The Age of Algorithmic Anxiety – The New Yorker

Late last year, Valerie Peter, a twenty-three-year-old student in Manchester, England, realized that she had an online-shopping problem. It was more about what she was buying than how much. A fashion trend of fuzzy leg warmers had infiltrated Peter’s social-media feeds—her TikTok For You tab, her Instagram Explore page, her Pinterest recommendations. She’d always considered leg warmers “ugly, hideous, ridiculous,” she told me recently, and yet soon enough she “somehow magically ended up with a pair of them,” which she bought online at the push of a button, on an almost subconscious whim. (She wore them only a few times. “They’re in the back of my closet,” she said.) The same thing later happened with Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry, after a cast member on the U.K. reality show “Love Island” wore a necklace from the brand onscreen. Van Cleef’s Art Nouveau-ish flower bracelets made their way onto Peter’s TikTok feed, and she found herself browsing the brand’s products. The bombardment made her question: “Is this me? Is this my style?” she said.

In her confusion, Peter wrote an e-mail seeking advice from Rachel Tashjian, a fashion critic who writes a popular newsletter called “Opulent Tips.” “I’ve been on the internet for the last 10 years and I don’t know if I like what I like or what an algorithm wants me to like,” Peter wrote. She’d come to see social networks’ algorithmic recommendations as a kind of psychic intrusion, surreptitiously reshaping what she’s shown online and, thus, her understanding of her own inclinations and tastes. “I want things I truly like not what is being lowkey marketed to me,” her letter continued.

Of course, consumers have always been the targets of manipulative advertising. A ubiquitous billboard ad or TV commercial can worm its way into your brain, making you think you need to buy, say, a new piece of video-enabled exercise equipment immediately. But social networks have always purported to show us things that we like—things that we might have organically gravitated to ourselves. Why, then, can it feel as though the entire ecosystem of content that we interact with online has been engineered to influence us in ways that we can’t quite parse, and that have only a distant relationship to our own authentic preferences? No one brand was promoting leg warmers to Peter. No single piece of sponcon was responsible for selling her Van Cleef jewelry. Rather, “the algorithm”—that vague, shadowy, inhuman entity she referenced in her e-mail—had decided that leg warmers and jewelry were what she was going to see.

Peter’s dilemma brought to my mind a term that has been used, in recent years, to describe the modern Internet user’s feeling that she must constantly contend with machine estimations of her desires: algorithmic anxiety. Besieged by automated recommendations, we are left to guess exactly how they are influencing us, feeling in some moments misperceived or misled and in other moments clocked with eerie precision. At times, the computer sometimes seems more in control of our choices than we are.

An algorithm, in mathematics, is simply a set of steps used to perform a calculation, whether it’s the formula for the area of a triangle or the lines of a complex proof. But when we talk about algorithms online we’re usually referring to what developers call “recommender systems,” which have been employed since the advent of personal computing to help users index and sort floods of digital content. In 1992, engineers at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center built an algorithmic system called Tapestry to rate incoming e-mails by relevance, using factors such as who else had opened a message and how they’d reacted to it (a.k.a. “collaborative filtering”). Two years later, researchers at the M.I.T. Media Lab built Ringo, a music-recommendation system that worked by comparing users’ tastes with others who liked similar musicians. (They called it “social-information filtering.”) Google’s original search tool, from 1998, was driven by PageRank, an early algorithm for measuring the relative importance of a Web page.

Only in the middle of the past decade, though, did recommender systems become a pervasive part of life online. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all shifted away from chronological feeds—showing messages in the order in which they were posted—toward more algorithmically sequenced ones, displaying what the platforms determined would be most engaging to the user. Spotify and Netflix introduced personalized interfaces that sought to cater to each user’s tastes. (Top Picks for Kyle!) Such changes made platforms feel less predictable and less transparent. What you saw was never quite the same as what anyone else was seeing. You couldn’t count on a feed to work the same way from one month to the next. Just last week, Facebook implemented a new default Home tab on its app that prioritizes recommended content in the vein of TikTok, its main competitor.

Almost every other major Internet platform makes use of some form of algorithmic recommendation. Google Maps calculates driving routes using unspecified variables, including predicted traffic patterns and fuel efficiency, rerouting us mid-journey in ways that may be more convenient or may lead us astray. The food-delivery app Seamless front-loads menu items that it predicts you might like based on your recent ordering habits, the time of day, and what is “popular near you.” E-mail and text-message systems supply predictions for what you’re about to type. (“Got it!”) It can feel as though every app is trying to guess what you want before your brain has time to come up with its own answer, like an obnoxious party guest who finishes your sentences as you speak them. We are constantly negotiating with the pesky figure of the algorithm, unsure how we would have behaved if we’d been left to our own devices. No wonder we are made anxious. In a recent essay for Pitchfork, Jeremy D. Larson described a nagging feeling that Spotify’s algorithmic recommendations and automated playlists were draining the joy from listening to music by short-circuiting the process of organic discovery: “Even though it has all the music I’ve ever wanted, none of it feels necessarily rewarding, emotional, or personal.”

Scholars have come up with various terms to define our fitful relationship with algorithmic technology. In a 2017 paper, Taina Bucher, a professor at the University of Oslo, collected aggrieved tweets about Facebook’s feed as a record of what she called an emerging “algorithmic imaginary.” One user wondered why her searches for a baby-shower gift had seemingly prompted ads for pregnancy-tracking apps. A musician was frustrated that his posts sharing new songs were getting little attention, despite his best attempts to optimize for promotion by, say, including exclamatory phrases such as “Wow!” There was a “structure of feeling” developing around the algorithm, Bucher told me, adding, “People were noticing that there was something about these systems that had an impact on their lives.” Around the same time, Tarleton Gillespie, an academic who works for Microsoft’s research subsidiary, described how users were learning to shape what they posted to maximize their “algorithmic recognizability,” an effort that he compared to a speaker “turning toward the microphone” to amplify her voice. Content lived or died by S.E.O., or search-engine optimization, and those who learned to exploit its rules acquired special powers. Gillespie cites, as an example, when the advice columnist Dan Savage mounted a successful campaign, in 2003, to overwhelm the Google search results for Rick Santorum, the right-wing senator, with a vulgar sexual neologism.

