Neurons that Promote Sleep After Stress Stave Off Anxiety in Mice – Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

Stress promotes a kind of sleep in mice that subsequently relieves anxiety, according to new research that also pinpoints the mechanism responsible. The study, by scientists at Imperial College London, and colleagues across institutions in China, and at the University of Zurich, showed that in mice exposed to a type of psychosocial stress called social defeat stress (SDS), a subset of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-somatostatin neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain receive and are activated by this stress input, promoting both REM (rapid-eye movement) and non-REM sleep, and also inhibiting the release of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF). Together, the sleep initiated through this process alleviated stress levels and mitigated stress-induced anxiety in mice, restoring mental and body functions.

Since sleep is similar across mammals, it is likely the same mechanism is triggered in human brains. Uncovering the pathways involved could lead to the development of artificial ways to trigger these beneficial effects, potentially helping to treat persistent stress disorders such as PTSD, or to ease the psychosocial stress experienced by people who have been newly diagnosed with dementia.

Research lead Bill Wisden, PhD, at the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, commented: “Our results add weight to the idea that REM [rapid eye movement] sleep helps us cope with stress. However, we previously only knew about ways REM sleep is reduced, such as some drugs that suppress it. Now, our study has revealed a mechanism by which REM sleep is induced, paving the way for drugs or other interventions that target the right neurons and boost the stress-busting power of sleep.”

Wisden and team reported on their studies and results in Science, in a paper titled “A specific circuit in the midbrain detects stress and induces restorative sleep.”

Humans and all mammals experience two main types of sleep. These are known as REM, when we tend to dream, and non-REM (NREM), which is deeper, dreamless sleep. While stress can cause insomnia and raise levels of stress hormones, the opposite can also be true, the authors noted. “Chronic stress increases rapid eye movement (REM) sleep; and sleep in rodents is induced by specific types of stress, such as social defeat stress (SDS).” Although the function and benefits of sleep remain unclear, sleep is certainly restorative, the team continued. “Thus, sleep has been suggested to be one of the mechanisms for alleviating the malign effects of stress.”

However, whether there is a specific circuit that links stress and sleep hasn’t been understood. The researchers reasoned that the ventral tegmental area of the midbrain could represent this link between stress and sleep. The VTA regulates reward, aversion, goal-directed behaviors, and social contact, they explained. “It also influences responses to stress and threats, and strongly affects sleep and wake … Because some γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) VTA neurons are activated by stressful and aversive stimuli, we hypothesized that this route allows stress to induce sleep.”

For the reported study mice were exposed to a type of psychosocial stress called social defeat stress – which is used as an analogue for human bullying – by exposing them to particularly aggressive mice, without physical harm. The researchers found that after this encounter levels of flight or fight hormones in the SDS-exposed animals rose, indicating stress. When the mice then slept, the researchers then tracked the activity of the VTA neurons, revealing a specific subset of neurons that detected and responded to stress hormone levels and induced sleep high in both NREM and REM. “Activity-dependent tagging revealed a subset of ventral tegmental area γ -aminobutyric acid (GABA)–somatostatin (VTAVgat-Sst) cells that sense stress and drive non–rapid eye movement (NREM) and REM sleep through the lateral hypothalamus and also inhibit corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) release in the paraventricular Hypothalamus,” the authors noted.

The activity of these neurons, and levels of NREM and REM sleep, stayed high for around five hours of sleep, during which signals were sent to other neurons that regulate stress hormones, blocking them from releasing more. The newly discovered neurons thus not only detected stress and induced sleep as a result, they also triggered the lowering of stress hormones.

The findings showed that sleep experienced by the mice appeared to lower the animals’ anxiety levels the next day. Once the mice awoke, the researchers tested their anxiety response to see how the sleep had affected their stress behaviors. This was evaluated by measuring how long the mice spent in the light, rather than seeking out darkness, as they will tend to do more when they are anxious. The animals’ responses were compared to those of stressed mice that were either sleep deprived (stimulated with objects) or had their newly identified neurons impaired, meaning that they didn’t get the same restorative sleep as did the normal mice.

The team found that mice that didn’t get their stress-induced sleep spent much more time in the dark, indicating that they were more anxious, and stress hormone levels also remained high in these animals. “For mice allowed sufficient home cage sleep after SDS, raised CORT [corticosterone] concentrations

returned to baseline over 60 min,” the authors noted. “If mild sleep deprivation occurred immediately after stress, however, CORT concentrations remained elevated … “For mice unable to have SDS-induced sleep, either because their VTASst neurons had been ablated or were inhibited, CORT concentrations remained higher during their home cage sleep after SDS, similar to the effects of sleep deprivation after SDS.”

Having identified this new mechanism, the team now hope to find ways to selectively target the responsible neurons and boost their positive effects via sleep. This strategy might be used to help treat persistent stress disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People who suffer from PTSD experience less REM sleep, contributing to the theory that REM sleep helps us process difficult emotions and stress.

