Proven Tips To Feel Better When You're Feeling Anxious For No Reason
By Sarah Fader
Updated December 18, 2018
Reviewer Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC
Everyone feels nervous, stressed, or worried sometimes. Maybe you have an important presentation coming up or a loved one is sick. For people prone to anxiety these events may trigger the tight chest, shallow breathing, and racing thoughts of a classic anxiety attack. When anxiety is triggered by an outside factor, it is often helpful to evaluate the situation and use common sense to avoid thinking about worst-case-scenarios. What about those feelings when they come from out of nowhere? How do you convince yourself that everything is fine when you feel anxiety for no reason?
Symptoms Of Anxiety
Anxiety has a host of symptoms. You may experience some or all the symptoms below to varying degrees.
- Numbness and tingling
- Chest pain
- Neck tension
- Stomach upset, nervous stomach
- Pulsing in the ear
- Burning skin
- Fear of impending doom
- Shortness of breath
- Electric shock feeling
- Shooting pains in the face
- Heart palpitations
- Weakness in legs
- Feeling like you are going crazy
- Inability to rest
- Sleep problems
Why Do I Feel Anxious For No Reason?
Let's look at why our bodies experience anxiety in the first place. Anxiety can be caused by a variety of factors including genetics, brain chemistry, side effects from medications, substances, outside stressors, relationships, school, finances, life events, and even environmental factors like lack of oxygen at high altitudes.
The human body evolved to naturally react to dangerous situations with a flight or fight response. Your respiration, blood pressure, and heart rate increase as your body prepares to either run or fight. For a caveman facing a sabretooth tiger or a soldier going into battle, these physiological reactions are helpful and normal. Most Americans don't face battles in our everyday lives, but our inherited reactions to perceived danger or conflict remain. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports as many as 40 million American experience anxiety. Anxiety can be useful when it warns us of a potentially dangerous situation like a dark alley or spurs us to action like feeling anxiety over a test and studying more. However, when anxiety crops up out of the blue, it can be very difficult to return to a relaxed state.
As the adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Nothing could be truer when it comes to anxiety. Taking preventive measures can help reduce the number of occurrences and the severity of anxiety attacks.
The ADAA recommends the following to help prevent anxiety:
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a balanced diet and do not skip meals
- Get about 8 hours of sleep per night
- Limit alcohol, caffeine, and sugar intake
Prevention is excellent, and once you get a handle on your anxiety taking these steps can help you stay healthy and happy, but you're probably reading this article because you're already experiencing anxiety. What can you do when anxiety strikes for no reason?
The most basic of human functions is breathing. The average person takes almost 1,000 breaths an hour without even thinking about it. When anxiety comes on, it's important to put some thought into the way you breathe. Take slow deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. Think about your chest and belly expanding. Deep breathing isn't just a feel-good move. When your diaphragm pulls down, it signals your body to relax, turning off the fight-or-flight signals.
Try breathing in to the count of six, holding your breath to the count of three, breathing out to the count of six and holding at the bottom for the count of three. Repeat this rhythmic breathing for a few cycles. The counting helps give your mind focus and the deep breathing helps to slow your heart rate and oxygenate your blood.
It helps to practice this kind of breathing even when you are not feeling anxious so that when anxiety strikes you are prepared and the exercise feels routine and calming.
While regular exercise is a great way to stave off anxiety, moving can be just as helpful when anxiety takes hold. Give your body an outlet for the nervous energy by taking a brisk walk or doing a few push-ups. You can even practice your deep breathing while you jog or walk.
Take a few moments to evaluate your situation. Are there external factors that could be leading to your anxious thoughts or feelings? While you may not have acute triggers like a pending medical diagnosis or an upcoming public presentation, consider if you have you been under any stress lately. Stress is cumulative. If you've had a sick kid, a tough few days at work and money has been tight, those stressors can add up to generalized anxiety. Also, consider hormonal and environmental factors. Women often experience generalized anxiety as a symptom of premenstrual syndrome. Many people report feeling more anxious during the long dark months of winter or if it has been unusually cloudy.
It often helps to acknowledge that you are feeling anxious. Accepting this and reminding yourself that you are having anxiety and it will pass can help calm the chain that leads to even more anxiety. Often when we are anxious, our brains play tricks on us. That primeval fight or flight response tries to convince us something a boogeyman is lurking around the corner.
Question your thoughts and feelings. It's reasonable to be nervous about a work event, but not to feel like everything that can go wrong will. If your husband doesn't pick up the phone when you call, what is more likely? He was busy, in a meeting, or in the bathroom or that he had an accident and was injured or killed? Your anxiety brain may tell you the latter, but the better you get at reminding yourself that the former is more reasonable, the better you will be at warding off anxiety.
Sometimes when anxiety comes on and you can't reason it away, there's nothing like a good distraction. Watch an engaging movie or television show. Read a book. Engage in a useful activity like cleaning or cooking. Some people find great relief from repetitive tasks with instantly gratifying results like dusting or washing windows. The wolf you feed is the one that grows. The less time you spend dwelling on your anxiety, the less your body will respond to it.
When to Seek Help
While some amount of anxiety is normal, if you experience the following symptoms, you should seek professional help.
- If you experience the physical symptoms of anxiety like shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, or heart palpitations.
- If your anxiety if limiting your ability to enjoy everyday activities or to function at work, school, or home.
- If you've been experiencing anxiety for several months that won't go away despite at-home treatment.
If you think these symptoms apply to you, answer a few short questions at https://www.betterhelp.com/start/ to get started with online counseling today. Betterhelp.com is the world's largest online counseling platform where more than 1,500 therapists have conducted over 23 million counseling sessions.