“Algorithmic anxiety,” however, is the most apt phrase I’ve found for describing the unsettling experience of navigating today’s online platforms. Shagun Jhaver, a scholar of social computing, helped define the phrase while conducting research and interviews in collaboration with Airbnb in 2018. Of fifteen hosts he spoke to, most worried about where their listings were appearing in users’ search results. They felt “uncertainty about how Airbnb algorithms work and a perceived lack of control,” Jhaver reported in a paper co-written with two Airbnb employees. One host told Jhaver, “Lots of listings that are worse than mine are in higher positions.” On top of trying to boost their rankings by repainting walls, replacing furniture, or taking more flattering photos, the hosts also developed what Jhaver called “folk theories” about how the algorithm worked. They would log on to Airbnb repeatedly throughout the day or constantly update their unit’s availability, suspecting that doing so would help get them noticed by the algorithm. Some inaccurately marked their listings as “child safe,” in the belief that it would give them a bump. (According to Jhaver, Airbnb couldn’t confirm that it had any effect.) Jhaver came to see the Airbnb hosts as workers being overseen by a computer overlord instead of human managers. In order to make a living, they had to guess what their capricious boss wanted, and the anxious guesswork may have made the system less efficient over all.

The Airbnb hosts’ concerns were rooted in the challenges of selling a product online, but I’m most interested in the similar feelings that plague those, like Valerie Peter, who are trying to figure out what to consume. To that end, I recently sent out a survey about algorithms to my online friends and followers; the responses I received, from more than a hundred people, formed a catalogue of algorithmic anxieties. Answering a question about “odd run-ins” with automated recommendations, one user reported that, after he became single, Instagram began recommending the accounts of models, and another had been mystified to see the Soundgarden song “Black Hole Sun” pop up on every platform at once. Many complained that algorithmic recommendations seemed to crudely simplify their tastes, offering “worse versions of things I like that have certain superficial similarities,” as one person put it. All but five answered “yes” to the question, “Has ‘the algorithm,’ or algorithmic feeds, taken up more of your online experience over the years?” One wrote that the problem had become so pervasive that they’d “stopped caring,” but only because they “didn’t want to live with anxiety.”

Patricia de Vries, a research professor at Gerrit Rietveld Academie who has written about algorithmic anxiety, told me, “Just as the fear of heights is not about heights, algorithmic anxiety is not simply about algorithms.” Algorithms would not have the power they have without the floods of data that we voluntarily produce on sites that exploit our identities and preferences for profit. When an ad for bras or mattresses follows us around the Internet, the culprit is not just the recommendation algorithm but the entire business model of ad-based social media that billions of people participate in every day. When we talk about “the algorithm,” we might be conflating recommender systems with online surveillance, monopolization, and the digital platforms’ takeover of all of our leisure time—in other words, with the entire extractive technology industry of the twenty-first century. Bucher told me that the idea of the algorithm is “a proxy for technology, and people’s relationships to the machine.” It has become a metaphor for the ultimate digital Other, a representation of all of our uneasiness with online life.

Users can’t be blamed for misunderstanding the limits of algorithms, because tech companies have gone out of their way to keep their systems opaque, both to manage user behavior and to prevent trade secrets from being leaked to competitors or co-opted by bots. Krishna Gade took a job at Facebook just after the 2016 election, working to improve news-feed quality. While there, he developed a feature, called “Why am I seeing this post?,” that allowed a user to click a button on any item that appeared in her Facebook feed and see some of the algorithmic variables that had caused the item to appear. A dog photo might be in her feed, for example, because she “commented on posts with photos more than other media types” and because she belonged to a group called Woofers & Puppers. Gade told me that he saw the feature as fostering a sense of transparency and trust. “I think users should be given the rights to ask for what’s going on,” he said. At the least, it offered users a striking glimpse of how the recommender system perceived them. Yet today, on Facebook’s Web site, the “Why am I seeing this post?” button is available only for ads. On the app it’s included for non-ad posts, too, but, when I tried it recently on a handful of posts, most said only that they were “popular compared to other posts you’ve seen.”

In the absence of reliable transparency, many of us have devised home remedies for managing the algorithm’s influence. Like the Airbnb hosts, we adopt hacks that we hope might garner us promotion on social media, like a brief trend, some years ago, of users prefacing their Facebook posts with fake engagement or wedding announcements. We try to teach recommender systems our preferences by thumbs-downing films we don’t like on Netflix or flipping quickly past unwanted TikTok videos. It doesn’t always work. Valerie Peter recalled that, after she followed a bunch of astrology-focussed accounts on Twitter, her feed began recommending a deluge of astrological content. Her interest in the subject quickly faded—“I began fearing for my life every time Mercury was in retrograde,” she said—but Twitter kept pushing related content. The site has a button that users can hit to signal that they are “Not interested in this Tweet,” appended with a sad-face emoji, but when Peter tried it she found that Twitter’s suggested alternatives were astrology-related, too. “I’ve been trying for a month or two now, but I keep seeing them,” she said. The algorithm gathers information and silently makes decisions for us, but offers little opportunity to communicate back. In the midst of my work on this piece, Gmail’s sorting algorithm decided that an e-mail of fact-checking materials I’d sent to my editor was spam and disappeared it from my “Sent” folder, something I’d never previously experienced and would prefer not to have happen again.

Lately, I have been drawn toward corners of the Internet that are not governed by algorithmic recommendations. I signed up for Glass, a photo-sharing app that caters to professional photographers but is open to anyone. My feed there is quiet, pristine, and entirely chronological, featuring mostly black-and-white city snapshots and wide color landscapes, a mix reminiscent of the early days of Flickr (even if the predominant aesthetic of photography today has been shaped by iPhone-camera-optimization algorithms). I can’t imagine having such a pleasant experience these days on Instagram, where my feed has been overtaken by irritating recommended videos as the platform attempts to mimic TikTok. (Why does the algorithm think I like watching motorcycle stunts?) The only problem with Glass is that there isn’t enough content for me to see, because my friends haven’t joined yet. The gravitational pull of the major social networks is hard to overcome. Since Twitter did away with the desktop version of TweetDeck, which I had used to access a chronological version of my feed, I’ve been relying more on Discord, where my friends gather in chat rooms to swap personal recommendations and news items. But the reality is that much of what I encounter on Discord has been curated from the feeds of traditional platforms. These new spaces on the Internet are a buffer to the influence of algorithms, not a blockade.

