The Betterment Project

How To Explain Anxiety: An Easy Step-by-Step Guide

Anxiousness can be difficult enough to experience or recognize in yourself. How to explain anxiousness to someone else can present an even bigger challenge. 


Anxiousness, whether we understand it or recognize it, is still felt. The feeling is likely to be unsettling, and when we don’t recognize anxiety, we can feel “off” or “wrong.” It may be easier to recognize the external symptoms while other symptoms are harder to identify.


Before we can hope to explain our anxious feelings, we need to understand what they are, where they come from, and how they manifest themselves internally and externally. When we understand more about anxiety, it is easier to explain to others and what our needs are.


What Is Anxiety? 

Stress is a normal human experience of feelings and reactions to changes and challenges we face in life. These are also called stressors. Your body reacts mentally and physically to stressors, and the tension that develops is stress. 


Anxiety is so closely related to stress that the words are often used interchangeably. The best description of the difference is that anxiety is the anticipatory feelings we have in the face of stress. It can feel like dread or uneasiness. It can also feel like nervousness, excitement, or anticipation. 


When we feel anxious, sometimes we know exactly what is to blame. For example, when we have a big test or an interview, we feel that anxiety is rising up just as expected. However, there are other times when anxious feelings approach and the cause is less obvious, unknown, or unexplainable. 


When anxious feelings appear seemingly without cause or grow to an overwhelming level, they can negatively impact. If the frequency of these feelings is too great, it can adversely affect daily life. 


If you’re concerned about the frequency of your anxious feelings, you may need to talk to a physician. 


Here are some of the physical symptoms of anxiety to be mindful of and recognize:


  • Increased heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Difficult breathing
  • Muscle tension
  • Unexplained aches 

In addition to the physical symptoms, you may notice other signs of anxiety such as:


  • Irritability
  • Avoidance of activities, even ones you previously enjoyed
  • Fear
  • Withdrawal from social settings

Sometimes, external factors like caffeine consumption can make your feelings or symptoms feel worse. It’s essential to pay attention to yourself and watch for signs that you are feeling anxious.


It’s important to talk to the people in your life about what you’re feeling, but it’s also important to take care of yourself. As you prepare to explain your anxiousness with others, do a self-check to see if you can help yourself too. There’s no cure-all, but these are five key things you can do to help yourself stay healthy mentally and physically:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Exercise regularly - aim for a total of 150 minutes each week
  • Prioritize sleep - your mind and body need rest to recover
  • Consider a calming supplement to boost your efforts
  • Stay hydrated


It’s possible to do everything right and still feel anxious, but as you understand your anxious feelings and their causes, it will be easier to explain it to others. 


How Can I  Explain Anxiety To Others? 

Remember that anxiety is something that we all feel from time to time. This commonality can make it easy to start a conversation about anxiety. Here are steps you can take to help explain your anxious feelings.

1 - Be Honest 

When you feel anxious, it can be easy to forget that people appreciate and accept honest feelings. Sometimes, the thought of explaining your anxious feelings to other people can create its own anxious feelings. 


It can seem better to hide your situation or make excuses rather than be honest. It’s easy to assume that others will judge you or your feelings harshly. 

However, often when we’re honest with others, they are more understanding than we thought they could be. Remember, anxiety is a natural part of life for everyone, so it can be easy to explain your anxious feelings with the right explanation. 


2 - Remember It’s Medical 

When we have something wrong with our health, we’re typically encouraged to take care of ourselves. If you break your arm, you see a doctor, get a cast, and people will generally help you or understand that you’re injured. If you have a cold, you’re encouraged to at least stay home and recover with rest and home remedies. 


However, when it comes to our mental health, many of us choose not to discuss it. Maybe it’s embarrassing. Or, we’re afraid of the reaction of others. However, our mental health is an important part of our overall health. 


Talking about your mental health should be normalized. Anxiety can be a sign that you need to pay attention to your mental health, and it’s important to give yourself the same medical attention and care that you would for any physical ailments.


Left untreated, mental health issues like anxiety can have long-term effects on your physical health, so you may have to address it later if you don’t address it now.


3 - Write It Out 

If you’re struggling to explain your anxiety, write down how you’re feeling. Not only can writing your thoughts down helps you talk about it easier, but you may also find that the process is therapeutic.


Journaling is a great way to collect your thoughts, but it’s also shown promise in helping to alleviate the tension from anxious feelings. 


If you’re finding it difficult to pinpoint the source of your anxiety, use your journal as a way to track the events of the day, how you felt afterward, and monitor external factors like how much sleep you’re getting or how much water you’ve been drinking. You may find correlations to your anxious feelings with things you hadn’t even thought could be the culprit, like lack of sleep or days with an excessive amount of meetings.


Determining the stressors in your life may help you explain your anxiety easier to others. It also may help you identify areas that you could ask for help or work on to ease your discomfort at times of high anxiety.


You might also discover things that help you feel calm. A brisk 20-minute walk may help you to clear away anxious thoughts. You may realize your calming supplement helps you feel more relaxed, but you may not be taking it consistently enough. 


Keeping track of what’s going on in our lives helps us feel more in control and more grounded, and you can learn a lot about yourself from your perspective. It’s hard to talk about yourself if you don’t know what you’re feeling.


4 - Respect Your Own Privacy 

While it would be amazing to live in a world that makes it easy to talk about your mental health, it might still be difficult for some people to discuss. When it comes to talking about it with other people, you should be honest, but you should also respect your own boundaries.


If you don’t feel comfortable giving a name to what’s wrong, don’t. You have a right to disclose only what you feel comfortable with disclosing. Remember that words like stress and anxiety are interchangeable for most people, and they take on different meanings. 


5 - Ask For What You Need 

If your anxiety is caused by something you can identify, ask yourself if something can be done to ease the tension you feel. Do you need a break? Do you need an extension of a deadline? Do you need to share the load with someone?


Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. If you need fifteen minutes to rehydrate and take your calming supplement, ask those around you for the time you need to regroup and destress. It’s okay to tell the people in your circle that you’re feeling overwhelmed.  


Summary


Anxious feelings are as certain in life as stress itself. We all experience it, but when anxiety impacts your daily life, it may be necessary to explain it to other people in your life. Remember that honesty is important. 


Understanding your own perspective first might make talking about your anxious feelings easier. Remember not to be too hard on yourself. Mental health is part of your overall health, and it’s important to share with the people in your life when you don’t feel well. However, you have the right to privacy and to feel comfortable with what you choose to share. 


When you feel anxious, don’t be afraid to ask for help or understanding from those around you. You may be surprised by how many people in your life will understand exactly how you’re feeling and offer you kindness and help to get you through your anxious times.

 

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Sources:

Stress: Signs, Symptoms, Management & Prevention | clevelandclinic.org 

Anxiety | medlineplus.gov 

Effects of anxiety on the long-term course of depressive disorders | ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

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This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.

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