3 Anxiety Symptoms That I Frequently Struggle With
“Anxiety was born in the very same moment as mankind. And since we will never be able to master it, we will have to learn to live with it— just as we have learned to live with storms.”– Paul Coelho
You would think that after having anxiety for over 20 years, I would be used to it by now. But no matter how many years pass, there are a few anxiety symptoms that always seem to cause me grief.
It’s not like these particular symptoms are unique. In fact, they’re pretty common among anxiety sufferers. But for me, whenever they decide to show up, they knock me down pretty much every time.
I used to beat myself up anytime these symptoms showed up. I thought I didn’t have it under control, which only resulted in heightening my anxiety. But after realizing the shaming wasn’t getting me anywhere (and only making me feel worse about myself), I decided to just accept my struggle and give myself some compassion.
I know how discouraging it can be to see the same symptoms pop up over and over again. It can feel like you’re not making any progress in managing your anxiety and that life is just always going to be this way. It can feel absolutely defeating.
Anyone who suffers from anxiety knows how unforgiving it can be. What you thought you had a handle on came around again and showed how ruthless it can be. It can make you question everything about yourself.
But like any other mental health issue, you are not alone in your struggle. So, I wanted to share with you the key symptoms that I still grapple with – even after years of fighting. Hopefully, it will help you realize that it’s okay to struggle. We’re all human and we’re just simply doing our best.
1. Chest Pain and/or Heart Palpitations
This was my first anxiety symptom to show up years before I even realized I was having anxiety. I initially thought it was acid reflux or heartburn and at times, my mind would lead me to believe it was something much worse, like a heart attack.
There were times where the tightness would last for days. Sometimes it would linger on for weeks. Every once in a while, it felt like my heart was skipping a beat. I vividly remember times where it was such a struggle to just get ready for the day because of this feeling. I didn’t understand what was happening and why it was happening to me.
Chest tightness is also the one symptom that shows up for me every time I get anxious. And usually, it’s the first symptom that will surface too. If my anxiety is especially severe, my chest will feel extremely heavy, or that it’s about to explode
What sucks is that no matter how many times I have chest tightness, it often tricks me into thinking something is terribly wrong. We all know that chest pain isn’t something you mess around with. Keeping that in mind, it can be a challenge to assess if what you’re feeling is really just anxiety or if it’s something more serious. For myself, oftentimes, this uncertainty will lead to a full-blown panic attack if I’m not quick to calm myself down.
While I may not be able to get rid of chest tightness entirely, I have learned some ways to manage and cope with it better. For example, I personally like to engage in breathing exercises or practice yoga to center and calm myself.
One thing to keep in mind though is it’s always important to always listen to your body. You know it best. If you sense that something is truly wrong, do not hesitate to take action. Do not dismiss your instincts if you feel that your chest pain is more than anxiety. Go to the hospital right away or call 911.
2. Excessive Worry
I come from a long line of worrywarts. It’s a generational curse and I guess you can say it’s in my blood. But aside from that, my anxiety takes my worry to a whole other level. Anxiety takes over my ability to control my worry and often leads me down a path of obsessive thinking.
When my worry gets the best of me, I tend to think of all possible what-if scenarios in every situation. Good and bad. And then I worry about each scenario and how I can best prepare for it.
I also fear that the worst is lurking around every corner. I worry that I might get in a car accident on the way to work or while running errands. Or I worry that I or someone I’m close to is a breath away from a serious medical condition.
But I also fret over the small things. I worry that I upset someone unintentionally earlier in the day or that I overstepped and said the wrong thing to a colleague. Sometimes, I think I’m not good enough for this or that. Or that I’m simply not making enough progress.
The list can go on and on, but that’s kind of the point. The worry becomes so extreme and excessive that it drains you completely. It consumes all of your energy and causes an upheaval of other unwanted symptoms, such as irritability.
Unfortunately, worry still gets the best of me at times. It’s such an ingrained behavior for me that it’s still hard to overcome. Whenever I feel like I can’t handle the worry, doing some type of physical activity helps me take my mind off things. I like to take a walk, go for a run, do yoga, or dance out the worry.
And while exercise doesn’t completely take the worry away, it does help lessen the intensity. I also like to do mindless activities, such as washing the dishes or doing laundry, and listen to a podcast or some music while doing so. This gets me in a different mindset and allows me to think about something else for the time being.
3. Panic Attacks
While panic attacks can be an entire discussion on their own, I still think it’s worth mentioning here. Even though I’m on medication for my anxiety, I still get surprised by a panic attack every now and then. Thankfully, they are now fewer and farther in-between.
Many of my anxiety symptoms can often lead to a panic attack if I’m not careful. If my chest starts to feel too heavy or I feel like I’m having trouble breathing, my anxiety can easily go into overdrive.
My heart will usually start to race. I get dizzy and feel like I’m spinning out of control. I start to have trouble breathing. And like most others who experience panic attacks, an overwhelming sense of impending doom consumes me.
The feeling is truly indescribable. It’s hard to understand unless you’ve experienced it yourself. But if you have, I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about. The best I can say is that for me, it feels like everything is caving in and crashing down on top of me. That both my life and the world are literally about to end.
Sometimes I am able to gain control and the attack will only last for a few seconds or minutes. However, some have lasted for hours, with certain effects still lingering days later.
Getting on medication (with the guidance of my doctor of course) has personally helped me. I am someone who doesn’t like to take medicine, so it was a big leap for me. But after years of trying to manage my anxiety on my own and not seeing huge results, I decided to give it a try. I am hopeful that I won’t be on medication for the rest of my life, but for now, it’s a part of my treatment and it helps.
I also like to focus on my breathing when panic sets in. It’s the one thing that shows me that I’m okay and that I’m still here – alive. It seems so simple, but it can be a real challenge in the midst of a panic attack to give your attention to your breath. Doing so will be a game-changer – that I know for sure.
For a while there, I used to think it was hopeless for me. That I wouldn’t lead a “normal” life and anxiety (along with my other mental health struggles) would continue to dominate my life. I mean, after all, the same symptoms still come up even years later. But one thing I’ve realized is we are all prone to anxiety. It’s just a matter of having the right tools to manage it.
One aha moment for me was when I realized that I never really learned any coping skills for managing my anxiety symptoms. No one ever taught them to me.
Thankfully, once I was on my own, I was able to seek out therapy and learned some coping skills that have helped me tremendously. Some I have spoken about here today and some I will share with you another time. But for now, I leave you with this. Please know it’s completely okay if you continue to struggle with certain symptoms or just your anxiety in general. You aren’t a failure and you’re definitely not alone.
So we don’t all feel so alone in our struggle, please share some of the anxiety symptoms that you struggle with. Have you learned or discovered any coping skills that help you manage your symptoms?