In Tashjian’s newsletter, she advised Peter to explore her own tastes outside of social-media feeds. “You have to adopt a rabbithole mentality! Read the footnotes and let one footnote lead to another,” Tashjian wrote. Maybe you find a film that you like, she suggested, and watch all of that director’s other films. Maybe you discover that you want a nightgown and “find a pretty good imitation” of a great one on Etsy. Of course, so many exploratory paths through culture are mediated by algorithms, too. When I went to Etsy’s home page the other day, I was greeted with a display of automatically generated recommendations labelled “New items our editors love.” Perhaps owing to some quirk of my Internet browsing history, these included tote bags with German-language slogans and monogrammed travel mugs. Is there a human curator out there who actually loves these things? When they start popping up in my Instagram feed, will I learn to love them, too? You’d think the algorithm would know me better by now. ♦

3 unexpected benefits of stress and anxiety – Fast Company

For the past year, headlines about the Great Resignation have touted the role of stress, anxiety, and burnout as reasons for why such a large number of people have left their jobs in the wake of the pandemic. And long-term stress is bad for your health, morale, and engagement with others. But, that doesn’t mean that stress and anxiety are always bad.

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To that end, here are a few examples of when stress and anxiety can be good (even if it doesn’t feel good in the moment):

Vigilance in uncertain times

One common cause of anxiety is uncertainty. As I often point out, the brain is a prediction engine that wants to help you recognize the situation you’re in so you can bring your knowledge to bear on it. In many cases, though, you cannot predict what is going to happen next. It might reflect that the situation is one you have not encountered before. It might be that you are in a familiar context, but you have little or no control over the outcome.

One result of anxiety is that you pay more attention to the environment. Presumably, in our evolutionary history, this enabled early humans to detect the arrival of potential threats. These days, though, it raises awareness of additional factors that might help to predict what is going to happen.

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For example, you might pay more attention to a client when you are not sure if they will accept a proposal you offered. As a result of that focus, you may notice things they’re doing that enable you to be sensitive to their needs as they deliberate about whether to work with you.

An energizing force to deal with problems

You have probably noticed that when you’re anxious about something, you can’t sit still. That reflects that short-term stress and anxiety are energizing emotions. They are your body’s way of preparing you for action.

Although most work problems don’t require physical strength, they do require mental energy in order to put in the hours required to address the issue. The motivational lift that a little anxiety can provide can be harnessed as you get to work. Your energy may also engage your teammates to help dig in.

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Of course, you want to hit your energy sweet spot. Too little energy when you’re working on a project, and you won’t get much done. Too much eneergy, and you’re likely to have trouble concentrating. So, if you find that stress has you over-energized, do a little exercise, go out for a walk, or try some meditation to help you calm down a bit before doing any serious thinking.

The (occasional) benefits of rumination

Another common result of anxiety is rumination, which is a tendency to engage in a cycle of thoughts about the issue that is the source of the stress. Over the long term, rumination can magnify your stress, and so you definitely want to have strategies to help you stop ruminating when it is not productive.

However, if you’re dealing with a complex puzzle at work, then your tendency to chew over the details of the project can work to your advantage. Let yourself continue thinking about the issue. Rather than doing it aimlessly, though, start writing out what comes to mind. Use that to guide and focus your thoughts so that you can analyze the situation carefully. You’ll still feel some stress and anxiety while you’re thinking, but at least you’re using your energy to make progress.

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That said, if you don’t find a solution to the issue, you are likely to keep ruminating. At some point, you’ll find yourself treading the same ground repeatedly. At that point, rumination is no longer benefitting you; and it’s time to engage your strategies for refocusing your thoughts so you don’t slip from doing productive work to just maintaining your stress level. For example, when solitary time is focusing you on the object of your stress, it can be helpful to go meet with colleagues to talk about other projects.

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How common is Separation Anxiety Disorder in adults? Experts offer insights – Hindustan Times

With uncertainty and stress becoming a part of our daily lives, we often feel the anxiety creeping in about future and work. This further leads to a continuous spiral of thoughts, which often we are not able to come out of. Speaking to HT Lifestyle, Dr. Syed Zafar Sultan Rizvi, Assistant Professor, Dept. Of Psychology, SLA, Noida International Institute of Medical Sciences said, “Anxiety is arguably an emotion that exists since the evolution of man. Its ubiquity in humans, and its presence in a range of anxiety disorders, makes it an important clinical focus. Many therapeutic innervations use in treatments of anxiety disorders e.g. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), REBT, Client centered therapy etc.” He further noted down the types of anxiety disorders that are rampant in people.

ALSO READ: Psychologist on common habits of anxious people

Types:

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD): In which an adults have consistent irrational worries related to safety , finance, relationships, job etc . These may increase due to exposure of other stressful events.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): In which an adult has unnecessary thoughts that make them feel compelled to perform repetitive actions, habits or specific patterns related with objects.

Panic disorder: In which there are instant and sudden response of fear and anxiety after exposure of specific stimulus.

Social Anxiety Disorder: This comprises overwhelming worries related with his/her appearance and self-consciousness.

Speaking of Separation Anxiety Disorder, Dr Shambhavi Jaiman, Consultant Psychiatrist, Department of mental health and behavioural sciences, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram said, “Adults with separation anxiety have extreme fear that bad things will happen to important people in their lives, such as family members. The lifetime prevalence of social anxiety disorder in adults ranges from 3-13%. It is seen more commonly in females in comparison to males.”

Symptoms of Separation Anxiety Disorder:

This comprises of marked fear or anxiety in social situations which can include psychological or physical symptoms such as headache, palpitations, cold and clammy hands and feet. It also involves fear of being negatively evaluated, humiliated, embarrassed, rejected, further leading to avoidance of social situations.

Treatment:

There are a range of ways to cope up with social anxiety disorder. Most important way is by modifying lifestyle in terms of adequate physical exercise, adequate sleep and nutritious diet. Another way is through medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. “Separation anxiety disorder is usually treated with psychotherapy along with medication. Psychotherapy, called as talk therapy or psychological counselling, involves counselling with a therapist to reduce separation anxiety symptoms,” said Dr Shambhavi Jaiman.

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The Risk of Anxiety for Mothers and Daughters and for Fathers and Sons – Psychology Today

Sandy Millar/Unsplash

Source: Sandy Millar/Unsplash

Parents with anxiety disorders are often afraid of passing anxiety onto their children. Recent research examining anxiety transmission and sex of the parent and their offspring had some fascinating findings. Here are some of the takeaways:

  • Offspring are more likely to have an anxiety disorder if their parent of the same sex also has an anxiety disorder.
  • However, if the opposite-sex parent has an anxiety disorder, it does not increase the offspring’s risk of having an anxiety disorder.
  • On the other hand, when a child has a same-sex parent without anxiety, they have a reduced risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
  • Interestingly, having an opposite-sex parent without anxiety does not impact anxiety disorder risk in offspring.

