Laura Harrier covered a lot of ground in a recent interview with Cosmopolitan. She shared what her new home looks like (think 1920s Paris), her go-to reality TV show (90 Day Fiancé), and details about her friendship with Spider-Man: Homecoming costar Zendaya. But the 32-year-old actor also spoke candidly about how she prioritizes her mental health. When asked how she takes care of herself, Harrier said therapy gave her the tools she needed to feel good.“I really am a big advocate for therapy and for mental health care, especially in the Black community,” Harrier said. “That’s something that’s really improved my life and really helped me in significant ways, especially when dealing with my anxiety and panic attacks.”Harrier added that mental health needs to be prioritized just as much as physical health—and destigmatizing therapy can play a big role in that. “There’s been such a long history of ignoring mental health problems, of saying, ‘Oh, just suck it up,’ or, ‘I’m a strong Black woman. That doesn’t happen to me,’” she said, noting that she believes these tropes have been “taught over generations” and fueled by trauma. That’s why Harrier is passionate about working with the Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM), which aims to help marginalized communities access the mental health care they need by connecting them with therapists and other healing resources.As for her personal well-being, Harrier said she turns to many tools outside of therapy. “I try to meditate. I can’t say that I’m the best with my track record of doing it every day, but I try to at least do some deep breathing,” she said. “I noticed I literally forget to breathe, which sounds wild, but sometimes I’m like, ‘Wait, I haven’t taken a real breath all day,’ and just taking 30 seconds to sit and do deep belly breathing is a game changer.”She also doesn’t subscribe to the idea that you have to do a daily workout class to stay healthy; instead, she determines what she needs at a given moment (which isn’t *always* an intense meditation session) and prioritizes that.“I think it’s so common to talk only about self-care as mediation, yoga, and working out, which are all important, but sometimes self-care is having a glass of wine with your best friend and laughing and watching shitty reality TV,” Harrier said. “Sometimes that’s the self-care that you need.”Harrier also shared her thoughts on issues like colorism in Hollywood (noting that she got called “Zendaya” frequently on the Spider-Man set) and the crucial need for abortion access in America—and no, she’s not worried about any potential backlash about speaking up. “I’m coming at these topics as Laura, as a woman of reproductive age who’s affected by Roe v. Wade. I’m affected by Black Lives Matter issues because I’m a Black person in America, because that’s my family, because that’s my little brother walking down the street that I worry about,” she said. “It’s not because of my job that I care about these issues. It’s because of my humanity that I do.”Related:
There’s a lot to love about college: sudden independence, late nights with new people who turn into lifelong friends, and endless opportunities to learn and grow. It can also keep you super busy—a packed schedule probably means that checking out various campus services is the last thing on your mind. But if there’s one service you use, make it your student health center.Not only will it put your health into your own hands (which may be a new thing for you), but it will help you stay on your A-game all throughout college. And if this is the first time you’ve had access to a one-stop shop for all your health needs, you may not even know everything that is available to you. In fact, when the SELF team discussed their biggest health-related college regrets, an overwhelming number of people said they wish they’d taken advantage of their campus health center.So here’s a rundown of the most important services that your student health center has to offer and why you should definitely check them out.1. You’re already paying for these health services.Here’s the thing: The cost of college includes tuition, room and board, and various student fees. Those fees generally include student health services, which means you might already be paying to access those resources. So why not make the most of it?For example, the health fee is mandatory for all students at UNC-Chapel Hill, whether or not they actually visit the health center, Ken Pittman, MHA, FACHE, executive director of campus health services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, tells SELF. (Though 78% of students do utilize the university’s health services at least once a year, he notes). Basic services such as primary care visits, gynecology checkups, urgent care, and mental health counseling are covered under that fee, he says—so they won’t be billed to health insurance at all.As for services not covered by the student health fee? These vary at each school, but can include lab tests, like rapid flu testing, X-rays, and some procedures (for example, some campus health centers do IUD insertions and others don’t), says Pittman. These services are billed to the student’s personal health insurance, which may be required at some institutions.Remember, you can stay on your parents’ health insurance plan until you turn 26 years old, per Healthcare.gov, so you might have coverage that way. Many colleges and universities even offer students medical insurance plans, which may be another option for you. To learn more about your school’s specific health care requirements, chat with the folks at your campus health center.2. It makes it easy to schedule regular checkups.When you’ve got papers to write and classes to attend, getting annual checkups can feel like a drag. Besides, if you feel fine (save for the occasional sleepless night), do you really need routine checkups?TBH, yes. Regular checkups are a form of preventive care, which can help you identify or avoid health issues before they become bigger problems that require treatment. This involves services like routine blood tests, mental health screenings, and physical examinations, according to the US National Library of Medicine. Yes, your childhood primary care doctor, if you have one, can perform these services—but thanks to your student health center, you won’t need to wait until you’re back home to book an appointment.
