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5 Physical Symptoms of Anxiety (And the Best Solutions to Treat Them)

As a person who lives with mental illness, I have experienced the mental and physical symptoms that can come with anxiety from a very young age. Some of these symptoms are more extreme than others, and some can even disrupt daily activities if they are not managed properly. Here is a list of five of the main physical symptoms I have experienced from my anxiety through the years, and the best solutions I have used to treat them.

1. Tense muscles and muscle pain.

When I find myself having a particularly bad day with my anxiety, or I am in a drawn out, tense situation (usually involving work or emotional stress), the stress usually heads straight to the back of my neck and my upper back. For me, this can be one of the most painful things about having anxiety, and for a long time, I did not know how best to deal with this. This is physically painful to say the least, and can be quite troublesome when you are trying to carry out everyday activities.

My solution: The most helpful thing I have done for this problem is some simple stretches. Knowing the right stretches to do for a few seconds at the end of your day can loosen up your muscles and relieve the tension and pain you are feeling due to the buildup of stress and anxiety.

Neck Roll – Sit up straight. Focus on relaxing the muscles in your neck and shoulders as much as possible, and lower your chin to your chest slowly. Roll your head to the left, so your ear meets your shoulder. Hold this position for three seconds, and then roll your head so you are looking up.  Finally, roll your head to the right, and back down. Repeat.

There are several stretches for neck and shoulder pain. I recommend going on YouTube to find videos for beginner yoga stretches. One great YouTube channel that I frequent is called “Yoga with Adriene.” Her videos are great for beginners, and are often targeted for people with anxiety, stress-related issues, back and neck pain and more!

2. Picking skin, hair and nails and chewing on lips and cheeks.

An issue I have only recently realized is due to my anxiety is something I have done for many years. I chew on the inside of my cheeks. I have always thought this was odd, and thought it might be something that only I do, but I have recently learned it could be a symptom of anxiety. Something else that happens is nail-biting, and nail-picking. I almost never have long nails because of this.

My solution: When my nail biting and picking got severe enough, I needed a cheap solution to help strengthen my nails and try to stop myself from damaging my fingernails so much. I researched vitamins and came across ‘Biotin,’ also known as Vitamin B-7. Biotin is found in the popular “Hair, Skin and Nails” supplements. These supplements promised to strengthen my nails, and help maintain healthier skin and hair. It also contained multiple vitamins including vitamins A, E and C. So, I decided to give it a try. I was pleased to find that after a couple of weeks, my hair was stronger and less brittle, my nails were stronger and thicker than ever, and I had stopped biting them because of their pure strength. I would say these are worth a try for anyone with this issue (I recommend the gummy kind).

3. Stomach pain, indigestion, diarrhea and constipation.

Sometimes when you have severe anxiety, it can be not only upsetting to your mind, but the rest of your body too. It can be especially unsettling to your stomach and digestive system. You can experience the whole range of symptoms from constipation, indigestion, diarrhea, intense stomach pains and heartburn to all of the above. This can be an uncomfortable subject, not only to talk about, but to experience, especially when you are in a public setting. Whether you are at work and your anxiety sets in, you are at a party and your stomach starts to act up, or you are just with a group of people, it can be embarrassing which can only make matters worse.

My solution: When disaster strikes in my stomach area, I always make sure I have my essential oils handy. My favorite for digestive issues is called “clary-sage.”(Clary-sage also works for menstrual cramps, irritability and more) Essential oils come in all price ranges, and can be easily found in department stores or online. Just rub some on your stomach, and the pain and discomfort is eased almost immediately. It can also be diffused into the air for a calming effect. There are many different types of oil for multiple uses. I highly recommend essential oils.

Extra solution: If you are embarrassed about your digestive issues in public, I recommend checking out “Poo-Pourri.” It is the “Before-You-Go toilet spray,” a deodorizing spray for your toilet that creates a “protective barrier” on the surface of the water. Just spray it in the toilet before you go, anywhere you are, whether on the go or at home, and it keeps any unpleasant smells out of the air. I promise you, this stuff works. It comes in a small, compact bottle and can be found online or in stores.

4. Heart racing and chest pain.

A lot of times, anxiety can come with panic attacks. Panic attacks can be characterized by heart palpitations, accelerated heart rate, trembling or shaking, chest pains and more. One of the scariest parts of a panic attack is the chest pains. This can make you feel like you are having a heart attack when you are not. Frequent panic attacks can be terrifying and get in the way of your job or daily activities.

My solution: Panic attacks are a complicated force to battle. However, there are some things you can try. Earlier, I mentioned essential oils. Oils can help as a calming solution. However, something even better is mindful breathing. Mindful breathing is something that is pretty easy do and effective in a short amount time if done correctly. There are a few different techniques, but they all mainly focus on belly breathing (diaphragmatic breathing). One technique I find pleasant and relaxing is “alternate nostril breathing.” There are multiple videos on YouTube that demonstrate how to do this technique, and my favorite is from the Yoga with Adriene channel.

5. Sleep issues/insomnia.

One of the biggest struggles I have had relating to my anxiety, especially in recent years, has been my struggle with sleeping at night. I have spent countless nights without sleep, tossing and turning in bed, with thoughts racing through my head, not allowing me to fall asleep peacefully. If I did happen to fall asleep on certain nights, I would wake up to nightmares or wake up with panic attacks and be unable to fall back to sleep. I tried countless prescription sleep medications that would either cause negative side effects or wear off after a week, and I even tried guided meditation CDs. Nothing seemed to help.

My solution: After months of not sleeping at night, and feeling the effects of sleep deprivation on my mind and body, my physician suggested I try an over the counter solution. I was skeptical. That night, I took my first
dose of Benadryl. I was able to sleep through the night peacefully for the first time in months, and quiet my mind. Now I use one dose of Benadryl in combination with essential oils each night for a good night’s sleep.

As an extra tidbit, I cannot recommend basic beginner’s yoga stretches enough just to relieve general anxiety symptoms. Everyone may experience different physical symptoms of anxiety, but these solutions have helped relieve some of mine. Of course, everyone may react differently to certain things, and often stronger solutions such as counseling and medications are necessary to combat the symptoms of anxiety.

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Thinkstock photo via Photodisc.

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