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The Cost of Anxiety

Anxiety can negatively affect different parts of your life.

Key points

  • Anxiety can negatively affect your relationships, work performance, and overall health.
  • Anxiety is associated with thought patterns than can make you vulnerable to depression.
  • Recalibrating your expectations to a more realistic level can reduce anxiety.
Pierre Bamin/Unsplash
Source: Pierre Bamin/Unsplash

In our competitive society, being stressed out has become a badge of honor. It implies that you are busy with a lot going on.

The truth is that stress can be a synonym for anxiety. We are reluctant to call anxiety by its actual name because it has a negative connotation. It implies there is something wrong that needs to be addressed. By referring to anxiety as stress, we can attribute the experience to external factors, and carry on with our hectic lives.

Regardless of nomenclature, if poorly managed, anxiety can negatively impact different parts of your life.

Here are five ways anxiety can negatively affect you.

1. Relationships

Anxiety can negatively affect your relationship with loved ones. Being preoccupied with worrying thoughts can prevent you from being emotionally present with the people who matter most.

You may also feel irritable, on edge, and tense due to feeling overwhelmed. In such situations, you may be quick to lash out, only to feel remorseful after this occurs. I commonly observe people bottling up their stress during the work day, only to open the floodgates when they arrive home over the smallest trigger such as spilled water.

Such behavior is unfair to loved ones. It is preferable to communicate your feelings and ask for a few minutes to decompress rather than have a volcanic eruption that hurts them.

2. Physical Health

Anxiety can negatively impact your physical health. This should not be surprising because the mind and body are connected. Anxiety is an interplay of cognitive and physical symptoms.

Those with anxiety have been found to have statistically higher rates of arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, and hypertension than those without anxiety. Anxiety can also negatively affect your sleep, which can further weaken your physical health.

3. Performance

Anxiety can negatively affect your work performance. Symptoms of anxiety such as poor concentration, distractibility, and fatigue make you vulnerable to mistakes and jeopardize your job security.

Anxiety can also make you prone to job burnout, which is characterized by the triad of emotional exhaustion, feeling detached, and lacking personal fulfillment. A study analyzing survey responses from 1273 healthcare professionals found that those who experienced higher levels of anxiety were more than three times as likely to report burnout compared to those with low levels of anxiety.

4. Habits

In an effort to cope with anxiety, you may engage in unhealthy habits such as alcohol use or stress eating, which can further hurt your physical and mental health.

In general, unhealthy habits, such as alcohol use, tend to require little effort and have a rapid effect but they carry negative consequences. In contrast, healthier habits, such as exercise, meditation, or journaling, may require more initial effort but do not come with the same baggage.

5. Happiness

You are less likely to be happy with anxiety churning in the background. This makes sense because anxiety is associated with thought patterns such as worst-case scenario thinking, taking things personally, and selective abstraction, in which you zoom in on a negative detail while ignoring everything else about a situation. For example, you are worried you made a negative impression at a social gathering because of one questionable interaction, even though you had great chemistry with everyone there.

Not surprisingly, anxiety makes you prone to depression. In more than 50 percent of cases, patients presented to their family physicians with both anxiety and depression.

Considering its potential effect on your life, anxiety management needs to be a priority in your life.

Here are three tips:

1. Examine your thoughts

Your mind is a master storyteller. It will treat the worst-case scenario as imminent and inevitable even if it has a low probability of occurrence.

Journaling can help you uncover and challenge anxiety-provoking thoughts. In a previous post, I shared questions to calm an anxious mind.

2. Recalibrate your expectations

We often put immense pressure on ourselves to be perfect. This is a suffocating way to live. Having no margin for error is exhausting and stressful.

There are settings in which perfectionism is appropriate. Yes, I want my pilot to be perfect when flying a plane. The same holds true for a surgeon during an operation or a physician prescribing medication. In such settings, an error can have lethal consequences.

However, do you have to be perfect when mowing the lawn, arranging your closet, or folding laundry? Letting go of your perfectionism can lower anxiety.

3. Release the tension

We often hold onto anxiety without noticing it. I see people with shoulders shrugged up to their ears. Holding such a posture signals your brain to stay in flight-or-fight mode. Your brain does not know whether a lion is running at you or you are stuck in traffic. It senses your guarded position and activates your flight-or-fight response.

Take a moment to observe where your body holds your anxiety. This may be your neck, shoulders, calves, or trapezius muscles. Spend a few minutes stretching those muscles and release the tension.

In summary, anxiety can negatively impact different parts of your life. As a result, it is essential that you prioritize anxiety management in your life.

If you are experiencing any difficulty with anxiety symptoms, you may follow with your local mental health provider or Find a Therapist. This post is not medical or therapy advice.

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