That creeping sense of dread when you enter a party full of strangers. The meltdown before a big work presentation. The endless stomach knots before a first date.
We all deal with bouts of anxiety, but for some it becomes more than just temporary nerves. So what exactly is anxiety, why does it happen, and when is it a cause for concern? Let's break it down.
Anxiety is fear's pesky little cousin. While fear responds to real danger in the moment, anxiety hangs around worrying about potential threats in the future - whether they happen or not.
You're hardwired to feel it. Back in caveman times, anxiety's constant "what if?" questioning helped avoid ambush by a sabretooth tiger. But today it usually just results in sweaty palms and sleepless nights.
A little anxiety can be helpful, energizing you to ace that speech or meet that deadline. But too much becomes exhausting and interferes with normal life. Brain scans show overactive alarm centers even when there's no real threat.
When unwarranted anxiety regularly hijacks your day, you may have an anxiety disorder. Nearly 1 in 5 adults deal with issues like general anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks or phobias serious enough to seek treatment.
One area that's not discussed regularly is the anxiety around pain, the fear of an episode of IBS, Endo or Fibro, or even really bad period pains can send people into a spiral of anxiety and panic attacks. The sheer thought about how you will feel when the pain eventually does come is terrifying.
The good news is anxiety thrives off avoidance and what-if fantasies. Facing fears and staying present instead of fretting about the future can unravel anxiety's grip. Meditation, therapy, medication, and self-help strategies offer real relief.
So don't let anxiety or panic keep you from living. There's plenty of help out there to tame fear's pesky cousin and reclaim your calm. Those stomach knots will untie, date jitters will pass, and you'll discover the self-confidence waiting underneath all those old worries.