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How to Manage Situational and Chronic Anxiety

If you're reading this, you're likely feeling overwhelmed by anxiety.

First, please understand that you're not alone.

Anxiety is a common reaction to stress that's very normal. 

It can be triggered by various situations, from an upcoming review at work to a difficult conversation with a loved one. 

The first step to overcoming anxiety is acceptance.

Rather than fight your anxiety, accept it exists.

Only then can you do something to improve your state of mind. Anxiousness is your body and mind's way of telling you something's amiss.

You are out of your comfort zone and need to care for yourself.

Healthy coping skills that can help you manage anxiety include:

  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Time in nature

However, if your anxiety is chronic, it might be necessary to process unresolved emotions.

There are two main types of anxiety: Situational and Chronic

Situational vs. Chronic Anxiety: What's the Difference?

Situational anxiety is a temporary worry or fear triggered by a specific situation or event.

This type of anxiety is typically short-lived and resolves once the situation has passed.

In contrast, chronic anxiety is a long-term condition in which a person experiences ongoing concern and fear.

Chronic anxiety can last for months or even years and may require ongoing treatment to manage.

Now that you have a brief understanding of situational vs. chronic anxiety, let’s explore each of these concepts in more detail. And, we’ll cover helpful coping mechanisms and tips for dealing with both.

What is Situational Anxiety?

Situational anxiety occurs for a known reason.

When you suffer from this type of anxiety, a stressful event in your life provokes nervousness.

The event involves a significant change, but it's not necessarily bad.

Things that can trigger situational anxiety include:

  • A new job
  • Change of location
  • A first date
  • Filing for divorce
  • Losing a job
  • Getting pregnant/having a baby

The human brain loves routine and usual occurrences.

When you can't foresee a definite outcome, what often ignites is a feeling of anxiety.

Even longed-for events can make you anxious - i.e. things you have wanted for years like getting engaged or having a child.

Because your anxiety is caused by fear of the unfamiliar, circumstances that involve uncertainty can concern you and flip your brain into survival mode.

It's normal to experience anxiety when you face new situations. However, you also don't want to ignore your emotions.

People often think they should put up with anxiety since it's a standard reaction to a non-standard event. Just because your anxiety is natural doesn't mean you must suffer. It's helpful to improve your mindset and relieve worries.

How to Manage Situational Anxiety

There are many ways to reduce situational anxiety. 

It’s important to understand that your ideal method of reducing situational anxiety might be different from someone else.

In other words, just because meditation works for your best friend, doesn’t mean it will work for you.

What you should know though, is that if the coping mechanism, is working, your anxiety will subside and you will feel more positive.

  • Keep a gratitude journal
  • Think about things that make you feel good every morning 
  • Meditate yourself into a calm frame of mind 
  • Exercise at the gym
  • Visit a spa
  • Listen to music
  • Dance
  • Get a massage
  • Spend time people you love

Experiment and see what works for you. Once you've identified a helpful method to reduce your anxiety, use it often. Make it part of your daily routine.

Better still, use several helpful methods.

Using two or more ways to reduce anxiety every day will make you feel more relaxed and better able to manage day-to-day life.

The idea is to signal everything's all right with your body and mind. When they get the message "all is well", they will not need to produce stress symptoms, and their anxiety will ease.

What is Chronic Anxiety?

Chronic anxiety can stem from ongoing traumatic events.

Then again, it might also arise because you have learned to react with fear to stressful events, even minor ones. 

While situational anxiety is logical, chronic stress isn't always as rational or logical at all.

You could get anxious over the simplest of incidents.

Forgetting to post a non-urgent letter, for instance, or visiting a public place, may cause increased anxiety.

You may worry about making a phone call, canceling an appointment, or talking to someone you haven't seen for a while.

Because you can't rationalize your anxiety, you may feel it's absurd and get angry with yourself.

However, turning against yourself and resisting your anxiety makes matters worse.

As with situational anxiety, chronic anxiety calls for more self-care.

You need to take action and reduce your negative response to everyday events.

What Can Cause Chronic Anxiety?

