Anxiety can have a significant impact on physical and mental health. Most individuals that experience anxiety have more mild side effects like excessive sweating or a racing heart rate.
However, severe anxiety can have more significant effects, going so far as to cause nausea, heart palpitations, and dizziness. Symptoms this severe have a much more significant negative impact on quality of life, a key reason why the importance of treating anxiety has been highlighted in recent years, especially as anxiety rates increase. Try using MONQ’s Zen to soothe stress and reach a calming state of relaxation.
Stress vs. Anxiety
The terms stress and anxiety are often used interchangeably, but they are actually rather different. Stress is a biological response to a quantifiable stressor. It is perfectly normal to feel stress in a difficult situation. When the stressor is removed, the body returns to its normal equilibrium.
The issue comes when someone is exposed to chronic stress because this can contribute to anxiety. Long-term stress has been shown to cause anxiety through a number of mechanisms.1 While the exact mechanisms by which this works are unknown, it has been noticed that chronic stress can change cell function and neurocircuitry.2
Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
The symptoms of anxiety vary from person to person. Not everyone suffers from all of the same symptoms, as well as the severity of the symptoms.
Some of the most common symptoms of GAD include restlessness, irritability, trouble concentrating, or feelings of dread.
As well as these psychological symptoms, physiological symptoms of GAD include heart palpitations, chronic fatigue, dizziness, trembling or shaking, aching muscles, dry mouth, sweating, stomach aches, headaches, pins and needles, and insomnia.3
Why Does Anxiety Lead to Dizziness?
Dizziness is a common symptom of anxiety because of the way that the vestibular system works. The vestibular system senses the position of the body and tracks the way individuals move relative to the surroundings. It includes the inner ears, parts of the brain, and the nerves that connect the brain to the ears.
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When the system is working well, it keeps individuals feeling grounded and prevents falling over. If something goes wrong, it creates the sensation of dizziness. Recent research suggests that the same area that controls balance and proprioception—awareness of the relative position of body parts—is also influenced by anxiety. So, feeling dizzy creates feelings of anxiety, and anxiety can lead to dizziness.4
When individuals feel anxious, they often feel slightly light-headed or woozy, rather than fully dizzy. This is a mild sensation and is not as disorientating as full dizziness. Sometimes, people may experience a sense of swaying when they are in crowded places, brightly-lit rooms, or wide-open spaces. This feeling of imbalance is caused by changes in the brain.
In an individual who is already stressed or suffers from anxiety, the two issues can combine to make the feeling of imbalance more severe.
Feeling dizzy is not pleasant, and it’s easy to fall into a cycle where anxiety increases dizziness and the dizziness further increases anxiety. Sometimes, all it takes to alleviate the dizziness is sitting or lying down, but in more severe cases that is not enough. For some, the dizziness can become so bad that it prompts a panic attack.
First, it is important to know that dizziness can be an underlying symptom of other conditions, including low blood pressure, so if you experience sudden, severe, and unexplained bouts of dizziness consult with a medical professional.
Once any serious underlying conditions have been ruled out, it is safe to look for relaxation mechanisms to relieve stress and anxiety, and consequently, dizziness:
Many people begin to hyperventilate when they feel anxious. This starts because it feels like you can’t take a proper breath. Try to slow down breathing and breathe deeply. It will feel unnatural at first, but it will regulate the rapid-breathing and help relieve dizziness.
Dehydration can amplify feelings of anxiety and lead to dizziness. Try sipping some water slowly to cool down, relax, and reduce dizziness.
Focusing on a Fixed Point
If it feels like the room is spinning, pick a fixed point in space and focus on it.
In most cases, dizziness caused by anxiety should go away when the anxious feelings subside. Once you realize what is happening, try to take control of the situation and take the steps to calm down.
Reducing Stress and Anxiety
In the long term, the goal should be to stop the dizziness from returning. If your dizziness is triggered by severe anxiety, then looking for ways to manage anxiety is important.
Of course, controlling anxiety can be challenging, but there are a range of helpful coping strategies. First, keep a journal and notice if there are certain situations or habits that make your anxiety worse. In the long term, learning to deal with situations that make you anxious is important, but you can work up to that slowly.
If going to the mall makes you anxious because the mall is so busy, then starting out with trips at times when the mall is likely to be quiet can help prepare you for future visits when it is busier.
Using Aromatherapy to Help With Anxiety
Some individuals find that meditation and aromatherapy can significantly help with anxiety. There have been many studies into the efficacy of aromatherapy as a way of relieving anxiety.
One study on the effect of aromatherapy on patients in a pre-operative period showed a decrease in anxiety from 51 percent to 38.61 percent following aromatherapy treatments. This was significantly better than the placebo group.5
Another study looked at the effects of aromatherapy on anxiety and sleep quality in patients in intensive care. This study found that a blend of essential oils including lavender, neroli, and Roman chamomile was useful for reducing anxiety and improving sleep quality.6
While most studies were conducted in clinical setting, where it was fairly easy to control for the environment somewhat, there have been other studies that looked at the effects of aromatherapy in the workplace.
One of these studies looked at the impact of aromatherapy on anxiety in nurses. The nurses taking part in the study pinned small bottles of three percent lavender oil to their clothes on the right hand side of their chests. The control group of nurses also used a bottle, but the bottle did not lavender oil. The nurses with the bottle containing lavender oil reported that after a period of three to four days, their anxiety was greatly reduced.7
Incorporating Aromatherapy Daily
How can this knowledge be used in day-to-day life? Well, most individuals experience stress at some point. The challenge is making sure that stress does not become chronic or evolve into anxiety.
It is important to practice self-care in order to eliminate stress before it begins negatively affecting physical and mental health. For example, make time for exercise and for relaxation. Additionally, try to use room diffusers around the home, essential oils in a bath, or portable aromatherapy diffusers on the go.
Alternatively, book a massage or try to make some time to go outside and walk in parks or forests. There is a lot of evidence to support the fact that spending time in forests has the potential to improve overall health and well-being.8
Today, attitudes towards mental health have changed from what they were like in the past, and there is greater acceptance and understanding about mental health. Additionally, there is much more emphasis on self-help and self-care, which can be both good and bad.
Yes, when you’re a little stressed or run-down, sitting in the dark with some scented candles can be beneficial. However, there are cases where anxiety is caused by more than just environment, and physiological imbalances that lead to anxiety cannot be remedied with simply a relaxing night in. There is nothing wrong with that, and there’s nothing wrong with talking to a medical professional to find what’s best for you moving forward.
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