Dementia diagnosis can also cause significant psychological stress, and the team hopes that if their research can lead to a way to boost the effects of sleep, this will also help people cope with a new diagnosis. People living with dementia in addition suffer from more emotional disturbances, and boosting REM sleep may similarly help reduce this distress. The authors concluded, “Thus, a specific circuit allows animals to restore mental and body functions by sleeping, potentially providing a refined route for treating anxiety disorders.”

In a perspective in the same issue of Science, Marian Joëls, PhD, at Utrecht University, and E. Ronald de Kloet, PhD, at Leiden University, noted that the reported results highlight a neurological circuit in the brain, the targeting of which “may help steer future interventions in rodents and perhaps even humans after stressful experiences, be it through cognitive therapy or pharmacotherapy or maybe, one day, genetic interference.”

Joëls and Kloet note that “Not all individuals may respond to social defeat with a bout of sleep,” and that recent studies suggest that social stress promotes sleep-like inactivity in mice, but with a large degree of variation. Also, in the reported study not all of the animals showed a strong increase in REM sleep duration. The authors say this individual variation “requires further investigation in larger groups of mice …” and concluded, “Knowing the essential steps in the brain may help steer future interventions in rodents and perhaps even humans after stressful experiences, be it through cognitive therapy or pharmacotherapy or maybe, one day, genetic interference.”

A feeling of ‘climate change anxiety’ – Yahoo News

Jul. 4—During a recent summer afternoon in Talent, Crater High School student Saraya Lumbreras walked the Bear Creek Greenway through Lynn Newbry Park, surrounded by charred trees, which she stopped to touch.

The tranquility of her surroundings were in contrast to what has weighed heavily on Lumbreras’ mind: climate change.

“This wasn’t my generation; we didn’t do this, but we’re being left with the result,” she said.

That very idea is part of what led the 17-year-old to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder.

“The anxiety and depression can come from family problems and things, but then I have separate anxieties from the climate crisis,” said Lumbreras, who works for the Phoenix-based nonprofit Rogue Climate. “I’ve taken a break from the climate activism that I do, due to anxiety and depression.”

Sometimes, Lumbreras said, the work she does helps her feel a “sense of purpose and community.”

Her comments come after the release of an Oregon Health Authority study in which she participated. “Climate Change and Youth Mental Health” examines the correlation between global warming and how young people throughout the state are responding to it on an emotional level. The study grew out of an executive order from Gov. Kate Brown, who wrote in the report’s forward that such a study was needed to address a “broader youth mental health crisis.”

“Heat domes, dry wells, wildfires and hazardous smoke — the consequences of these events pose not only imminent threats to physical health, but immediate and long-lasting impacts to our mental health,” Brown stated. “Facing the threat and uncertainties of climate change can be daunting for all of us. For youth who see their future lives and well-being at stake, the burden and weight of climate change can seem both overwhelming and unfair.”

In many ways, the report is meant to help “build resilience among our youth and help them navigate these challenging and uncertain times,” Brown said.

At the same time, the governor has seen in youth who participated in the study that same resilience “to make change” and help prevent global warming.

The OHA study was conducted via interviews with numerous professionals, as well as child focus groups and “story circles.” To facilitate these, OHA reached out to numerous academic and community organizations, including Rogue Climate and The Hearth, based in Ashland.

Climate change impact on mental health

Julie Sifuentes, lead author of the study, at one time managed OHA’s climate and health program. She emphasized she is not a mental health expert, but she heavily researched the issue to make the report possible. Citing U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy’s 2021 report “Protecting Youth Mental Health,” she said climate change is part of the reason young people are facing increasing mental health challenges.

“This is a very emerging issue; there’s only one really robust study looking at climate change’s impact on youth mental health,” Sifuentes said. “I don’t know what conclusive statement we can make yet on the degree of harm. I think what we can say is that — based on studies that have been done, and what we hear in this study — is that (climate change) is a source of significant distress for many youth. This is a justifiable response to what youth are seeing and experiencing.”

The OHA study said research shows extreme weather events, “stressors” from the climate, such as food insecurity, and “climate anxiety” can impact a person’s mental health.

When it comes to climate change, study participants reported a range of emotions they felt, from “frustration” about the subject to hopelessness and despair, the report said.

In addition to the kinds of feelings that might intrude on their day-to-day lives, the youth reported some emotions that stem from “feeling dismissed by adults,” “angry that not enough is being done to protect their future” and the belief that “climate change (is) closely linked with systematic racism and oppression,” according to the report.

Sifuentes said she hopes youth read every page of it. “I hope that, in doing so, they feel less alone.”

Sifuentes added that parents could also find the information in the report helpful, along with mental health professionals, educators, and government entities in the natural resource sector, who could find ways to make youth part of official decision-making processes.

Lumbreras’ story

In fall 2020, she got involved with Rogue Climate and started down the road of working to stop climate change.

“After the fires, I definitely started to realize it was starting to impact my life physically,” Lumbreras said. “So I got involved with Rogue Climate, interned with them and did my activism work.”

Activism made her happy, but there were times when Lumbreras could feel the weight of climate change on her everyday life.

“I had a few weeks that were not great, and I was in my room a lot,” she said.