Chronic anxiety might result from a childhood ordeal, or it may arise from another event that shocked you, like a car accident, serious illness, or violence. At the time of the stressful event, you thought you were in immediate danger.

You went into fight-or-flight.

Hormones flooded your body to aid survival.

You likely didn't even process what happened at the time.

Now, when challenges occur, those symptoms replay like a broken record. 

This is what causes your chronic anxiety.

Your system perceives slight challenges as big, and you experience a heightened stress response.

Anxiety from childhood doesn't necessarily stem from what you imagine is a monumental event. 

When you were little, even small happenings had the power to worry you and might be the basis of your anxiety.

Seeing a parent go through a stressful time, for example, or feeling intimidated in class at school may have left a mark on your psyche.

Your anxiety may seem to arise from nowhere, but this isn't the case.

Find the original trauma that causes your anxiousness, and you can take steps to heal it. If you don't, you'll continue to overreact to daily challenges

You deserve a life that is more remarkable, and this will require settling the triggering issue once and for all.

How To Manage Chronic Anxiety

We stated that anxiety is a normal reaction to stressful events.

But when anxiety becomes overwhelming, it can interfere with your daily life and make it difficult to function. This overwhelming feeling can become a chronic problem that disrupts everything you do. 

That said, here are some coping mechanisms when anxiety is overwhelming.

One way to cope with overwhelming anxiety is to practice deep breathing.

When we're anxious, our breath tends to become shallow and rapid, making us feel even more anxious. Deep breathing can help to slow down our breathing and calm our nervous system.

To practice deep breathing:

  • Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  • Place one hand on your stomach and chest. 
  • Inhale through your nose deeply, allowing your belly to expand.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth.
  • Repeat this several times, focusing on your breath traveling in and out of your body.

Another coping mechanism for anxiety is to challenge negative thoughts.

Our thoughts can have a powerful impact on how we feel. When we're anxious, it's common for our thoughts to become distorted and negative. 

We can start breaking the anxiety cycle and reducing its intensity by challenging these thoughts. 

To challenge a negative idea, try asking yourself: Is this thought based on fact or evidence?

You can gain a more balanced and realistic perspective on the situation by answering these questions.

Regular exercise can also help you cope with chronic anxiety.

When anxious, our stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, can overrun our brains.

Exercise can help to counteract the effects of these hormones and reduce anxiety. It can also improve our mood and allow us to feel more relaxed.

To get the most benefit from exercise, try to find an activity you enjoy, such as walking, running, or dancing. Try to exercise once a day for at least 30 minutes, and do it regularly.

Finally, you may want to seek mental health support.

If you're experiencing chronic anxiety, it may be helpful to seek support from a mental health professional.

A counselor, therapist, or another mental health professional can provide you with the tools and resources needed to overcome your anxiety.

Start Managing Situational and Chronic Anxiety Today

It's essential to look at the cause of anxiety rather than only trying to stop symptoms.

Otherwise, it will pop up again later.

You may want to work with a therapist to uncover the root of your anxiousness, or it might help to keep a diary and jot down your feelings.

Sometimes, putting your emotions down in black and white can help you gain insights and uncover past trauma at the root of unease. Once you process the original triggering event via talk therapy and/or writing, your anxiety will most likely decline.

When you deal with the situation that resulted in your anxiousness - which might mean you forgive someone or let go of pain - there's no longer a reason for your body and mind to generate stress signals.

Whether your anxiety is situational or chronic, it's a cue to take action.

It's time to respond to your needs and discover why you are anxious. If your anxiety stems from a known cause, it’s time to relieve the pressure. Create inner calm or joy with a mindful relaxation method or by having fun.

If your anxiety is chronic, it’s best to get to the root of it, and process the event that causes your fight-or-flight reaction. You'll be glad you took steps toward positive change, and life should improve overall as a result.

Pathways Counseling Services is the top-rated therapy and counseling service in Scottsdale, Arizona, year after year. We can help you live a happier and healthier life through effective anxiety management. Book an appointment today, or you can reach us by phone at 480-235-1682

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