Note that the study only looked at female and male-identified participants and did not consider other genders. Nor did it include transgender people or the impact of anxiety disorders in the offspring of same-sex couples.

The authors of this study concluded that genetics likely still play a role in the development of anxiety disorders, but possibly less so than other mental health concerns like bipolar disorder and psychosis. Instead, they emphasized the role of modeling and vicarious learning from a parent to their same-sex offspring.

What Do Modeling and Vicarious Learning Mean?

Modeling is what one person teaches another through their behaviors. For example, suppose a parent is afraid of having a panic attack while driving and avoids driving on freeways. They might be inadvertently teaching this fear to their child.

Vicarious learning is learning through the experience of others. In the panic attack example, when it is time for the child to learn to drive, they might be fearful of doing so after “learning” this fear response from their parent.

Children are like sponges, absorbing information from the world around them. This study indicates that cis-gendered kids with cis-gendered parents might identify more with a parent of their same sex. (Note: Cis-gendered means that someone’s gender identity corresponds with their birth sex.)

So, consider a parent who demonstrates anxious behaviors (e.g., expressing many worries, avoidance due to anxiety) and is the same sex as their child. In that case, the child might be more likely to “learn” that the world is dangerous than if their opposite-sex parent models those behaviors.

Oh No! Have I Affected My Child?

Rather than this research causing additional stress and anxiety to a parent with anxiety disorder, consider it an opportunity to take action. If you are a parent with anxiety struggles, here are some tips:

1. Have self-compassion. You didn’t ask to have anxiety issues, and it is not your fault that you have them. Even if you have modeled anxiety behaviors to your child, it is not the end of the world. Think of the positive ways you have parented your child, and remind yourself that no parent is perfect, anxiety problems or not.

2. It’s not too late to change. You can use your anxiety as an opportunity to teach your children positive coping skills.

Example #1: A parent has the urge to check the lock more times than necessary.

Unproductive Response: The parent rechecks the lock multiple times without saying anything. Or, they ask their child or partner for reassurance that they checked the lock (after they clearly checked it).

Productive Response Option 1: “I’m feeling anxious about whether or not I locked the door, but I’m almost positive that I already checked, so I’ll resist checking again.” This response is terrific because the parent is modeling how they are productively coping with their anxiety.

Productive Response Option 2: (to use when unable to resist the urge to check): “I’m feeling anxious about whether or not I locked the door and don’t feel comfortable leaving the house without checking it. However, I realize that it’s just my anxiety making me too worried, so moving forward, I will work on not checking more than I need to.” This response shows that the parent is not perfect (and gives the message that it is OK to have flaws) and that they have a growth mindset in terms of addressing their anxiety.

Note: If the parent can resist checking the lock without saying anything and keep their anxiety to themselves, that’s great too.

Example #2: The child indicates that they have a stomachache and headache.

Unproductive Response: The parent anxiously peppers the child with questions about their symptoms or frantically starts searching the internet to figure out what illness the child has.

Productive Response: “I’m sorry you aren’t feeling well.” If it seems warranted, tell them you will check with their doctor, or if it doesn’t seem urgent, tell them that you will wait until the next day to see how they are feeling.

3. Get some extra help. If you need some help managing your anxiety, now might be the time to find a therapist. There are also self-help books, videos, and apps that can be helpful in teaching strategies for managing anxiety. Just make sure they are from a credible source.

Anxiety Essential Reads

The Unknown About Anxiety Disorder Transmission

Although this study has shed some light on anxiety disorder transmission, there are still many questions left to be answered. For example, the study did not address same-sex relationships.

  • Would a daughter of two mothers, each with anxiety, have a greater risk of developing an anxiety disorder than a child with one mother with anxiety?
  • Or conversely, would a daughter with two mothers, each without anxiety, be more protected than just having one mother without it?
  • How about anxiety disorder transmission risks with a transgender child or a transgender parent?

Clearly, more research is needed in these areas. However, we know that it is important to be mindful of how we express our anxiety in front of our children. With this awareness, we can change how we model certain behaviors to them.

How to Support Someone With an Anxiety Disorder – Everyday Health

It’s not always easy to know how to support a friend or family member who has an anxiety disorder, especially if you’re worried that what you say or do might inadvertently make their anxiety worse.

Fear not: If someone has shared their struggles with you, it’s likely because they trust you. And that means just offering to sit with them and listen can be healing for your loved one.

“Friends and family are important in helping someone cope with an anxiety disorder mainly because they make the individual feel supported, accepted, and reassure them that they are not alone,” says Karol Darsa, PsyD, a trauma psychologist and the founder of the Reconnect Center, an integrative trauma treatment center in Los Angeles.

That support is especially meaningful given that, due to stigma, many anxiety-prone people don’t talk about their condition, which can make them feel isolated and increase their anxiety over the long-term.

“Anxiety is a real illness that, like many illnesses, can be treated. If we send signals that anxiety isn’t real or is not something that should be taken seriously, we run the risk of further stigmatizing the person, and that could lead them to avoid seeking care,” explains Benjamin F. Miller, PsyD, a primary care psychologist and an adjunct professor of psychiatry and public mental health and population sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.

If someone you care about has an anxiety disorder, here are some of the best ways you can support them, according to experts.

1. Validate Their Feelings by Letting Them Know It’s Okay Not to Be Okay

Many people with anxiety struggle with frequent worries or fears about the past or the future, and these thought patterns aren’t easy to change, Dr. Miller says.

“Don’t ignore their feelings no matter how much you don’t get it,” Miller advises. “Let your loved one know that it’s okay to feel however they feel. Validate them and their emotions. Being there means being there in a nonjudgmental way.”

2. Don’t Tell Them to Calm Down

It may sound like an innocent comment, but telling someone with anxiety to simply stop feeling what they’re feeling isn’t a good idea. Although the person you care about may seem fine on the outside, they’re likely experiencing immense distress, fear, and physical symptoms caused by anxiety like sweating or racing heartbeat, which all feel very real to them, Dr. Darsa says.

“If you use phrases like ‘Stop worrying,’ they can feel invalidated and misunderstood, which could have a negative consequence,” says Darsa. “Moreover, if they feel judged and invalidated, it may prevent them from seeking help or working on their anxiety struggles.”

Instead, simply say something like, “I’m here if you’d like to talk about what’s on your mind,” or “I see you’re feeling anxious. What can I do to help right now?”

