If you’re experiencing physical symptoms with your anxiety, you’re not alone. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, 149,000 people in Delaware also struggle with their mental health. Many of these people are also suffering from anxiety’s physical symptoms. The good news? Things like anxiety tremors can be managed. At Sun Behavioral Delaware, we work with our patients to control these symptoms and lead healthier lives.
Why Does My Body Shake When I’m Anxious?
Did you know that anxiety is built into our biology as a survival mechanism? Back in our caveman days, we needed anxiety to function. We couldn’t just walk out of our cave in the morning and say, “wow, what a beautiful day!” We were always surrounded by danger. There was always something threatening around every corner. Snakes, poisonous spiders, bears, harsh fluctuations in weather, and more. Anxiety sets off our fight-or-flight response, which puts our bodies in an alert state. This allows us to either a) fight danger or b) run from danger.
Our circumstances have changed over the years. We’re no longer fighting to simply survive. But our instincts are still there, and with those instincts comes inherent anxiety. The difference between someone who has healthy levels of anxiety and a person who has high levels of anxiety is the vulnerability to the fight-or-flight response. Some of us see the world the way our early ancestors saw it; full of danger. When we can no longer control that response, and when anxiety starts to have a large impact on our lives, we need to work a little harder than others at keeping ourselves calm.
It’s because of the fight-or-flight response that we feel things like tremors, nausea, headaches, and more when we’re feeling anxious. The job of this response is to prepare the body to run. When we perceive a threat, our sympathetic nervous system is activated, and this triggers something called an “acute stress response.” Because our nervous system affects our entire body, we feel this stress in physical ways.
What Symptoms Does the Fight-or-Flight Response Trigger?
Here are some things triggered by the sympathetic nervous system and the fight-or-flight response:
- Vision changes. Our eyes become alert to danger, so they tend to focus on the threat and nothing else. This is why some people have vision problems during panic attacks.
- Dry mouth. Our stress response sends all of our energy into our muscles, and it shuts down our digestive system. That’s what some people experience when they have a dry mouth during anxious moments.
- Racing heart. When our brains perceive a threat, the heart beats faster so it can pump blood to our muscles (preparing them to run.) This is why the heart races when we’re scared, anxious, or experiencing a panic attack. This is one of the most common physical symptoms of anxiety.
- Tension in muscles. Muscle tension is a common complaint among people who live with regular anxiety. The whole body is filled with muscles, and when our stress response is activated, our muscles are preparing to run. This can also cause them to shake, which can feel like our whole body is trembling.
- Adrenaline spike. When we’re preparing to fight or flee, our adrenal glands release adrenaline, signaling other parts of our body to be alert. This adrenaline can feel like a rush – similar to espresso or caffeine pills – and this can also lead to tremors or shaking.
- Sweating. When the mind senses we’re in danger, the body sweats to keep us cool and ready for action. This is why you might notice sweaty palms when you’re experiencing anxiety.
- Breath rate changes. When we’re scared of something, our breathing becomes quick and shallow. Quick breathing takes in more oxygen to power the muscles, but it can make it feel like you can’t get a deep breath or you’re running out of air.
Shaking or tremors from anxiety aren’t just inconvenient. They can prevent sleep, relaxation, and comfort. If they go untreated, you may feel tired more often because of the energy your body is expelling. It might also become hard to concentrate on things like work. Lastly, if the tremors get severe enough, they might prevent you from doing things you love, like cooking, painting, and more. Tremors can also make anxiety worse because it’s impossible to feel calm when you’re experiencing them.
How to Stop Shaking from Anxiety
With proper treatment and management, physical symptoms like tremors can decrease or disappear. In some cases, prescription medication can control tremors. Blood pressure medications like Propranolol can help eliminate the “anxiety shakes.” In the meantime, there are some things you can do to stop them when they’re happening.
- Deep breathing techniques. You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s crucial to control your breathing if you’re living with anxiety. Deep breaths slow the function of the sympathetic nervous system. When the nervous system is pumping with adrenaline, and on high alert, deep breathing can increase blood flow to the brain and send a signal that you’re safe. Deep breathing is a great way to tell your brain, “I’m not in danger.” Try breathing in for 5 seconds, holding your breath for 5 seconds, and breathing out for 8 seconds. By making your outbreath longer than your inbreath, you’re forcing your body and heart rate to relax.
- Sensory meditation techniques. Speaking of communicating with your brain, did you know that meditation can help control your nervous system? The next time you’re feeling shaky and anxious, try a sensory meditation. Sensory meditation is a way to ground yourself and remind your brain that you’re not in trouble. Here are some examples of sensory meditation techniques:
- Think about the feeling of your hair touching your head or neck
- Notice the space within your mouth
- Think about the feeling of a breeze on your face
- Think about feeling heaviness in your legs
- Think about feeling your stomach rise and fall with your breath
- Regular exercise. Regular exercise, even just 30 minutes a day, can prevent anxiety tremors. This is because when you exercise, you’re releasing any latent energy from adrenaline while promoting healthy circulation of a chemical called dopamine (our feel-good neurotransmitter.) Research shows that exercise can be equally as effective as antidepressants.
- Stay hydrated. Did you know that one of the symptoms of dehydration is tremors? This doesn’t help if you’re already fighting off the anxiety shakes. Keep a water bottle near you at all times and try to stay hydrated throughout the day. This will also promote mental clarity, which can decrease racing thoughts – another symptom of anxiety.
- Get enough sleep. 7-8 hours of sleep per night is non-negotiable when you’re living with an anxiety disorder. Proper sleep gives your body and mind time to heal, recharge, and find strength for a new day. Lack of sleep can lead to a premature trigger of the fight-or-flight response because it leads to an increase in cortisol (the stress hormone).
Need Help Managing Your Anxiety Symptoms? Give Us A Call
At Sun Behavioral Health Delaware, we want to help you manage the troubling symptoms that come with anxiety. The great news is that shakes and tremors can be managed through practice and mood and anxiety treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling with the physical symptoms of anxiety, call us at 302-205-0361 today!
FAQs About How To Stop Shaking From Anxiety
What is “anxiety shaking”?
Muscle tension is a common complaint among people who live with regular anxiety. The whole body contains muscles, and when our stress response is activated, our muscles are preparing to run. This can also cause them to shake, which can feel like our whole body is trembling.
When we’re getting prepared to fight or flee, our adrenal glands release adrenaline, signaling other parts of our body to prepare . This adrenaline can feel like a rush – similar to espresso or caffeine pills – this can also lead to tremors or shaking.
What’s important to know about “anxiety shaking”?
Shaking from anxiety doesn’t need to last forever. With proper treatment and management, physical symptoms like tremors can decrease or disappear. In some cases, medication can be prescribed to control tremors. Blood pressure medications like Propranolol can help in eliminating the “anxiety shakes.”