Understanding and Managing Anxiety

Anxiety: I didn’t know that anxiety could be treated, nor that I could seek help. As a Persian Gulf War Veteran, I felt that there was something wrong with me, but I didn’t know what. I had panic attacks, anxiety, and a lot of other symptoms. I was a stay at home mom after my honorable discharge from the military so a lot of the times I would just chuck it to: I’m at home “with nothing to do” or “i just had a baby, it’s “normal” or “my hormones are off because I jsut had a “baby”

In reality, anxiety is a prevalent mental health concern that impacts individuals across the globe. It manifests in various forms, from generalized anxiety disorder to specific phobias, and can have a profound effect on one’s daily life. In my journey of healing from severe anxiety I made a few discoveries over the years. I want to share those with you in this article and if you identify with what I write, I encourage you to seek help and know that you are not alone. 

What is Anxiety?

At its core, anxiety is a natural response to stress and potential threats. It’s our body’s way of preparing for challenges, whether they’re physical or psychological. However, when anxiety becomes excessive or chronic, it can disrupt daily functioning and overall well-being. From experience, I know how debilitating this can be. 

The Causes of Anxiety

Anxiety disorders can arise from a combination of factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events. Some individuals may be more predisposed to anxiety due to their genetic makeup, while others may develop it as a response to traumatic experiences or high-stress environments. The world in general is experiencing higher rates of anxiety due to the world wide circumstances and as many people understand that the long wars are taking a toll on our active duty military and also as Veterans exit the military it is something that families deal with. 

In my personal journey I have made a few adjustments and I would like to share with our readers some healthy techniques I discovered that have worked for me. Of course everyone must seek professional advice from their physician. 

Practical Strategies for Managing Anxiety

  1. Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation can help calm the mind and reduce anxiety symptoms. 
  2. Regular Exercise: Physical activity releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. Engaging in regular exercise can significantly reduce anxiety levels.
  3. Healthy Lifestyle: A balanced diet, adequate sleep, and minimizing caffeine and alcohol intake can contribute to better mental health and reduced anxiety.
  4. Therapy and Counseling: Professional help, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can provide valuable tools for understanding and managing anxiety. Therapists can work with individuals to identify thought patterns and coping mechanisms. Once I chose to take control of my life, I did seek mental treatment to help me discover coping mechanisms that would help me manage and deal with the anxiety I was experiencing. 
  5. Medication: In some cases, medication prescribed by a healthcare provider may be necessary to manage severe anxiety. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any medication. 
  6. Support System: Sharing your feelings with friends and family or joining support groups can offer emotional support and practical advice for dealing with anxiety.

In closing I would like to share that  anxiety is a treatable condition, and seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. With the right tools and support, it’s possible to take control of your anxiety and lead a fulfilling life. If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for guidance and support. A helpful resource is below, check it out.

Resource: National Institute of Mental Health. (2020). Anxiety Disorders. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

Veteran Affairs Hospital

Author: Cristie Remmel / FMF Doc / Persian Gulf War Vet