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Have you ever watched an infant dangerously climb a chair while you hover behind them, anxiously awaiting their fall? Have you ever sat nervously through a family event praying that your mom doesn’t share your embarrassing moments with everyone? Have you ever had 15 projects at work due by the end of the day with no time to complete them? Have you ever stood up in front of a crowd of people to speak and completely forgot what you were going to say?

All of these are simple examples of anxiety-provoking experiences to which most of us can relate. Many of us experience nervousness, worry and stress as a result of such uncomfortable moments of our lives.

Think about a time when you were about to take a risk and jump off of something knowing there is a potential for you to become physically hurt as a result. Take yourself back to the moment right before you jumped. What were you thinking and feeling?

Anxiety is the uncomfortable feelings you experience when you’re about to jump. Anxiety symptoms are your body’s physical response to keep you alert and warn you during moments that are difficult. Anxiety helps you prevent accidents and avoid harm.

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, common symptoms of anxiety include feelings of apprehension or dread, feeling tense and jumpy, irritability, restlessness, worry, racing thoughts, pounding heart, shortness of breath, insomnia, headaches, sweating, twitching, fatigue and upset stomach.

Although symptoms of anxiety can be helpful at times, they also can become harmful to us. If feelings of fear and worry prevent us from participating in daily life and completing daily tasks, anxiety symptoms can develop into an anxiety disorder.

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, about 40 million American adults are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, most developing symptoms before age 21. There are different types of anxiety disorders with differing symptoms, which include Panic Disorder, Phobias, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Agoraphobia, Separation Anxiety Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

All disorders require a formal diagnosis from a qualified mental health or medical professional. For more information about these disorders and other mental health information, you can visit www.nami.org.

Much research supports the idea that there is a connection between physical health and mental health, learning about the impact regular physical activity has on our mental health. Numerous studies have been conducted to examine the link between physical activity and the reduction of anxiety symptoms and stress levels.

The research suggests that anxiety symptoms and stress levels can be reduced supporting the idea that physical activity or exercise provides a benefit to individuals who participate in physical activity regularly.

So get out there and get moving! Play catch in the yard. Dance. Get to the Y for a workout. Take a walk around the block. Meditate. Do yoga. Go for a run.

Whatever you choose, your mind will smile.

Bekah VanZandt, Carlisle Family YMCA Physical Department

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