3. Encourage Them to Focus on Things They Can Change

Often people with anxiety see small problems as massive, even insurmountable hurdles. To help them gain some insight and perspective, don’t deny their worries. Acknowledge that while they may not be able to control the whole situation, there likely are aspects of the situation they do have some control over.

“Have a conversation about what’s controllable and not,” suggests Miller. “Sometimes anxiety comes about because we try to control things that we just simply can’t. Having that conversation can allow them to process their feelings and [recognize] what they can or can’t do about their worries.”

4. Help Them to Help Themselves

Another way to support a loved one with anxiety is to educate yourself on effective coping tools and skills. That way you can “encourage them to use the tools when they are anxious,” Darsa says.

In this way, you are supporting them to help themselves become calmer in moments when they feel their anxiety is worsening.

For instance, you might teach them “grounding exercises” that help redirect their focus away from whatever is making them anxious back to the here and now.

One grounding exercise suggested by the University of Toledo Counseling Center is to focus on their immediate physical environment (the room they are in, for example) and then name:

  • Five things they see
  • Four things they feel (such as “chair on my back” or “feet on the floor”)
  • Three things they can hear
  • Two things they can smell
  • One good thing they can say about themself

In addition, if they’re willing to discuss their treatment options, you might encourage them to try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Administered by trained mental health professionals, CBT is geared toward helping people identify and change the negative thinking and behavioral patterns that make them vulnerable to significant anxiety.

CBT is considered an “evidence based” treatment because there is so much research showing it’s effective for anxiety disorders. In just one example, a study published in November 2019 in JAMA Psychiatry found that CBT treatment reduced symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder in the short term — and that the reduction in symptoms could still be seen within 12 months after participants completed treatment.

5. Discourage the Use of Alcohol or Drugs to Cope With Anxiety

It’s not uncommon for people with anxiety disorders to drink or use drugs to try to relieve their symptoms or take the edge off daily stressors. Experts at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) say that people with anxiety disorders are two to three times more likely than the general population to have an alcohol or other substance abuse disorder at some point in life.

For instance, people with social anxiety may turn to alcohol because they feel it lessens their anxiety, ADAA experts explain. But overdoing alcohol can have serious long-term consequences, including an additional mental health condition: alcohol use disorder.

If you’re concerned about your loved one’s alcohol or substance use, let them know what you’ve noticed in a gentle and nonjudgmental way, advises Miller.

“Talk about what’s going on (or not) and just listen,” he suggests. “People want to be heard and that may lead to more opportunities to address things like problem drinking.”

“If you notice a loved one using substances to cope with their anxiety, it’s important to encourage them to use healthier coping methods, such as mindfulness, meditation, exercise, or other forms of self-care,” adds Darsa.

And if you notice any symptoms of substance use disorders, per the Mayo Clinic, suggest that they reach out to their doctor or a mental health professional for help:

  • Feeling that you need to use a substance regularly to be able to function
  • Having problems at work or school
  • Having a desire for the substance that supersedes all other thoughts
  • Having trouble stopping drinking or using drugs
  • Having withdrawal symptoms if you stop using the substance
  • Needing more alcohol or drugs over time to get the same effect

Anxiety Tongue: Can Anxiety Cause a Tingling Tongue? – PsychCentral.com

Anxiety can cause tingling or numbness in your tongue as well as other changes in your mouth. You may need to talk with a health professional if you have these signs.

Anxiety may cause you to experience mental, emotional, and physical symptoms. This may include a tingling feeling, numbness, or swelling in your tongue.

Some people with anxiety disorders often experience a tingling sensation on their tongue, commonly referred to as “anxiety tongue” or “stress tongue.”

Anxiety tongue may also involve swelling, muscle spasms, or burning sensations.

Anxiety as an emotional response is linked to your stress response. When you perceive a real or imagined threat, your body activates to respond to said threat. This initiates a series of physiological processes that go from hormone secretion to muscle tension to changes in your blood flow.

These changes can affect your tongue, which is a combination of muscles, nerves, and blood vessels.

As muscles tense, nerves get stimulated, and blood vessels constrict to restrict blood flow, your tongue may start feeling different. This may include a wide range of sensations.

A tingling or numb tongue may be the result of psychogenic oral paresthesia, which is an unpleasant oral sensation caused by a psychological trigger, such as stress or anxiety.

In addition to tingling or numbness, psychogenic oral paresthesia can also lead you to experience a sudden prickling, twitching, swelling, or burning feeling.

Anxiety has also been linked to tongue swelling and scalloped tongue, which is a condition that causes waves or ripples along the sides of the tongue.

Can anxiety make your whole mouth feel different?

Anxiety can affect your tongue as well as your whole mouth. Some possible anxiety-related signs include:

  • dry mouth
  • metallic taste
  • changes in taste
  • tooth or gum pain
  • burning sensation
  • uncontrolled sucking motions
  • teeth grinding
  • halitosis

Addressing the root cause often leads to symptom relief. Managing your anxiety may help reduce the signs of anxiety tongue and other anxiety-related mouth sensations.

If you think you may have an “anxiety tongue,” it’s highly advisable that you talk with a health professional. They’ll be able to rule out any other possible causes of your tingling, numbness, swelling, or pain.

Anxiety treatment often consists of a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective psychotherapeutic approach for the management of anxiety symptoms and benzodiazepines are often used as anti-anxiety medication.

If anxiety treatment doesn’t relieve the signs of anxiety tongue, consider discussing the problem with a general physician or another health professional.

In sum, consider visiting a health professional if:

  • tongue tingling or numbness persists for several days
  • tingling or numbness continues after other anxiety symptoms stop
  • tingling or numbness starts after starting anxiety medication
  • your anxiety medications make your symptoms worse
  • anxiety or stress management techniques don’t help ease your symptoms
  • you have thoughts of self-harm

Anxiety tongue often refers to the physical effects that anxiety may have on your tongue and mouth. These effects may include tingling, twitching, numbness, burning, or pain in your tongue or mouth.

Treating anxiety may relieve your tongue symptoms. If it doesn’t, consider discussing these with a health professional so they can rule out any other possible causes of your sensations.

“Wait to worry” and other ways to cope with anticipatory anxiety – DVM 360

During the COVID-19 pandemic itself and now in the new normal environment, I have seen a significant number of veterinary professionals and students struggling with anxiety disorders and related symptoms pertaining to their health, social situations, returning to work, finances, school performance, and overall concerns related to current uncertainties in our world.