“The anxiety in knowing that our world is crippling and we have to fix it, because it’s our future, that’s the anxiety surrounding it,” Lumbreras said. “Then, there’s the depression aspect of it … I know that these problems can mess with you and can cause mental health decline, especially when you are already battling mental illness.”

Lumbreras sought counseling and is on anti-anxiety medication. She told a focus group facilitated by Rogue Climate that she envies people who don’t know a lot about the climate crisis.

“I guess I just envy ignorance,” Lumbreras said. “I can’t just sit back and not do anything because of the anxiety.”

Sometimes Lumbreras questions that envy when her friends seem nonchalant about the issue.

“Some of my friends are just like, ‘Yeah, but I can’t really do anything about it, so I don’t,'” Lumbreras said.

Lumbreras said she was pleased OHA made it possible for a focus group at Rogue Climate to look at the issue of mental health and climate change.

“It was really relieving to hear other people’s stories and know that it’s not just me experiencing this anxiety and anger with the climate crisis,” she said.

Sifuentes did not attend the listening session, but she was able to meet with youth during a webinar to share the OHA team’s preliminary findings and later met Lumbreras during a radio interview

Through those experiences, Sifuentes feels an abundance of optimism about Oregon’s youth.

“I have just been incredibly inspired and moved,” she said. “I guess I feel, myself, more committed to figuring out how we can work with youth in addressing the climate crisis.”

Sifuentes admitted her mental health also is impacted by climate change. But after hearing how youth are responding to it, she realizes, “It feels like a heavier burden … on youth than it does on people of older generations.”

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.

Anxiety Rings Promise To Calm Stress. Can They Really Help? – TODAY

When anxiety strikes, some people turn to special accessories on their hands to feel better.

They’re known as anxiety rings or fidget rings — pieces of finger jewelry that contain beads, rotating centers or other moving parts that the wearer can discreetly play with.

Zoë Ayres, a scientist and mental health advocate who lives in Birmingham, England, bought one last year after seeing others on social media mention the trend and thought it was worth a try. Her thin silver band has pearls that move around the ring or can be kept neatly at the front of it when not in use.

“I use it all the time, from when watching TV to in work meetings,” Ayres, 31, told TODAY. “It’s not a cure for anxiety. It does, however, help to bring a moment of mindfulness if I feel stressed or anxious in a particular situation.”

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Can anxiety rings make a difference for some of them? TODAY asked Debra Kissen, clinical director of Light On Anxiety, a treatment center in Chicago. She specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety and related disorders.

What are anxiety rings?

Kissen preferred to call them fidget rings, describing them as portable fidgets that are less conspicuous than fidget spinners and less intrusive than, say, pen clicking.

“So it’s more of an acceptable behavior. You’re wearing a ring that looks pretty and it looks like part of your outfit, but it has some kind of motion to it, something that you can do in moments to ground yourself or to remind yourself of a mantra,” Kissen said.

“It’s jewelry that also serves some kind of release of energy function.”

How could anxiety rings help?

Humans like to move, so sitting still is not what the body always wants to do even though we’ve come to expect that of each other, Kissen said.

People who are more on the fidgety side or prefer motion over stillness could still get a little bit of that motion feeling from a ring with moving parts when they’re in a meeting or doing something else that requires sitting still for social acceptance, she noted.

April 6, 202104:41

Besides offering a discreet way to release extra energy, a fidget ring could also serve as a distraction for people with body-focused repetitive behaviors, such as skin picking, hair pulling or nail biting. The finger jewelry is quickly accessible and if you’re fidgeting with a ring in that second, you can’t pick at your hand at the same time.

“It’s riding out the urge,” Kissen noted. “It gives you a little bit of time to try to control your next move.”

A fidget ring can certainly be helpful for that purpose, she said. But Kissen has never seen a research study proving the rings are beneficial in other ways.

Bottom line: Should you get an anxiety ring?

“I would say it’s a low-cost experiment, so you don’t have much to lose,” Kissen said.

But an anxiety ring would be more helpful when it’s part of an overall wellness plan that could involve therapy or a self-help workbook, she added.

“If you’re feeling stressed enough or anxious enough that you want to buy a ring, chances are there might be another thing that you can do that gives you a more holistic approach to helping you experience less stress,” she said.

7 Things Everyone Should Know About Anxiety – Psychology Today

Image by Kristin Meekhof

Source: Image by Kristin Meekhof

Experiencing moments of anxiety can be good. For example, you may feel anxious you won’t make your flight, so you decide to leave at an earlier time. Or you may feel some angst regarding a big meeting, so you do a deeper dive into the research to prepare for any questions. However, for thousands of individuals, anxiety is a daily experience and impairs their functioning to the point that they aren’t able to fulfill their work or personal responsibilities or aren’t able to do them to the best of their abilities. Some people even need medical attention or seek the guidance of a mental health professional to help them cope.

One of the difficult things to understand about anxiety is that intrusive thoughts can stem from real-life traumatic events. Personally, I remember multiple medical doctors telling both myself and my (now late) husband “not to worry” about his persistent cough. And I didn’t. I trusted the diagnosis he was given was accurate and that the antibiotics would fix the problem. Less than eight weeks later, my husband died from advanced adrenal cancer, which was asymptomatic. There is about a one in a million chance anyone will be diagnosed with this type of cancer. However, when your loved one becomes that statistic it is traumatic.

