophizing and fear from a phobia are two separate things. Some examples of catastrophizing are:
- “I used to be able to fly on planes but now I can’t”
- “If I drive on that motorway I will crash.”
- “The doctor is going to tell me the worst news.”
- “My wife hasn’t messaged me back; she is obviously cheating on me!”
If you can relate to this type of behaviour then it may be worth exploring how anxiety is contributing to this.
5. I can’t sit still!
One of the more obvious signs of anxiety is the inability to relax and sit still. If you or someone you know is constantly on their feet and preoccupying themselves, it’s more than likely because they’ve got over-stimulated nervous systems and adrenaline on board. Like catastrophizing, this is often mistaken for a personality trait, when actually it may be a symptom of generalised anxiety. If you find it a difficult task to sit still, be stationary or do absolutely nothing, then anxiety may be a hindrance that’s blocking this.