One of the most common and challenging anxiety symptoms is anticipatory anxiety. The purpose of this article is to discuss anticipatory anxiety within the context of veterinary medicine, describe the common symptoms, and offer strategies for coping.

Understanding anticipatory anxiety

Anxiety is a normal human process and a reaction to stress. Anxiety only becomes a problem when it involves excessive fear or worry that affects an individual’s well-being and functioning.1

Although not considered a diagnosable mental health disorder, anticipatory anxiety is challenging but manageable.2 Anticipatory anxiety involves an excessive or debilitating level of worry about a future event or situation, and it tends to focus on negative outcomes.3

Of course, some level of worry, concern, or even stress about future occurrences is typical and understandable. For example, if you are performing anesthesia on a healthy pet for a routine procedure and you notice that its heart rate suddenly drops into the 30s, becoming worried or anxious is totally normal/healthy. However, anticipatory anxiety occurs when the worries become extreme and negatively affect our personal and professional lives because of the potential emotional and even physiological consequences that can result.

Anticipatory anxiety is the type of anxiety individuals experience when they anticipate exposure to triggers that are frightening to them. For example, someone who is claustrophobic may worry about feeling confined on an airplane. Or if someone is afraid of turbulence, they may worry that their flight next week will be rough.4

Anticipatory anxiety fuels one’s need to avoid contact with causes/sources of anxiety. It drives individuals to avoid their irrational fears (phobias) and uncertainties. Anticipatory anxiety can be exceptionally strong and challenging to eliminate. As seen in the above example, it can maintain and intensify a fear of flying.4

Ironically, as with all aspects of anxiety, anticipatory anxiety is completely paradoxical. One’s efforts to avoid it only result in it becoming more intensified. The anticipatory anxiety precipitates more anxiety.4

Here are some important aspects of anticipatory anxiety4:

  • It is not an actual predictor of the level of anxiety an individual will feel during the situation itself; 95% of the time, anticipatory anxiety is much greater than the anxiety experienced when contact is made with what causes the fear.
  • It is real anxiety but differs from the anxiety experienced during the situation that triggers a reaction. This is supported by research demonstrating that anticipatory anxiety and phobic avoidance (eg, avoiding flying) are produced in separate areas of our brains.
  • Anticipatory anxiety can appear rapidly but is slow to disappear. Its persistent nature makes it challenging to overcome.
  • A formula for maximizing anticipatory anxiety relates to an internal “Should I or shouldn’t I” debate about experiencing short-term relief (eg, canceling a flight). This essentially reinforces an individual’s fear or phobia, rendering them less capable of managing their anxiety. The decision to conquer the phobia or fear will reduce anticipatory anxiety but not eliminate the fear.

Anticipatory anxiety in veterinary medicine

Individuals with anticipatory anxiety may feel anxious for hours, days, weeks, or months before an event.1 In their professional domain, individuals may experience anticipatory anxiety before work meetings or presentations, interviews, musical or athletic performances, or social events. Individuals also may have anticipatory anxiety about potential future occurrences such as natural disasters, the death of a loved one, or a relationship breakdown.3

Other examples include a well-trained newly graduated veterinarian who isn’t comfortable with emergencies and fears that a critical care case may come in on their next day at work. Or a veterinarian who doesn’t enjoy surgery and fears that there may be a large breed dog that needs a deep-chested gastropexy on their next surgery day.

Let’s examine how anticipatory anxiety might manifest in the routine gastropexy mentioned above. You might start worrying that something could go wrong the day before the procedure to the point that you don’t sleep well. The day of the procedure, you are short with your team members and aren’t fully present for your other duties of the day. Unnecessary worry and fear surrounding something that isn’t likely to happen is anticipatory anxiety.

These represent common anxiety-provoking situations for veterinary professionals. They can generate anxiety-related feelings and reactions regarding potential worst-case scenarios pertaining to potential outcomes, which may never happen. Two elements are clearly discernible: Each scenario encompasses future-based thinking about an event that has not yet occurred, and the feared negative outcome specific to each event may never occur at all.

Anticipatory anxiety symptoms

Anticipatory anxiety causes individuals to automatically assume the worst-case scenario when faced with a perceived challenge or difficulty. They also may experience stress about situations that have yet to happen or find themselves anticipating disaster around every corner.3

Additionally, the prospect of making a decision typically leaves individuals feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed. From subtle avoidance behaviors to the most nightmarish terrors, anticipatory anxiety is the engine that drives it all. Understanding how this hidden enemy tricks you, and, most importantly, how to overcome it will liberate you to live a more flexible and joyful life.4

Notably, those who experience anticipatory anxiety will typically have other anxiety symptoms, which may differ from one individual to another. Each anxiety disorder has its own symptoms, which can vary in intensity and duration.5

Some common symptoms of anticipatory anxiety (and anxiety in general) include the following5:

  • feeling apprehensive or having a feeling of dread
  • feeling tense or jumpy
  • being restless or irritable
  • anticipating the worst
  • watching for signs of danger
  • feeling short of breath or having a pounding or racing heart
  • experiencing headaches, fatigue, and insomnia
  • sweating, trembling, or twitching
  • having an upset stomach, frequent urination, or diarrhea

Suggestions and strategies for coping

Good self-care begins with taking care of your basic needs.5 Tips to help with anticipatory anxiety and reduce fear and uncertainty about the future include the following:

  • Reduce sources of stress where possible.
  • Eat a balanced diet and limit caffeine and sugar, which can make anxiety worse.
  • Exercise regularly, as research indicates it can reduce anxiety.
  • Get enough sleep. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Anticipatory anxiety may cause sleep disturbance and insomnia, and sleep deprivation worsens anxiety. Breathing exercises or meditation may help you fall asleep more easily. If you’re struggling with chronic sleep disturbance, see a doctor if mindfulness activities do not help.

Practice relaxation and grounding

Techniques to help relaxation can reduce anxiety over time and enhance sleep quality. Therapists can share useful methods such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and grounding techniques. Also, there are numerous online videos and apps that detail each process.5

These techniques are not a cure for anxiety. If used incorrectly, they can serve as avoidant coping.3 Ideally, these exercises should be practiced at scheduled times, rather than when you are feeling anxious. A health care professional can help you mindfully incorporate relaxation techniques into various types of therapy.5

Journal

Journaling may help reduce anxiety by exploring your fears and triggers. Do this with the guidance of a trained mental health professional to avoid rumination (dwelling on negative thoughts) or developing a compulsion that functions as avoidant coping.5

Address negative thoughts

Changing your thinking can help change your mood. Do this by considering the source of the anxiety and the negative thoughts that are generated. Then explore how realistic these thoughts are. Instead of imagining a worst-case scenario, challenge negative thoughts when they arise, and these thoughts should become less frequent over time.