While death is the extreme outcome, people with anxiety can often feel like other intense things are about to happen in any situation, from texting a colleague they don’t know well to attending a wedding. And the anxious often see the world through a lens of fear causing them to expend a lot of energy. It is as if their battery is constantly being drained causing them to expend precious resources to recharge it at a moment’s notice.

Here are seven things everyone should know and understand about anxiety (in no particular order of importance).

Highly successful, even well-to-do people suffer from anxiety. Many times, people with anxiety learn and practice discreet things to camouflage their persistent frets, and their high-level achievements leave little trace of self-doubt. Their accomplishments tell a story of success versus one of painful worry. And because they want others to focus on their outward wins, they seldom reveal their internal struggles.

Anxiety can over overwhelm someone at a joyful celebration. It isn’t unusual for someone to report feeling anxious at a wedding that isn’t even their own or at a graduation party. While others are truly celebrating, the anxious person is left dangling in mid-air by their thoughts of insecurity or a recent interaction. This vulnerable feeling can make them feel raw while everyone else is engaging in conversation.

People with anxiety can often point to a situation in which the statistics did favor a positive outcome, however, their reality wasn’t one. And this truth of having experienced first-hand an unpleasant or traumatic outcome can impact their daily experiences from work to play. And simply telling someone “Don’t worry” can amplify the anxiety because it is possible that’s what they were told just before their worst nightmare became a reality.

Anxiety can make someone feel like they are living on the edge of their seat. It is stressful to even think about relaxing when emotionally living on edge becomes their setpoint. And not being able to sit back and enjoy things means their body and brain are working overtime. This can lead to physical exhaustion and burnout.

Anxious thoughts, such as self-doubt, are in a constant loop within the anxiety-ridden mind. The anxious person can’t simply override those thoughts of self-doubt with a simple thought because fear is often their baseline. When a non-anxious person has a feeling of insecurity, a simple mantra or reassurance from a friend saying “You got this” can quickly transform them into believing they can handle the stress. However, for the anxious person, there is a fear that the mantra won’t work or the friend isn’t being truthful; it is more challenging to shift the mindset.

Anxious people can feel like they’re frauds. Since faking it until you make it has become their mode of operating in both personal and professional settings, the anxious person can feel like they’re not their authentic self. They’ve spent years covering up their angst and believe if someone knew how severe their suffering was it would eliminate them from certain career advancements or the social invitations would cease.

Anxiety Essential Reads

Anxiety can make someone feel they’re never good enough. Despite positive feedback from others or even external evidence (multiple awards, titles, raises), the anxious person can feel at any moment their deep level of insecurity will be discovered and their relationships (personal, professional, social) will end. They will often work to overcompensate for their perceived lack of not fitting in by wearing the “right outfits” or purchasing or saying things to make it look like they’re part of a community.

The anxious person’s mind isn’t eased through a simple mindset shift; they often need professional mental health services. And reaching out for this help is one of the ways to begin to calm the worried mind and body.

School anxiety: Causes, symptoms, and management – Medical News Today

School anxiety is a condition that can affect students of all ages. It manifests as an excessive fear of school and the activities associated with it, such as making friends, speaking in public, or taking tests.

Anxiety surrounding school is common and can affect any child, regardless of age, grade level, or academic achievement. For some students, it is so severe that it interferes with their ability to learn and function at school.

This article looks at school anxiety in more detail, including the causes, symptoms, and treatment.

School anxiety involves fear and worry about going to school. Doctors may also refer to it as school phobia or school refusal.

Although it is not uncommon for children to feel some anxiety about starting school or going to a new school, children with school anxiety feel an extreme amount of fear and worry regarding everyday attendance. This can interfere with their ability to go to classes or do well in school.

School refusal is not a recognized mental health diagnosis. However, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) notes that this symptom can have an association with several other diagnoses, including:

School refusal can be a challenge for parents or caregivers, as well as teachers and school administrators. It is sometimes difficult to manage and may require a team approach.

However, it is important to take steps to address it early on, as it can have significant effects on the child’s social, emotional, and educational development. Also, the longer a child is out of school, the harder it is for them to return.

Mental health professionals do not completely understand the causes of school anxiety. For some children, the fear and worry associated with school anxiety are related to a specific cause, such as being bullied or having a bad experience at school. For others, the anxiety may be more general and related to social or performance anxiety.

Children may develop anxiety if they have been home for a long period, such as during summer vacation or because of illness. A stressful event, such as the death of a family member or moving to a new home, may also trigger the condition.

The symptoms of school anxiety can vary, and they may be physical, emotional, or behavioral.

Physical symptoms may include:

  • stomachaches
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • rapid heartbeat
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating

Emotional symptoms may include:

  • fearfulness
  • worry
  • irritability
  • sadness

Behavioral symptoms may include:

  • refusing to go to school or attend class
  • missing school frequently
  • having temper tantrums
  • having crying spells
  • claiming to be sick to try to stay at home

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating school anxiety, and the best strategy may depend on the severity of the symptoms and the underlying causes.

