Your question: Why do I have high anxiety?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy.

Feeling anxious is a common experience. Everyone at some point in life will feel anxious to a lesser or greater extent. Anxiety is useful because it represents a state of alertness in the body, which requires us to take immediate action in the face of a potential threat. For example, anxiety is what makes you run away when you are in a dangerous situation, to keep yourself safe.

However, when anxiety is too intense, then trouble comes. Having “high” anxiety is an indicator that everyday stress is taking over your life. You are dealing with different situations that cause anxiety that becomes more intense and recurrent over time.

Although you may feel overwhelmed at the moment, there is a solution to this. No one chooses to have anxiety, so it is not your fault that you feel this way. However, you do have the ability to cope with this situation.

First, before applying any strategies to decrease your high anxiety, you must know the source of it.

What does it feel like to have anxiety?

Psychology(1) has studied anxiety as a complex phenomenon, which has specific characteristics that affect people in different areas. Some characteristics of anxiety are:

Cognitive symptoms: fear of losing control; fear of death; fear of “going crazy”; fear of negative evaluation by others; frightening thoughts.

Physiological symptoms: increased heart rate, palpitations; shortness of breath, rapid breathing; chest pain or pressure; choking sensation; dizziness.

Affective symptoms: nervous, tense, wound up; frightened; sadness; irritability.

Why do you experience anxiety?

Anxiety appears when your brain detects something that is threatening or stressful, and demands that your body acts accordingly. This object, scenario or person that your brain considers to be an anxiety generator, is not always a real threat, since it is more related to your subjective perception of danger and stress. Some of the most common causes of anxiety are:

Money problems

Money is one of the most stressful things in adult life. Debt and paychecks can cause intense anxiety, leading to acute concern about the time limit for paying certain debts or that your salary is not keeping up with your expenses.


Work is stressful because it involves meeting demands, and our income depends on it to meet our needs. Work can cause you anxiety when there are sudden changes, when you are assigned new tasks or when you have too many responsibilities to manage.


Education can generate anxiety at any stage or level of education. The pressure for students to pass their exams and balance their time properly to meet all the pending assessments and at the same time, leave space for their personal life, is quite stressful.

Interpersonal relationships

Whether they are family relationships, friendships or couples, socialization causes anxiety because it often involves conflict and natural arguments between human beings. Interpersonal relationships are the cause of your anxiety when you have experienced many stressful encounters, which make you feel frustrated, annoyed, frightened or sad, with important people in your life.

Identity and self-esteem

Anxiety is also related to your perception of yourself and your identity. You may experience anxiety because there are things you don’t like about your body or personality or because you feel that you are generally dissatisfied with your life in more ways than one.

What can you do to feel less anxious?

The first step is to identify the cause, which very often, is more than one. Once you have done this, it is time to take action to alleviate the problems that are causing you anxiety, whether it is by easing the pressure at work by asking for more help in your position or by better organizing your time at college to lessen the academic pressure. In general, there are several strategies you can take into account to reduce the feeling of anxiety.

Keep an emotional diary

Keeping a record of your anxiety attacks is useful, since it will allow you, on the one hand, to express your problems in a private place, and on the other hand, to find out which areas of your life generate the most anxiety. In this diary you will write down the details of each moment of the day in which you feel anxious, specifying what was happening at that time, who you were with and what you were doing.

This will allow you to identify if the anxiety episodes appear more frequently, for example, in your work or studies. In this way, you will know which areas of your life to work on as a priority to start reducing the situations that cause you anxiety.

Breathing and relaxation

Inhale through your nose for three seconds, exhale through your mouth for another three seconds. This while you close your eyes and feel how slowly the tension in your body decreases. You can apply this exercise for at least 10 minutes a day at different times, and just after experiencing an episode of anxiety.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1

This technique consists of using your senses to dissuade emotional discomfort at a given moment. It is useful when you experience a lot of physical agitation or when you feel you have a lot of unpleasant thoughts, and you find it difficult to control your emotions. Wherever you are, you will focus on identifying 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. This will allow you to focus your attention on specific things during the period of anxiety, and slowly, the feeling of intense worry will diminish.

Connect with yourself

Anxiety can greatly affect your relationship with yourself and your self-esteem. Therefore, moments of solitude doing activities that you enjoy are very effective in reducing anxiety symptoms. Whether it is writing, going to museums or movie theaters, walking around monuments in your city, dedicating moments of the week to a personal activity that you enjoy doing, will bring you benefits.

In my experience…

Feeling high levels of anxiety is common and solvable. It is possible that you have several problems at the same time and you don’t know which one to start working on. Through the diary you will be able to find out which are the priority points. Remember that nothing is worth consuming your mental health, no job, career or relationship, and that it is of utmost importance that you work on building tools that allow you to cope with day-to-day anxiety, preventing it from consuming your quality of life.

I believe you have the ability to improve and heal these feelings of discomfort you are experiencing now. The fact that you are seeking professional help through this medium proves it to me, and I applaud you for making that decision and being on track to improve your mental health and overall, your physical health.

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