Sprinting through the final minutes of your run, the stressful seconds leading up to a big presentation, or watching Stranger Things alone in the dark: These are all times when you might feel like your heart rate won’t go down. But just going about your daily life shouldn’t lead to a racing heartbeat. Typically, your heart is part of a fine-tuned system that keeps the essential organ beating at a certain rhythm. So when the beats unexpectedly speed up, it’s understandable to feel concerned that something more serious might be happening to you.Your heart performs an incredible daily balancing act that’s crucial to keeping you alive and healthy. “The heart beats because of electricity,” Shephal Doshi, MD, director of cardiac electrophysiology at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells SELF. No, not the type that keeps your lights on, although that would be interesting. Instead, these are electrical impulses from a group of cells in your heart’s right atrium (chamber) that act like your own internal pacemaker. These cells, known as your sinoatrial (SA) node, tell your heart when and how to beat in order to send oxygen-rich blood throughout your body.Sometimes, your body can signal your heart to beat faster, and the SA node responds. Other times, signals start coming from other parts of the heart, causing it to speed up. Whatever the reason, a racing heart rate, or heart palpitations, can make you feel anxious, among other unpleasant symptoms.A racing heart rate has many potential causes, very few of which signal something life-threatening like a heart attack or heart failure. What is important, however, is how your racing heart makes you feel and how often this switch in pace happens. Here are the most common reasons it feels like your heart rate won’t go down—and when you should consider seeing a doctor.What is a “healthy” resting heart rate? | Common causes of a fast heart rate | When to see a doctorFirst, how do experts typically define a “healthy” heart rate?A “normal” or healthy resting heart rate for most adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute, according to the US National Library of Medicine. Between these rates, your heart can pump the oxygen-rich blood it needs to your vital organs. If you’re very physically active—say, you’re an avid runner—you may find your resting heart rate is much lower (sometimes as low as 40 beats per minute). This is because exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise, helps your heart work more efficiently, meaning it can squeeze out more blood at a slower rate, per the Mayo Clinic.A resting heart rate that’s consistently higher than 100 beats per minute or lower than 60 beats per minute (if you’re not an athlete) can signal an underlying health issue, according to the Mayo Clinic.Back to topWhat are the most common causes of a fast heart rate?Normally, your body’s systems run on autopilot, thanks to your autonomic nervous system, which regulates all the vital functions you don’t really need to think about. “This includes things like your heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, urination, and various gastrointestinal functions,” Brent Goodman, MD, a board-certified neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, tells SELF.Sometimes, though, certain lifestyle habits, situations, or even health conditions can cause your heart to start beating very rapidly or irregularly. Here are a few common culprits to keep on your radar.1. You’re feeling very stressed.Let’s be real: With everything going on in the world, there’s an extremely good chance you’re stressed right now. When you encounter something stressful, your body releases a surge of norepinephrine, also known as adrenaline, Camille Frazier-Mills, MD, a cardiologist at Duke Electrophysiology Clinic, tells SELF. Receptors in your heart respond to this trigger and can make your heart rate pick up.1If you can’t immediately solve whatever’s making you stressed (which is hard to do on a good day, let alone in the chaotic reality we live in), try deep breathing exercises to at least help you feel better in the moment. The Mayo Clinic suggests taking deep breaths through your nose so that you feel your stomach rise instead of your chest, and exhaling through your nose as well. Focus on your breath and the rise and fall of your abdomen throughout. (If you’re looking for a more detailed exercise to try, check out these relaxing deep breathing videos.)2. You’ve had a lot of caffeine.While most people can handle a certain level of caffeine just fine, overdoing it can make your heart rate speed up. “A bunch of patients come to see me with an elevated heart rate, then they tell me they drink multiple highly caffeinated beverages daily,” Dr. Mills-Frazier