Mental health professionals may use a combination of psychotherapy, educational support, and medications to treat school anxiety. Therefore, a collaborative team approach that involves the child, their parents or caregivers, school personnel, and mental health professionals is often necessary.

The first step in treatment is often to meet with the child’s school personnel to develop a plan. This may include making adjustments to the child’s schedule, providing support in the classroom, or involving the child in social activities outside of school.

It is also important for parents and caregivers to provide support to children with school anxiety. This support may take the form of:

  • talking with the child about their anxiety and fears
  • helping the child develop healthy coping mechanisms
  • modeling positive behavior
  • teaching the child relaxation techniques
  • staying involved in the child’s education

Parents and caregivers should also avoid reacting to the child’s anxiety in a way that reinforces it. This means avoiding arguments, bribes, or threats.

If the child is not responding well to these measures, the mental health professional may recommend psychotherapy. Prescription medications are usually a last resort if other treatments have been ineffective.


These methods include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is a treatment for anxiety disorders. CBT can teach children how to identify and change unhelpful thinking patterns and behaviors to help them cope with their fears. It may take place individually or in a group setting.

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is another type of psychotherapy that may help with anxiety and school refusal. DBT emphasizes mindfulness and acceptance, as well as change. It can teach children how to cope with stressful situations in a more helpful way.

Mental health professionals may also recommend exposure-response therapy (ERP). ERP focuses on helping children face their fears in a gradual and controlled way. This approach can help them become less afraid of attending school.


If other treatment does not work, a mental health professional may prescribe medication. The most common type of medication for anxiety is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs increase the levels of serotonin in the brain, which helps improve mood and reduce anxiety.

Mental health professionals may prescribe benzodiazepines for children with severe school anxiety. However, these drugs are only suitable for short-term use because they carry the risk of side effects, such as sedation and issues with thinking and memory. Long-term use can also lead to tolerance, dependence, and other adverse effects.

It is crucial to seek professional help if a child is missing school frequently or refusing to go to school. School refusal can hurt the child’s education and social development, and it becomes more difficult to treat over time.

It is also important to seek help from a mental health professional if the child’s anxiety is causing significant distress or interfering with daily life. Untreated anxiety can lead to other problems, such as depression, substance use disorders, and social isolation.

Students may experience school anxiety for various reasons. Some children feel anxious about tests, while others worry about social interactions or leaving home.

The anxiety can trigger various symptoms, such as a racing heart, sweating, or difficulty breathing. Children may also refuse to go to school or have temper tantrums.

The treatment for school anxiety may include making adjustments at school, providing support at home, and involving the child in psychotherapy or exposure therapy. Mental health professionals may also prescribe medications in severe cases.

It is important to seek professional help if a child’s anxiety causes distress. Over time, it becomes more difficult to treat and can have lasting effects.

Travel anxiety: Causes, symptoms, and treatment – Medical News Today

People may feel anxious about traveling for various reasons. For example, the stress of planning a journey, traveling in enclosed planes or trains, or visiting new, unfamiliar places can lead to anxiety symptoms.

Although travel anxiety is not an officially diagnosed mental health issue, it can be severe enough to interfere with the lives of some individuals. They may be unable to see family and friends, go on vacation, or travel for work.

This article looks at travel anxiety and how a person can overcome it.

Some people may experience travel anxiety because of negative past travel experiences or because they have an anxiety disorder. Travel anxiety may relate to specific activities, such as driving or flying. It can also involve a general fear of crowds, being unable to leave a space, or the unknown.

People who have had negative experiences while traveling may become concerned these could recur. However, experts report that most driving anxiety is unrelated to previous accidents.

Other circumstances that may trigger travel anxiety include:

  • driving through storms, snow, or other bad weather
  • experiencing a panic attack
  • getting lost while driving or looking for connecting buses
  • experiencing road rage

If someone has an anxiety disorder, they could experience symptoms while traveling. For example, research from 2017 suggests people with generalized anxiety disorder may have difficulty concentrating while driving or making other decisions during travel. As a result, they may feel less than confident.

According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, many people who fear flying or being on other forms of transport are living with claustrophobia. They may become extremely anxious if stuck in traffic or locked onto a plane or train. In people with a phobia of flying, more than 90% of the fear is that they will become overwhelmed with anxiety during the flight.

Additionally, the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as a racing heartbeat and sweating, can cause someone to think they might lose control while driving or worry about what people surrounding them may think. This, in turn, can worsen anxiety and fear of traveling.

A person with travel anxiety may experience symptoms throughout the travel process or at specific points during it. For example, booking travel tickets for an upcoming journey may trigger anxiety in some people, while others may be calm until the journey begins and then begin to feel anxious.

Symptoms a person may experience include:

  • sleeping problems leading up to the travel date
  • being unable to control feelings of worry and concern about traveling
  • feeling restless or on edge while in airports or train stations
  • being irritable and short-tempered
  • having panic attacks, which may cause a racing heart, sweating, and feelings of being out of control
  • feelings of being self-conscious and that people are judging them

Some people may only have mild symptoms of travel anxiety that do not significantly impact their lives, or it may be a one-off experience. However, this kind of anxiety can be more severe and debilitating for others, making it hard to leave home or even make short journeys.

