How Anxiety Affects Individuals
Everyone has the ability to feel anxiety. The sympathetic nervous system reacts to perceived stressors, which could be something as basic as thoughts, by releasing stress hormone. This leads to what is referred to as the ‘fight or flight’ response and can lead to feelings of helplessness, uneasiness, dread, and foreboding (Trakalo, Horowitz & McCulloch, 2015). Some people have the ability to translate anxious energy into a positive factor that aids in getting things accomplished. On the other end of the spectrum, anxiety can be crippling for others and affect everyday life including work, social life, and can lead to isolation. One area of the brain shown to be operating dissimilar to those without anxiety disorder is the amygdala. The amygdala is a portion of the brain that is responsible for experiencing emotions (Trakalo, Horowitz & McCulloch, 2015). Our presentation includes a guided meditation for class participation and an informational handout on anxiety management. Our goal is that through the active participation of the meditation and the take home tips on anxiety management, our audience will better understand and approach anxiety management.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year (Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 2018). Risk factors for anxiety include but are not limited to: childhood hardship, familial prevalence, illness, and experiencing multiple stressors. Some personality attributes may also lend to anxiety including shyness and worrying (Trakalo, Horowitz & McCulloch, 2015).
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Individuals who experience generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) have an excessive and unrelenting worry regarding various aspects of life, such as finances, health, family issues, and work. The individuals are aware but cannot stop the catastrophizing. Headache, digestive issues, irritability, fatigue, breathlessness are some of the somatic symptoms associated with GAD. More women than men are affected and manifestations include issues with concentration, pronounced startle, sleep issues, and inability to relax (Trakalo, Horowitz & McCulloch, 2015).
Managing anxiety is essential to an individual’s overall health. Prevention and intervention is key in reducing anxiety levels. Anxiety prevention can be accomplished by engaging in relaxation techniques on a daily basis, whereas anxiety intervention can be implemented in the face of an anxious moment. Preventing and intervening anxiety can include a healthy diet, exercise, staying organized, mediation, practicing mindfulness or any activity that is relaxing for the anxious individual. As nurses, we should strive to actively and constantly incorporate complementary alternative therapies for anxiety management into traditional patient care.
One way of implementing anxiety-reducing activity was studied by eliminating visitation hour restrictions for patients.
Hospitals typically restrict visiting hours to ensure a restful environment for patients and to allow clinical staff to work. With increased public reporting focused on patient satisfaction and renewed efforts to improve patient and family engagement, hospitals may want to consider evaluating their current restrictions on visitation. Liberal visitation practices can decrease patient anxiety and benefit patients and families. (Shulkin et al., 2014)
This study also found that changing hospital policy to allow for more open visiting hours can lead to decreased anxiety of the patients which in turn can lead to a quicker and more comfortable recovery. These are the anti-anxiety practices that we hope to see hospitals and nurses adopting in the future to better serve the patients.
The physical symptoms of anxiety can be diminished through meditation and breathing techniques. The practice of meditation uses focusing your mind on an image, sound, or feeling. Studies show meditation can reduce stress and provide relaxation and reduce the physiological reactions to stress by removing tension in the body and reducing heart rate. Meditation can produce a general feeling of well-being and provides clients with an option that has no adverse side effects and little to no cost (Chen et al., 2012).
In conclusion, anxiety affects individuals in different ways and being aware of the signs and symptoms and early interventions is key to develop ways to mitigate negative outcomes. Interventions include healthy diet, exercise, staying organized, and mediation, practicing mindfulness or any relaxing activity. Many studies have shown meditation can be an effective complement to pharmacologic treatments for anxiety. Providing clients with options through complementary and alternative medicine can increase overall health and aide in reducing anxiety. Therefore,by participating in a meditative activity individuals can alleviate symptoms of anxiety.