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How to Cope with Crippling Anxiety & When to Seek Help

How to Cope with Crippling Anxiety & When to Seek Help

A silhouette of a woman's head dealing with crippling anxiety.

Anxiety, a normal human emotion, is crucial for survival, alerting us to potential threats and spurring us to take action. However, for some, anxiety can spiral into an overwhelming, relentless, and paralyzing force that interferes with their daily life. 

Everyone can experience anxiety differently, but some strategies that may help include mindfulness, meditation, physical exercise, cognitive behavioural therapy, and breathing exercises. If you’re experiencing debilitating panic attacks, finding yourself using substances to cope, or having thoughts of self-harm, it’s time to seek support

One great place to get help is Distress Centre. You can contact us anytime through our 24-hour crisis line by online chat, text, or over the phone at 403-266-4357. 

Understanding Crippling Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are widespread in Canada. In 2022, more than 5 million Canadians met the criteria for a mood, anxiety, or substance use disorder. In the years between 2012 and 2022, the proportion of Canadians aged 15 years and older with a generalized anxiety disorder doubled, indicating a growing trend.

Severe anxiety, often characterized by excessive worry, can magnify challenges into overwhelming ordeals. This level of anxiety can occur unexpectedly or as a result of a combination of genetic, environmental, and other factors.

Common Triggers & Symptoms

For those affected by anxiety, the triggers can be diverse, from social situations and public speaking to health concerns or phobias. Understanding the root cause of your anxiety can be complex and multifaceted. 

Common symptoms include: 

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep disturbances
  • A sense of impending panic or doom

While “crippling anxiety” isn’t a medical term, it’s commonly used to describe situations when these symptoms occur frequently, last for an extended period, and interfere with daily activities.

Coping Strategies

When coping with crippling anxiety, it’s crucial to have a toolbox of strategies you can turn to. These tools may help quell the immediate feelings of panic and support your long-term journey toward managing anxiety.

Mindfulness & Meditation

These practices encourage focused attention, and acceptance of one’s thoughts without judgment. Engaging in mindfulness and meditation daily can help rewire the brain to be more calm and less reactive to stressors.

Physical Activity & Exercise

Regular exercise is beneficial for both your physical health and your mental well-being. It can serve as a distraction from anxious thoughts and releases endorphins, the brain’s natural mood lifters.

Cognitive-Behavioural Techniques

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that can help reframe negative thought patterns and alter behaviours associated with anxiety. It’s one of the most effective treatments for anxiety and panic disorders.

Breathing Exercises & Relaxation Techniques

Deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can be done anywhere to combat anxiety. Learning to breathe from your diaphragm can reduce the physical symptoms associated with panic.

Building a Support System

Support is essential for coping with overwhelming anxiety. This can include professional mental health support, support from loved ones, or joining a support group.

Therapy Options

Professional help can come in the form of individual therapy, group therapy, or even online therapy. Each serves its purpose and can be tailored to fit your comfort and schedule.

Support from Loved Ones & Peers

Sharing your struggles with friends and family can alleviate the feeling of isolation. Connecting with others who understand what you’re going through can also be incredibly comforting.

A woman sitting in her living room with dumbbells, a water bottle, and laptop, ready to do a workout class to help cope with crippling anxiety.

When to Seek Help for Crippling Anxiety

There are occasions when anxiety becomes so severe that it requires immediate attention. Some red flags to take note of include: 

  • Debilitating panic attacks
  • Substance abuse to cope
  • Thoughts of self-harm

Early intervention is essential in managing anxiety disorders, as the longer anxiety goes untreated, the more challenging it can become to overcome. There are numerous resources available, including helplines like Distress Centre, which can provide immediate support in a crisis, or 211, which can help you connect with other resources.

What Do Panic Attacks Feel Like?

A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear or discomfort that triggers severe physical and emotional reactions. It can feel overwhelming and frightening, often leading to a sense of losing control. 

During a panic attack, you might experience symptoms such as rapid heart rate, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, and a feeling of detachment from reality.

These episodes can be incredibly distressing, but it’s essential to remember that they are manageable, and support is available through Distress Centre, healthcare professionals, and mental health counselling.

Get Support for Anxiety

Crippling anxiety can be difficult to live with, but with the right strategies and support, it’s a challenge that can be managed. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with severe anxiety, know that help is available and it’s okay to reach out. Seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness but rather a courageous step toward a healthier and more manageable life. 

If you find yourself in a crisis situation, please call or reach out to Distress Centre through our 24-hour crisis line. We’re here to lend a listening ear and help you get the support you need.

In the spirit of respect, reciprocity and truth, Distress Centre Calgary would like to honour and acknowledge Moh’kinsstis, and the traditional Treaty 7 territory and oral practices of the Blackfoot confederacy: Siksika, Kainai, Piikani, as well as the Îyâxe Nakoda and Tsuut’ina nations. We acknowledge that this territory is home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3 within the historical Northwest Métis homeland. Finally, we acknowledge all Nations – Indigenous and non – who live, work and play on this land, and who honour and celebrate this territory.