Various techniques can help manage and treat different levels of travel anxiety. These include therapy, lifestyle changes, planning, and medication.


Psychotherapy is also called talk therapy. Several types of psychotherapy can help people identify and change emotions, thoughts, and behaviors surrounding travel that trigger anxiety.

People can ask a doctor about cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling, or mindfulness techniques.

Additionally, research suggests that exposure therapy is the treatment of choice for specific phobias. Otherwise known as desensitization therapy, this involves exposing someone to their phobia in a safe and controlled environment to help them overcome fear and anxiety.

For example, a 2020 study used virtual reality exposure in 14 individuals with a fear of driving. Following the therapy, participants successfully mastered driving tasks they had previously avoided.

Lifestyle changes

People can also make lifestyle changes to help them cope with travel anxiety. The Anxiety Disorders Association of America suggests the following strategies to cope with generalized feelings of anxiety:

  • living a full, active life
  • eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • talking with a trusted person about anxious feelings
  • keeping a journal of anxiety triggers
  • avoiding caffeine or low blood sugar, which can trigger anxiety in some people


People may experience travel anxiety because of the unknown. For example, they may wonder what would happen if they ran out of money, got lost, or became ill. Having a plan in place for worst-case scenarios may help ease these fears.

Although it is impossible to plan for every eventuality, having a general plan can make people feel more in control and less anxious about traveling.

People may be able to ease their anxiety by:

  • making copies of important documents such as passports and driver’s licenses and keeping them in a separate place from the originals
  • taking a credit card for emergencies
  • researching the area and carrying a small paper map or guidebook
  • purchasing health insurance and knowing where to find local hospitals and doctors
  • telling friends and family about travel plans
  • packing snacks and water to avoid getting hungry or dehydrated
  • taking enough medication to last for the trip


If the above measures are not enough to ease travel anxiety, some medications can help. If an individual has long-term anxiety problems, their doctor may suggest a type of antidepressant called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. A 2017 study found these medications are most effective for long-term anxiety treatment.

A doctor may also suggest a benzodiazepine such as lorazepam to provide short-term, immediate relief from panic attacks. People may find that they feel less anxious purely by carrying this medication with them.

Feeling anxiety when faced with new or unfamiliar situations is natural. However, if the anxiety is disruptive and prevents someone from living their life fully, they should speak with a doctor.

Generally, anxiety is not a dangerous condition, but a doctor can rule out any other health problems that could be causing the symptoms. They can also advise a person on appropriate treatments to prevent anxiety from worsening.

People with travel anxiety may experience unease, a rapid heart rate, or sweating while traveling. They may feel anxious while taking certain forms of transportation, being in an unfamiliar place, or experiencing the unknown.

Although it is normal to feel anxious when faced with unfamiliar situations such as traveling, an individual should speak with a doctor if they find that anxiety is restricting their life.

Doctors may recommend lifestyle changes, planning, therapy, or medication to help ease symptoms.

How to Cope With Climate Anxiety, According to Experts – Self

Most people, Davenport says, don’t experience persistent and paralyzing anxiety but are instead triggered occasionally by climate news or events. “Most feelings tend to come and go,” she explains.

Anxiety is a normal and healthy emotion, but it becomes a problem when it significantly starts to impair your ability to simply live your daily life or causes serious symptoms such as chronic sleep problems or panic attacks, say Davenport and Doherty.

Climate anxiety will hit certain people harder than others.

Although there’s little data on climate anxiety, the highest levels are thought to occur among people in their early teens through their 20s, says Davenport. “It’s a natural time to be looking into your future,” she says. People who have previously been diagnosed with depression or anxiety may be more likely to experience climate change anxiety, Doherty says, as well as climate scientists and activists due to the nature of their work.

People who have been personally affected by climate change are at increased risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression as well. “For some front-line groups around the world, the issue is not anxiety about potential threats—it’s facing clear and present dangers. That’s a different set of emotions,” says Doherty.

A 2021 report published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that climate change disproportionately impacts marginalized communities, who are more likely to live in flood-prone areas, in urban areas subject to intense heat waves, or near sources of pollution such as factories. This includes people of color, people with low incomes, as well as disabled and houseless people. Because many Indigenous people consider plant and animal life as sentient relatives who are part of our origin stories as a people, they may grieve more intensely when these beings start to disappear in their communities, Kailea Frederick, a climate justice organizer at the Indigenous-led NDN Collective, tells SELF. 

“Over and over again with climate change, we see people with fewest resources to cope with disasters are getting hit the hardest,” Kristina Dahl, PhD, a principal climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, tells SELF.

Frederick says that this disproportionate impact “traces back to racist policies and the idea that these communities are dispensable.” She adds that it’s critical to create visibility around the implications that climate change has on everyone’s mental health. “We are in a mental health crisis, and our youth specifically are suffering as they consider a future that is hardly livable,” she says. “These are the people who during large weather events have nowhere to go to shelter through the storm, or are forced to work in unhealthy conditions, or are dealing with the need for relocation of entire communities because of sea-level rise, and must contend with the compounding effects of environmental and climate injustice.”