Practice self-compassion

Self-compassion—treating oneself with kindness and care in negative situations—may reduce anticipatory anxiety. For example, practice self-compassion by exploring how you might treat a friend who was having anticipatory anxiety. Often we are kinder to others than we are to ourselves.

Working through anxiety

  • Take charge of the situation. For example, if you are anxious about a job interview, it may be helpful to practice answering interview questions with a friend or family member.
  • Stop worrying about what might happen. Start facing your fears, rein in your self-defeating imagination, and live fully in the moment.
  • Label your anticipatory anxiety for what it is—anticipatory anxiety.
  • Know that anticipatory anxiety does not accurately indicate your actual level of anxiety when encountering your anxiety trigger. Remember that 95% of the time your anticipatory anxiety will be greater than the anxiety experienced when in that situation.
  • Make a commitment to follow through with the triggering event. A “Should I or shouldn’t I” debate will only intensify anticipatory anxiety. The commitment to follow through and face your fear will prevent it from increasing.
  • Remember that dealing with anticipatory anxiety can be a learning experience about how powerful an effect your brain can have on your feelings. Anticipatory anxiety is a real anxiety but it is 100% generated by your mind’s images—there are no physical or behavioral triggers for this anxiety.4

Professional therapy and medication

Treatment options for anxiety may require the assistance of mental health or medical providers or other licensed professionals. There are prescription medications to help manage anticipatory anxiety and other anxiety symptoms. Although primary care physicians can diagnose and manage anxiety, they may recommend that you consult a psychiatrist for severe anxiety, concurrent disorders, or treatment-resistant anxiety disorders.5

Wait to worry

Many of us are worrying more and more about things that may never happen, and we waste a lot of mental energy and time doing so. I encourage patients to remember and incorporate a 3-word mantra to enable them to identify and then help them manage their anticipatory anxiety: “Wait to worry.” This approach helps many of them realize what is supported by anxiety research and gives them a simple strategy. More importantly, this phrase reinforces that what they fear, in all probability, will never happen. Incorporating this strategy has proven helpful for many.

Conclusion

Although some anxiety before events and situations is common, excessive levels of anticipatory anxiety can suggest an anxiety disorder.1 If you have overwhelming fears or worry about the future, contact your physician or a mental health professional. Overall, living with an anxiety disorder can be challenging, but such conditions are highly manageable with therapy, medications, or both.

Barry N. Feldman, PhD, is the behavioral health consultant for Get MotiVETed. He is a nationally recognized educator, trainer, and investigator in suicide intervention and prevention and has worked with many veterinary-related institutions.

References

  1. Vassilopoulos SP, Moberly NJ, Tsoumanis P. Social anxiety, anticipatory processing and negative expectancies for an interpersonal task in middle childhood. J Exp Psychopathol. 2014:151-167. doi:10.5127/jep.032412
  2. Anxiety. American Psychological Association. Accessed May 20, 2022. https://www.apa.org/topics/anxiety
  3. What to know about anticipatory anxiety. Medical News Today. Accessed May 21, 2022. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/anticipatory-anxiety#what-it-is 
  4. Winston SM, Seif MN. Overcoming Anticipatory Anxiety: A CBT Guide for Moving Past Chronic Indecisiveness, Avoidance, and Catastrophic Thinking. New Harbinger Publications; 2022.
  5. Anxiety. Psychology Tools. Accessed May 21, 2022. https://www.psychologytools.com/self-help/anxiety/

Neuroscience Says These 5 Simple Tricks Will Calm Your Anxiety Instantly – Inc.

We live in anxiety-ridden times.

  • What’s going to happen to the economy?
  • Is political strife going to get worse?
  • Am I doing the right things with my life?

Fortunately, we can point to simple techniques that neuroscience suggests work effectively to make people much less anxious–quicker than you think. 

Here are five of them: 

1. Listen to this specially designed song.

I’m putting this first because it’s my favorite and I’m still shocked at how well it works.

A decade ago, British musicians teamed up with sound therapists to record a song called Weightlessness that stimulates specific neurological reactions: lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, and reduced levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.

“The song…contains a sustaining rhythm that starts at 60 beats per minute and gradually slows to around 50,” explained Lyz Cooper, founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy. “While listening, your heart rate gradually comes to match that beat.”

It’s just eight minutes long, and it works like a charm. I first tried it several years ago, and I’ve kept it bookmarked on my computer ever since. I’ll embed a YouTube version at the end of this column. 

2. Use the 4-7-8 breathing method.

Another very easy, almost too-good-to-be-true method that actually works. In short, by breathing in a very simple way, you can kick-start your parasympathetic nervous system, which causes the body to become calmer.

In short, just do this:

  1. Find a place to sit comfortably, back straight.
  2. Put your teeth on the back of your tongue, and exhale completely through your mouth, making a sound like “whoosh” as you breathe out.
  3. Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds.
  4. Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
  5. Breathe back out again as you did at the beginning, for 8 seconds.

Repeat steps 3, 4 and 5 a total of three times. Bonus: If you’re ever lying awake at night unable to sleep, the 4-7-8 method of breathing works wonders for that, too.

3.    Get 45 minutes of vigorous exercise.

This one is fairly recent, and it comes from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Researchers studied 66 college students during the pandemic, and concluded that negative thoughts and anxiety were appreciably less prevalent when participants exercised:

  • lightly for just under 2 hours per day
  • moderately for 80 minutes per day, or
  • vigorously for 45 minutes per day.

Choose whatever works for your ambition and schedule; I tend to recommend the 45 minute version, simply because if part of what is creating anxiety is concern about getting things done, adding a 2-hour habit to your day might be a bit self-defeating. 

4.    Get some nature.

We have all kinds of studies to point to here. Two of my colleagues on Inc.com have written pretty extensively about how taking an “awe walk” in nature can make people feel less anxious — even one lasting just 15 minutes. 

You don’t even have to walk, necessarily; researchers found that simply commuting to work through “outdoor spaces that contain ‘green’ and/or ‘blue’ natural elements” (think trees, grass, and bodies of water) made people less anxious.

For that matter, researchers at the University of Hyogo in Japan say that simply putting small plants on workers’ desks in an office “contributed to their psychological stress reduction regardless of their age or plants choice.”

