That anxious feeling – that twinge in your gut, that fight-or-flight response – is a normal reaction to stress that everyone experiences occasionally. And it can be a good thing, when it prompts you to achieve a goal, pass a test, propose to a significant other, or defend our country.
When anxiety becomes frequent, however – when it becomes the strings that control a person instead of the instinct that spurs them to action – when it becomes obsessive and/or intrusive, then it becomes a problem.
And it is a problem that far too many returning service men and women struggle with every day.
Multiple disorders are linked to military-related anxiety, including PTSD that develops following wartime trauma or life-threatening experiences. Experiencing anxiety also often coincides with depression and substance abuse.
For veterans, learning to recognize the symptoms can be an integral first step to taking action and warding off more severe and debilitating symptoms and health issues.
Know the signs
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
- Racing heart
- Sweating/clammy hands
- Restless or jumpy sensation
- Trembling and twitching
- Shortness of breath
- Fullness in the throat or chest
- Difficulty sleeping
Emotional and Behavioral Symptoms
- Intrusive thoughts
- Fear of something bad happening
- Obsessive or persistent worrying
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing on simple tasks
- Avoidance of certain people, places, things
Those who experience any of the above anxiety symptoms should not suffer in silence. It is crucial to understand that help and treatment are readily available, ranging from counseling to talk therapy to medication, or a combination of approaches.
If you or someone you know is experiencing recurring anxiety, it is imperative that you speak to your family doctor, a therapist or mental health professional, and/or reach out to your local VA or veteran support organizations such as Veteran Health Services, Inc.
Additionally, there are steps soldiers can practice at home to reduce the effects of anxiety.
Non-Medication Ways to Alleviate Symptoms
- Remain active. Walk, jog, exercise. Physical activity has been shown to be a mood elevator, while promoting better sleep patterns.
- Focus on nutrition. Avoid unhealthy meals and snacks, and limit your alcohol and caffeine intake. Drink plenty of water.
- Get ample sleep. Seven to nine hours a night are recommended for adults, age 26-64.
- Relaxing techniques. Practice deep breathing, meditation, or even get a massage.
- Become involved. Find something you are passionate about, and pursue it. Volunteer or join a class, club, or organization. Stay busy.
- Laugh. Enjoy a good joke, a good movie, or a good time with close friends who make you smile.
Anxiety is an all-too common problem, with causes that are all-too real. Understanding it, and taking requisite action, can go a long way in maintaining a calm and healthy life.