Disabled people and seniors, for example, haven’t been able to heed alarm systems during wildfires and are left behind during evacuations. Houseless people, who are among the most vulnerable to climate events like flooding, high heat, and smoke exposure, are facing even more anxiety as the pandemic has accelerated an already severe housing crisis. And low-income workers, such as delivery, sanitation, construction, and farm workers, are more exposed to these environmental risks as well, sometimes resulting in deadly consequences.

How to cope with climate anxiety

Davenport says there are two keys to coping with climate anxiety: learning self-soothing techniques and empowering yourself with a climate change action plan.

Saying “No” More Often Slashes Anxiety, Experts Say — Best Life – Best Life

If you suffer from anxiety, you’re probably all too familiar with its physical effects. Tense muscles, shallow breathing, dry mouth, and a rapid heartbeat are just a few common symptoms, and the ones I most often notice in myself. (Is anyone else holding their breath right now, while you’re reading this?)

Searching for ways to ease my own anxiety, I spoke with two different experts about my symptoms. Their advice? Saying one simple word more often could make a world of difference when it comes to my stress level. Read on to find out what that word is, why it helps—and why saying it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

READ THIS NEXT: Never Ignore Pain in This One Body Part, Experts Warn.

Upset stressed young Black man
fizkes / Shutterstock

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that more than 40 million adults in the U.S. are dealing with anxiety disorders. That’s almost 20 percent of the population—so if you’re one of them, you’re far from alone. (And that’s not even counting all those who feel anxious from time to time but have not been officially diagnosed with a disorder.)

While anxiety manifests differently in everyone—generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobias are a few of the conditions that fall under the umbrella of “anxiety”—it’s characterized by a “persistent, excessive fear or worry in situations that are not threatening,” according to the experts at NAMI. And although anti-anxiety medication is helpful to many people, especially during a panic attack, certain changes in lifestyle can aid in managing an anxiety disorder and lessening its impact on your body.

stressed Asian business woman tired from overworked sitting at office desk with note on face
Doucefleur / Shutterstock

Between work, kids, household chores, keeping up with family and friends, and trying to squeeze in a little time for myself (my yoga practice fell by the wayside during the pandemic), it seems like there are never enough hours in the day for all the things I want to do. As a result, overwhelmed and anxious has become a way of life for me—and I know I’m not alone.

“Many people are motivated to try things or take on projects and activities because of a perceived fear of loss,” says Bill Hudenko, PhD, Global Head of Mental Health at K Health. “We worry that opportunities may not present themselves again, or that we will lose some critical advantage because we did not fully participate in life.”

This resonated with me—my FOMO, or “fear of missing out”—is ever-present (and goes hand-in-hand with my life motto, YOLO, or “you only live once”). Whether it’s serving on a committee at my kids’ school, organizing a birthday party for a friend, or attending an optional event for work, it’s hard for me to say no.

woman having a panic attack in public
Tero Vesalainen / Shutterstock

“In general, FOMO is the result of anxiety,” Hudenko explains. “I like to encourage clients to live life fully and to experience the world—but I think it’s important to do it for the right reason.”

And how do we know what those “right reasons” are? “The key is to live a life of approach, not of avoidance,” says Hudenko. “If you’re living life fully to experience as much joy as you can, you’ll likely be happy. If you’re trying to live life fully because you’re afraid of losing out, it will likely increase your anxiety and make you feel like you’re never experiencing as much as you can or should.”

In other words, if I’m exhausted from a long week at work and my sofa and TV with all its streaming services is calling to me, I’m better off turning down an invitation to go make pizza at my friend’s house, rather than forcing myself to show up, acting grouchy while I’m there, and later resenting them for asking me over in the first place.

“Increased anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, changes in appetite, or increased irritability are all signs you are overextended,” says Angeleena May, LMHC and Executive Director for AMFM Healthcare.

Woman with children experiencing anxiety and stress at home

All of the symptoms May listed feel familiar to me: anxiety, insomnia, irritability, disappearing appetite. And when I told her that doing less doesn’t feel like a viable option, she wasn’t surprised. “Women are often seen as caregivers in our society and therefore feel more obligation… including putting others needs above their own at the sacrifice of their mental health,” she said.

To make it even more complicated, we often pat ourselves on the back for doing too much. “There is a false stigma in our society that being busy and stressed is a badge of honor, which is perpetuated by praising of poor boundaries and overextending ourselves,” May explained.

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young Black woman wearing orange sweater holding up her hand to say "no"

What’s the answer? “Be realistic about your own capacity and recognize the signs when you are overextended,” May said. For me, that means saying “no” far more often when I find myself struggling to sleep, eat, and even breathe—and I’ve been trying my best to put that into practice.

Whether it’s a night out with friends or helping out a family member, saying no isn’t easy. But the more I do it, the more comfortable I get with it—and the less anxious I feel. In fact, I did turn down a recent pizza-making invitation, and while my friend’s feelings may have been hurt, I knew I’d done the right thing for myself—and in the end, he understood.

