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Mental Health

"One of the most obvious ways dogs can improve our physical and mental health is via daily walks."

Andrew Weil

Anxiety disorder

Anxiety has an evolutionary purpose in our lives: it’s anxiety that keeps a rabbit on edge when it hears footfalls of a nearby fox. Anxiety can sometimes help us cope and help us survive and adapt, but in situations where anxiety becomes excessive it can become debilitating and even turn into an irrational fear of everyday situations incredibly hard to deal with for both the person dealing with anxiety and for those around him/her. A large, national survey of adolescent mental health reported that about 8 percent of teens ages 13-18 have an anxiety disorder, with symptoms commonly emerging around age 6. However, of these teens, only 18 percent received mental health care.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population).

Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment.

People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.

Sometimes dealing with high levels of anxiety can lead to things called Panic Attacks, in which the individual hyperventilates, sobs, experiences rapid heartbeat, shaking, sweating, and undergoes extreme mental and physical distress. The good news however is that these attacks usually last no longer than 15 minutes to an hour when the individual dealing with anxiety is receiving treatment. This is why it is so important to speak out and talk to somebody.

Here are five ways to deal with not-so-extreme anxiety from

  1. Become a relaxation expert. We all think we know how to relax. But chilling out in front of the TV or computer isn't true relaxation. (Depending on what you're watching or doing, it could even make you more tense.) The same is true for alcohol, drugs, or tobacco. They may seem to relieve anxiety or stress, but it's a false state of relaxation that's only temporary. What the body really needs is a relaxation technique ­like deep breathing, tai chi, or yoga ­ that has a physical effect on the mind. For example, deep breathing helps to relax a major nerve that runs from the diaphragm to the brain, sending a message to the entire body to let go and loosen up.
  2. Get enough sleep, nourishment, and exercise. Want your mind and body to feel peaceful and strong enough to handle life's ups and downs? Get the right amount of sleep for your needs ­ not too much or too little. Eat well: Choose fruit, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains for long-term energy (instead of the short bursts that come from too much sugar or caffeine). And exercise to send oxygen to every cell in the body so your brain and body can operate at their best.
  3. Connect with others. Spend time with friends or family. Organized activities are great, but just hanging out works too. Doing things with those we feel close to deepens our bonds, allowing us to feel supported and secure. And the fun and sharing that go with it allow us to feel happier and less upset about things. If you feel worried or nervous about something, talking about it with someone who listens and cares can help you feel more understood and better able to cope. You'll be reminded that everyone has these feelings sometimes. You're not alone.
  4. Connect with nature. Heading out for a walk in the park or a hike in the woods can help anyone feel peaceful and grounded. (Choose somewhere you feel safe so you can relax and enjoy your surroundings.) Walking, hiking, trail biking, or snowshoeing offer the additional benefit of exercise. Invite a friend or two ­ or a family member ­ along and enjoy feeling connected to people as well.
  5. Think positive. A great way to keep our minds off the worry track is to focus our thoughts on things that are good, beautiful, and positive. Allow yourself to dream, wish, and imagine the best that could happen.
  6. Remember: When anxiety or worry feels extreme, it may be a sign of ananxiety disorder. For someone who has an anxiety disorder, getting proper care from a health professional is important. These tips can help too, of course. But professional treatment is the only way to shake an anxiety disorder.

Mental Symptoms of Anxiety include:

  • You experience feelings of fear
  • You have frequent thoughts of danger
  • You have been feeling excessively moody or irritable
  • You have difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • You are struggling with your memory
  • You feel frustrated or impatient
  • You have racing thoughts
  • You’re always thinking fearfully about the future
  • You experience terrifying images in the mind
  • You engage in negative repetitive self-talk
  • Physical Symptoms of Anxiety include:
  • You are restless or have increased energy
  • You are unable to sleep
  • Your heart rate/beat is rapid
  • Fast and heavy breathing
  • Chest pain or tension
  • Muscle pain or tension
  • Increased perspiration or sweating
  • Shaking or trembling, noticeable in the hands
  • Diarrhoea or indigestion
  • You have a stomach ache
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Fainting or passing out