says. “They’re revving themselves up.” This is most likely to happen if you’ve had too much caffeine, but it could also happen in response to small amounts if you’re just sensitive to this stimulant.According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s technically safe for adults to have up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, or around the amount in four or five cups of coffee. If that sounds like a lot to you, it may be, since there is a wide range in how sensitive certain people are to the effects of caffeine and in how fast it gets broken down in the body. Certain medications and health conditions may also make you more sensitive to caffeine, including being pregnant. Try cutting back on caffeine gradually to see if it reduces your racing heart (just don’t try to cut it out cold turkey if you rather not deal with the unpleasant side effects of caffeine withdrawal). If that doesn’t help, get in touch with your doctor.3. You smoke.Smokers (tobacco, cannabis, marijuana, you name it) tend to have higher resting heart rates than those who don’t smoke, according to a 2015 study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics. Although doctors don’t exactly know why this happens, an increase in heart rate from smoking could come with other cardiovascular complications, including a heart attack.24. You have cold- or flu-like symptoms, like a fever.If your pounding heart is accompanied by typical cold- or flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, coughing, and sneezing, a viral illness might be the likely culprit. Battling any type of infection requires your body to work harder than usual, and that includes making your heart beat faster in order to fight for homeostasis (its usual stable condition) and kick the infection to the curb, Dr. Mills-Frazier says.
With the events of the last few years, it’s safe to say we’re all as stressed as ever. Deep breathing exercises are commonly recommended for achieving calmness and relaxation, and they’re one of the simplest things you can do to make a world of difference. Yes, we’re saying that simply breathing can help you feel less stressed sometimes.Breathing slowly and focusing on each breath allows you to be more present and mindful, E. Fiona Bailey, PhD, professor in the department of physiology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, tells SELF. This, in turn, helps reign in racing thoughts and can sometimes be enough to distract you from the things that are making you worried or anxious. “Slower, deeper breathing, in which you focus on the time that it takes to breathe in and out, is going to be beneficial for your overall health, costs nothing to implement, and can be done with most people being unaware that you’re changing or regulating your breath,” Dr. Bailey adds. That’s one of the reasons why deep breathing exercises for anxiety can be so powerful. So, what does ‘deep breathing’ actually mean? Breathing deeply means taking a breath so intentional and big that you feel it all the way into the bottom of your lungs and the diaphragm, the chest muscle that sits right under the ribs.If you’re breathing deeply, you should be able to feel your entire abdomen expand and watch your belly fill and empty as air moves in and out of your lungs, Gauri Khurana, MD, a psychiatrist in the New York City area, tells SELF.Try it out: Put on some comfortable clothes, lie on your back, and place one hand on your abdomen. Now, take a deep breath in and out, feeling your stomach rise as you breathe in and fall as you breathe out. “The diaphragm above the stomach is actually the part of the body that is filling and emptying, and the stomach reflects if the diaphragm is full of air or not,” Dr. Khurana says.When breathing deeply, you’ll take fewer breaths per minute and take in more air with each breath, Dr. Bailey says. “Deep breathing requires more time for each breath, so you’re going to slow down your breathing rate, meaning you’re going to breathe less frequently, and the volume of air that you take in with each breath is going to be greater than what it is at rest.” What are the benefits of deep breathing?Deep breathing can help guide you to a state of relaxation, and it’s believed to aid in a wide range of conditions, from anxiety and hypertension to insomnia, pain relief, and post-exercise recovery, Dr. Khurana says.As SELF previously reported, anxiety, fear, and worry prompt the sympathetic nervous system, which controls involuntary processes like your breathing and heart rate, to kick into high gear. This leads to the release of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which ultimately lead to the physical symptoms of anxiety (like a racing heart rate and heavy breathing).