“Holding boundaries and saying ‘no’ increases self confidence and overall mental health,” explains May. With that in mind, I try to take a few extra beats these days before agreeing to attend parties, serve on committees, or do anything that required effort outside of what is strictly necessary.

If you’re struggling with anxiety, I wholeheartedly recommend saying “no” to the next thing someone tries to put on your plate. (It might just let you relax enough to actually eat what’s on your plate when you sit down to dinner.)

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Anxiety: This One-Minute Exercise Could Help You Beat Morning Anxiety For Good – GLAMOUR UK

In an extract from his book, How To Be Your Own Therapist, psychotherapist Owen O’Kane shares an empowering technique for dealing with morning anxiety.

Have you ever had one of those days where you’ve rushed out of the house already late for an appointment looking like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards, with your jumper on inside out and just blindly hoping you’ve got your phone, wallet and keys with you? Apart from looking like you’ve just been on a motorbike without a helmet, you also notice that your mind is racing. Everything feels frantic, chaotic and imbalanced. You’re not set up for the day and consequently the remainder of the day landslides into what can best be described as a pile of crap. We all have them.

Next time you’re on a morning train or bus, or in traffic, observe how frazzled everyone looks. But it doesn’t have to be this way. One of most common misconceptions that exists around therapy is that it’s a once-a-week chat, and that’s it. Job done. But therapy is a way of life, and it needs to be so because life throws new challenges at you all the time. Once you’ve mastered the skill of navigating your way along life’s twists and turns, you’ll feel truly empowered.

Your few minutes of daily self-therapy is a mix of proactive and reactive techniques that will help restore a sense of balance. Here’s a one-minute exercise that could transform how you start your day:

One minute exercise: grounding

Being ready for your day involves grounding. By this I mean steadying your mind and body. Although this is a short grounding minute, you are free to stay with this exercise longer if you would like to and if time allows.

As you know from your foundation work, your mind is often incredibly busy with lots of thoughts (many of them unhelpful). A busy mind creates stress, and when you’re stressed, your body creates more cortisol. This leads to a strong sympathetic nervous system response. That is, your mind and body flip into ‘threat mode’: they expect danger or harm, so are primed for action. This leads to both  a physiological and hormonal reaction that leaves you feeling jittery or on edge.

When you start the day slowing down this process, you send a message to the brain informing it that it doesn’t need to be in ‘threat mode’ all the time. This helps deactivate the flurry of activity that we know as stress or anxiety.

There are many grounding techniques that people use to quieten the mind and relax the body. If you have a particular one that works for you, then use it. For those new to the concept of grounding I am going to use what I consider to be one of the most effective grounding techniques. I use this technique regularly with clients and I’ve mentioned it before in my previous books.

How to ground

I want to start by stating that grounding takes practice, but once you’ve done it a few times and gotten the hang of it, it will make sense. I encourage you to use the same routine every day, as this part of the self-therapy process will become your safe place. Remain seated with your eyes closed and follow these three steps:

Why anxiety is often overlooked in men – The Atlanta Journal Constitution

ExploreHow Mother Nature can help reduce your anxiety

The roles society places on men can inhibit them from seeking help and treating their mental illnesses.

“The big part of (men not seeking help for anxiety) is this social construct of the gender role that we have assigned to when boys and girls are very young: that boys don’t cry, they don’t ask for help, they’re strong, they can withstand anything.” said internist Tooba A. Kazmi, M.D., attending physician and director of pulmonary SDU at Yale New Haven Hospital.

Kazmi said people should not perceive anxiety or any other mental illness as a sign of weakness. To tackle that misconception, realize that you are not alone. One in five American adults has had a mental health issue, which means someone in your family or close circle could have.

Fogleman notes the stereotypes in the media often portray therapists asking patients about their feelings. However, when men aren’t accustomed to talking about how they feel, this stereotype may push them away from seeking help.

“We are trained to meet people where they’re at and to make it individually tailored and suited to that person’s interests. So, it’s important there’s so much openness and flexibility into making therapy fit for that person,” Fogleman said.

ExploreHere’s how to handle workplace anxiety

How to help men seek care

Broaching the subject to a loved one who may struggle with a mental illness can be difficult. Fogleman recommended you gently point out the changes you notice in their behavior. Avoid labeling them with a mental disorder. Instead, show concern and create a space in which they can feel comfortable to express themselves. Then you can redirect them to seek help.

“There’s a good chance that even if it’s not current, (anxiety) can show up in somebody that we love or know and care about.” Fogleman said. “(Don’t) be afraid of these conversations that so many folks go through and at some point, in your own life, you may go through them yourself. And it will feel really good to open that door and realize that it doesn’t have to stay closed.”

“There are 100 to 200 emotions that we can as human beings experience, but if you ask people, they have two words for emotions, ‘I feel good, and I feel bad,’” Kazmi said. “A part of knowing whether I am anxious — and this is true for men and women — is identifying what really anxiety is. The eye doesn’t see what the mind doesn’t know.”

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