Bottom line, it’s a lot harder to be anxious when you’re surrounded by green and blue.

5.    Save it for later.

This last trick is less about shutting off anxiety than it is about making it manageable. In short, make a note about the things that make you anxious — even a literal, written note — and then promise yourself that you’ll set a block of time later in the day to be worried about them.

Seriously, pick a time and put it on your schedule: “From 2 p.m. to 2:20 p.m. is my “worry time.” Any other time of day, I jot down my worries so I can feel anxious about them at the appropriate time.” 

“This strategy focuses on not postponing your worries,” psychologist Dr. Regine Galanti explained to Time, “[instead] setting up a time where you can worry all you want. … [I]t sets boundaries, so when a worry comes up at 9 a.m., you can say, ‘Hey, not now, your time is coming.'”

Perhaps the best part about this trick? By whatever time you’ve set aside for worrying, you’ll often find you’re no longer worried.

Bonus: Train your brain

As I write in my free e-book Neuroscience: 13 Ways to Understand and Train Your Brain for Life, there’s nothing more fascinating than the human brain, and the unexpected ways in which it works. 

If it helps to get rid of anxiety, that has to be at the top of the list.  

Here’s the embed of the 8-minute song, Weightlessness, that I promised above. I recommend watching it within this article rather than clicking out, otherwise your calming music might be jarringly interrupted by an ad.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

Nearly 90% of Americans Report Inflation-Related Anxiety, Poll Shows – Healthline

  • A new poll from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) shows that anxiety about inflation and loss of income is surging among Americans, particularly Hispanic adults, mothers, millennials, and Gen Zers.
  • The poll indicates that COVID-related anxiety is decreasing as stress about social determinants like income insecurity increases.
  • Experts suggest that people can turn to community-based organizations for support and that it’s important to recognize the signs of stress and to know when to ask for help.

A new poll suggests that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the biggest worry Americans face.

According to results from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Healthy Minds Monthly Poll, nearly 90% of residents in the United States report feeling anxious or very anxious about inflation, an increase of 8 percentage points from the previous month.

With inflation at a 40-year high, the APA poll also revealed that over 50% of Americans are worried about a potential loss of income.

“Healthy Minds Monthly is showing us that the economy seems to have supplanted COVID as a major factor in American’s day-to-day anxiety,” said APA President Rebecca Brendel, MD, in a statement.

The poll was conducted between June 18 and 20, 2022, and interviewed just over 2,000 U.S. adults.

According to the APA poll, anxiety about COVID-19 continues to decrease.

COVID-related anxiety is down from 49% to 47% among all Americans since May, and 16% (from 63% to 47%) among Black Americans during the same period.

However, there was also greater than average anxiety about income loss among certain groups.

The poll found that 66% of Hispanic adults, 65% of mothers, and over 60% of millennials and Gen Zers were among the groups most likely to worry about loss of income. (Nearly half of Gen Zers were also concerned about gun violence).

“If you look at scientific measures of social stress or social vulnerability, the factors that are associated with increased risk of ill health are all affected by financial stress,” Dr. Timothy B. Sullivan, chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Staten Island University Hospital, part of Northwell Health in New York, told Healthline.

“We know that social vulnerability or social determinants of health have an important and often unseen impact on both physical and mental well-being,” he continued.

According to Sullivan, when people feel a loss of control over things that are important in their daily life, it not only causes psychological distress but over time, it could also have adverse effects on their physical health.

“APA’s recent Stress in America study found that 72% of Americans reported feeling stressed about money at least sometime in the prior month,” said Carmen Nicole Katsarov, LPCC, CCM, executive director at Behavioral Health Integration at CalOptima in Orange County, California.

She pointed out that as a health plan for low-income people, CalOptima sees the impact financial stress has on its members, both physically and psychologically, on a daily basis.

“When someone has a decrease in the ability to afford the basic things related to living, such as food and housing,” she said, “it can lead to feelings of despair and hopelessness that can increase the likelihood of a serious mental health condition, especially when someone cannot see a way out of their situation.”

Katsarov added this had been associated with an increase in suicidal thoughts or actions. “Chronic stress can impact all areas of someone’s life, including self-esteem, work, and personal relationships,” she said.

“Psychiatrists, as well as other health professionals, do need to be reminded to pay attention to social determinants of health, which are often given less attention than what we think of as typical psychological stressors,” Sullivan said.

He emphasized the benefits of building a supportive network to help manage stress.

“What’s important is to understand the signs and consequences of stress, to work to establish a supportive network both at work and at home,” he said. “And to ask for help when you feel you’re struggling.”

When distress becomes unsafe

Sullivan said that if loved ones are concerned about a friend or family member, they may encourage the individual to seek help if they’re worried for their safety and well-being.

“Whether to speak to a mental health care professional depends on the degree to which someone is unable to manage their daily responsibilities, or whether they’re experiencing such mental distress that’s unsafe,” he added.

There are a few ways you can cope with stress and anxiety caused by financial strain due to inflation.

Lean on friends and family

Sullivan said that sharing concerns about financial stress with friends or family is often a good way to start.

“There is nothing wrong with leaning on family and friends for support,” he said, adding that it’s important to let those close to you know you’re experiencing stress and need their support.

Seek professional help

Connecting with a mental health professional may also be helpful to manage stress related to finances. However, the decision to seek professional help depends on how severely someone is affected by their money stress.

Work with a financial planner

For those who can afford it, hiring a financial planner could pay off. Katsarov said that some people may be able to access a financial planner or credit counselor through their work benefits.

Connect with community

According to Katsarov, community-based organizations can help connect people to available governmental or state programs for aid, like rent assistance, utility assistance, and food resources.

“Community-based organizations can assist people who don’t have access to traditional financial resources,” she added.

While it’s important to stay informed about what’s happening in the world, particularly as it pertains to the economy, the constant stream of negative information in the media may also increase anxiety and stress.

“It can be helpful for many to limit the amount of information by setting certain times of day to absorb it,” Katsarov recommended. She said too much negative information could cause a range of physical and emotional reactions, including:

  • anxiety
  • headaches
  • sleep disturbances or lethargy
  • sadness and grief
  • feelings of withdrawal

Despite that COVID-related anxiety in the U.S. appears to be fading, many Americans are worried about inflation and potential loss of income.

If rising gas prices and costs of living have you feeling anxious, remember there are community-based organizations you can lean on for support, in addition to your loved ones.

More importantly, it’s helpful to know the signs of stress and anxiety and to ask for help when you’re experiencing emotional difficulty due to financial strain.