You already know this, but in case you need another reminder: Davenport adds that it’s also a good idea to develop a solid self-care plan. That can look like running, meditating, listening to music, or anything else that soothes you. Try to make the time for it, even if it’s just carving out 15 minutes in the morning before you head to work or 15 minutes at night before you head to bed.Consider talking to a therapist.You may also want to talk to a specialized expert, especially if you’ve been personally affected by climate change. For now, mental health professionals have no official climate anxiety certification, although they can receive training from colleagues who do specialize in the topic. To find an eco-sensitive practitioner, check the directory at the Climate Psychology Alliance of North America, a nonprofit run by mental health professionals, including psychotherapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, researchers, and journalists. Therapists may also list “ecotherapy,” “walking therapy,” or “climate-aware therapy” as their specialties, says Davenport.If you can’t find someone who specializes in climate anxiety, it’s still helpful to find a therapist who specializes in treating anxiety in general. You can also interview a potential therapist or counselor first to make sure they understand and validate climate anxiety. “Some are tuned in, and some are not,” says Davenport. You might ask questions such as: Have you worked with clients with climate anxiety before?; How often do you see clients with this concern?; Can you tell me what your therapeutic approach would be to this issue?Ultimately, a good therapist should show compassion and acceptance. And your therapist should offer practical advice that helps you to understand your anxiety and learn skills to cope with it, which may require working through other stressors, like work or family conflicts, that are feeding your anxious feelings as well, Davenport says.How your therapist will then work with you will vary, says Davenport, since treating climate anxiety is an emerging concentration and doesn’t have a set protocol. For example, your therapist may use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a heavily researched form of treatment that focuses on changing thinking patterns, if you tend to ruminate. This can help you pause unhelpful thought processes and take actionable steps so you feel more empowered.If you’re not sure you can pay for therapy, here are some tips to find an affordable therapist. If you’re a survivor of a climate disaster, you can call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 for toll-free crisis counseling and support.Connect with others who get it.For low-cost, remote support, Davenport suggests joining a peer support group—Google “climate cafes” or “climate circles,” or visit the Good Grief Network, which focuses on eco-anxiety. It offers a 10-step process in which participants discuss how to accept the severity of the climate predicament, practice gratitude, reinvest in meaningful efforts, and more. Two-hour sessions, which are held in person or online, occur once per week over 10 weeks and are led by trained facilitators. You’ll use embodiment exercises, journaling, and group sharing, among other practices, with the goal of building resilience and strengthening community ties.
Therapy and medication are currently the most powerful tools we have to treat mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety, among so many others. But for some people—especially those who do not respond to these conventional treatments—researchers are discovering a promising new pathway to transformative mental health care: psychedelic therapy.This isn’t the free-for-all glory days of Woodstock psychedelics that you might be imagining. We’re specifically talking about psychedelic-assisted therapy, which is practiced under the careful guidance of a trained clinician, who administers a controlled amount of a psychoactive substance to induce a person into an altered state of consciousness. In theory, this type of therapy encourages you to mentally explore the underlying roots of certain mental health issues.1It’s important to understand which drugs fall under the psychedelic umbrella: lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD, a synthetic chemical with hallucinogenic properties),2 psilocybin (the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms),3 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, often referred to as ecstasy or molly),4 and ayahuasca (a mind-bending brew made from specific plants, which originated from Indigenous people in the Amazon Basin).5 Because these are Schedule I drugs in the U.S., they are illegal at federal level due to their high potential for misuse and dependence, as well as having no accepted medical uses currently.Then there’s ketamine, a Schedule III substance that is not typically seen as a genuine psychedelic. Instead it is viewed as a “dissociative anesthetic.” Currently, ketamine is the only substance with psychedelic properties with legalized, medically-accepted uses in the U.S.6Psilocybin is also on the path to legalization for therapeutic use, at least in Oregon, where it has already been decriminalized. Practically, that means the Oregon Health Authority will be responsible for licensing and regulating the manufacturing and sales of psilocybin products, as well as creating the country’s “first regulatory framework for psilocybin services” by January 2023.The type of research experts have been able to do with these drugs has historically been limited—but significant strides are being made. In new and ongoing clinical trials, these substances have shown promise in treating everything from PTSD7 to treatment-resistant depression8 to substance use disorders.9Generally, in the future, once these drugs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for specific mental health conditions, psychedelic-assisted therapy might be considered when other largely effective treatments haven’t worked well for a person.“We are entering a period where we can do expanded access treatment or compassionate use,” Monnica Williams, PhD, a clinical psychologist and training director of the Behavioral Wellness Clinic in Tolland, Connecticut, and a leader in the field of psychedelic science who has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles, tells SELF. “That’s when a drug is made available in advance of final approvals to people for whom nothing else has worked.” (We’ll dive more into this below.)The experts SELF spoke with estimate it could take between 4 to 10 years for these drugs to receive FDA approval. But you shouldn’t let that timeline discourage you. Here’s everything you need to know about exploring this type of therapy right now.What’s the safest way to access psychedelic-assisted therapy?There are still a lot of hoops to jump through, but you have some options.1. Ask your doctor if ketamine may be right for you.Ketamine is an injectable anesthetic that has traditionally been used for short-term sedation and anesthesia. But due to its dissociative and hallucinogenic effects, it’s been lumped in with other exploratory psychedelic research in the mental health space.
