By Dominique Astorino | HuffPost
Anxiety is pretty damn sneaky.
Kevin Gilliland, a clinical psychologist and executive director at i360 in Dallas, said that when he asks patients if they think they have anxiety, the answer is most often “no.”
In reality, they really do struggle with the mental health problem, he said. Anxiety can be hard to pinpoint or identify because presents in many different ways that may seem unrelated.
This is especially true right now when it comes to the anxiety many of us are feeling due to the coronavirus pandemic. Our lives have been altered in unimaginable and numerous ways, which can trigger the stress hormone cortisol and lead to emotional and physical symptoms.
“Good old fashioned ‘run of the mill’ anxiety is often manifested in ways people don’t associate with anxiety,” said Forrest Talley, a psychologist based in Folsom, California.
Curious how you can spot when that anxiety is coming out? Below, the experts break down the subtle signs to watch for:
1. You’re feeling more tired than usual, even if you don’t do much during the day
If you haven’t had the same gusto each day that you usually do, you’re not alone. Gilliland noted that energy loss is “the most common and confusing side effect of this pandemic, especially for people that are typically active or frequent exercisers.”
“Even if you’re not a ‘morning person,’ you’re definitely not a night person right now,” Gilliland said. “All this stress and worry starts to drain our battery in a hurry and by mid-afternoon, most people are on a slippery slope to the couch or bed.”
2. You aren’t sleeping well
Perhaps you’re tired all the time and you want to sleep, but no dice. Or maybe you do fall asleep, but the quality isn’t great. Blame it on your anxiety. “Insomnia frequently occurs in anxious people,” Talley said.
Rachel Wright, a therapist in New York City, said excess cortisol levels have a negative impact on the quality of rest and ability to fall asleep. To rectify, do what you can to create a nighttime ritual, stick to a consistent bedtime, avoid screens for an hour or so before bed, and limit caffeine intake in the afternoon so you can support your sleep cycle the best you can.
3. You startle easily
We all get startled from time to time, but if you’re more jumpy than usual it’s time to take notice. Your body and brain could be on high alert because of anxiety.
If your anxiety is presenting in tension and hypervigilance, “it doesn’t take much of the unexpected to have us come unwound,” Gilliland said. In other words, the mildest of triggers ― think a falling cup or a closing door ― might set off a larger than usual response.
4. You’re channeling lots of energy into hobbies or activities
Are you baking banana bread like we’re on the precipice of a banana famine? Taking 16 free online courses, and learning two new languages? Fostering a dog, growing tomatoes and strawberries, and sanitizing your house from top to bottom?
Excessive enthusiasm or extreme productivity might be your coping mechanism, or how your anxiety is presenting.
“Some may find that they now tend to focus their mental energies on organizing their schedules, or the house or shopping routines,” Talley said. “The ability to gain control through organizing provides a counterbalance to the sense of having little control over that which makes them anxious.”
This also includes enthusiasm in how you schedule your time, whether it be on Zoom with or in your daily routine. For example, “some people will find themselves inclined to exercise more ― a really healthy way to modulate anxiety ― but simply chalk up their newfound workout intensity to having more time,” Talley said. “Perhaps, but it may also be how they respond to anxiety.”
Make sure you’re taking time to rest and confront anything you may be feeling.
5. You don’t have much interest in anything
On the flip side, “COVID anxiety can appear as apathy,” said Habib Sadeghi, an integrative health expert and author of “The Clarity Cleanse.”
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