You're probably noticing some changes: maybe you're worrying more than usual, having trouble concentrating, or feeling discomfort in your body.
Could it be anxiety?
It's crossed your mind, but you don't really know much about anxiety, or how to recognize it when it arises.
Left unchecked, prolonged anxiety can really wreak havoc on your mind and body. We're here to equip you with everything you need to know about the most common signs of anxiety, so that you can get to feeling calmer sooner.
Let's start with the basics: what even is anxiety, anyway?
Anxiety is a stress response, usually associated with incessant worrying or nervousness.
Ever felt really worked up before a big test at school, or speaking in front of an audience? It's the same feeling.
Everyone experiences anxiety sometimes. In fact, it's pretty normal to have anxiety before an important event or new experience.
But if you're feeling worked up and nervous all of the time, you might want to see a therapist or explore ways to cope with your anxiety on your own.
Ok, so we understand what anxiety is. But how do I know if I have it, or if I'm just having a stressful day?
These 7 signs of anxiety can help you identify whether what you're going through right now could be anxiety.
Remember, anxiety looks different for everyone and can manifest in a lot of different ways. You may only have some of the symptoms listed below, in addition to completely different ones.
The most important thing is to start noticing what anxiety looks like for you, so you can begin to better recognize and mitigate its symptoms.
If you have anxiety, you may notice that you have a high level of fear associated with certain situations or activities.
While everyone has their fears (heights, spiders, clowns... we're right there with you!), anxiety-based fears tend to be more irrational, and directed at every-day activities. The fear can be so intense that you avoid these situations in a way that disrupts your life.
Another common sign of anxiety is sleep problems. You might experience insomnia, or an inability to fall asleep, as a result of racing thoughts and worries that keep you awake.
It can also cause nightmares, or frequent waking up in the middle of the night.
One of the most common symptoms of anxiety is excessive worrying. You might be noticing that you spend a lot of time thinking about things that could go wrong.
These thoughts often take shape as "What ifs": What if everything goes wrong? What if I fail? What if everyone hates me?
The what-ifs can spiral out of control, and get increasingly more extreme. It might feel like you "can't turn off your brain".
Anxiety-sufferers also tend to experience panic, or overwhelming feelings of terror. You might find yourself fixated on a perceived impending danger that may or may not be rational.
You also may experience panic attacks, or sudden waves of intense panic accompanied by physical symptoms like nausea, dizziness, increased heart rate, crying, and shaking. Panic attacks tend to peak after a few minutes, and leave you feeling tired and exhausted.
Anxiety triggers your sympathetic nervous system into high arousal. This basically means that when you're feeling anxious, your body is preparing itself to fight off a threat.
Because you're so worked up, it may feel like you have a short fuse for stressful situations, and react strongly to conflict with others.
Anxiety takes up a lot of brain space. You may struggle to focus on tasks because you are too preoccupied by the "what-ifs".
Many describe this as feeling "stuck in your head". Your worries can distract you, and prevent you from feeling present in the current moment.
Remember that sympathetic nervous system we talked about? When you're constantly in fight-or-flight mode, your body burns through energy really fast.
Not to mention that irritability, insomnia, and panic attacks as a result of anxiety can be extremely taxing for your body. Anxiety can leave you feeling worn out and exhausted.
Anxiety manifests differently for everyone. There is no one-size-fits-all description. But, knowing the common signs of anxiety can help you recognize your anxiety when it starts, and take steps to feeling better right away.
If you're looking for ways to cope with anxiety, a guided journaling app like Jour can help you notice anxious thought patterns and process your emotions. We're always here for you!