That being said, it’s still worth getting checked out if you’re cold all the time but don’t feel like anything else is amiss, Dr. Besson says. Your doctor will likely look at your medical records and ask about how often you’re cold, along with teasing out any other symptoms you may not have noticed, Dr. Vyas says. That can help determine what kind of testing might be necessary to land on a diagnosis, if any.2. You have hypothyroidism.Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid does not produce sufficient levels of the hormones that regulate your metabolism, which in turn slows it down, according to the Mayo Clinic. This can happen for various reasons, the most common being Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disorder that prompts your immune system to attack your thyroid, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).Since a slow thyroid affects a bunch of metabolic functions, hypothyroidism can cause a wide range of symptoms including fatigue, unintended weight gain, constipation, dry skin, thinning hair, a depressed mood, heavy or irregular periods, and—that’s right—an increased sensitivity to cold, per the NIDDK. Dr. Besson points to fatigue as the usual tip-off, so if your energy levels are dragging and no amount of fuzzy sweaters can keep you warm, you should definitely mention that to your doctor.Treatment for hypothyroidism involves taking a daily dose of a synthetic replacement for thyroid hormone (thyroxine or T4) called levothyroxine. You’ll also need ongoing blood tests to ensure your hormone levels are up to par once you start treatment, so it may take some time to find the right dose for you.13. You have anemia.Anemia is a blood disorder that happens when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body, according to the American Society of Hematology (ASH). There are many types of anemia, but the most common one stems from iron deficiency, according to the Mayo Clinic. When you don’t have enough iron in your blood, you can’t make sufficient hemoglobin, a protein that allows your red blood cells to transport oxygen and carbon dioxide. This leads to less circulation to your limbs, causing you to feel colder, Dr. Vyas says, particularly in your hands and feet. Other common anemia symptoms include weakness, fatigue, an irregular heartbeat, paler skin, chest pain, and headaches.2Anemia can also be the result of your body making too few red blood cells, destroying too many red blood cells, or losing too much blood for some reason, the U.S. National Library of Medicine explains. Blood loss due to heavy periods can cause anemia, as can pregnancy, which increases your blood volume. (This is why iron is a key component of prenatal vitamins.) Other forms of anemia are connected with deficiencies in folate and vitamin B-12, which are necessary for producing red blood cells. Genetics can also be to blame, such as with the chronic illness sickle cell anemia.The cause of anemia determines the treatment, the goal of which is to increase your levels of healthy red blood cells by addressing the underlying condition or deficiency. This can involve taking iron supplements, making dietary changes to get more folate or vitamin B-12, or more intensive methods such as blood transfusions if you have a chronic condition.24. You have Raynaud’s disease.Raynaud’s disease is a condition that causes your extremities to become cold, discolored (red or blue), numb, and even painful when you’re in cold temperatures or stressed out. “It happens because your blood vessels are constricting,” Dr. Besson explains.
Traumatic experiences can also radically change the way a person thinks of themselves and the world at large. Feelings like overwhelming guilt and misplaced self-blame are common. Shattered beliefs in concepts like justice or the inherent goodness of humanity can make it difficult to connect with others or solve problems. These changes can lead to self-isolation, setting the stage for a greater risk of self-harm and suicide attempts. Kelley, for example, says she eventually developed an eating disorder due to her past sexual abuse and assault, which she says was a way to “show” those close to her how badly she was hurting.A whole host of physical side effects have been linked to trauma too, from disturbed sleep to tense muscles to persistent fatigue—some people may even deal with gastrointestinal or cardiovascular issues. This physical manifestation of deep-seated emotions is known as somatization, which is when your body expresses pervasive and distressing feelings through bodily symptoms.Healing from trauma requires an individualized approach—and reimagining what care can look like.“Recovery from trauma requires multiple channels,” Adrienne Heinz, PhD, a trauma and addiction research scientist at Stanford University, tells SELF. The most research-backed options include psychotherapies that either address trauma’s effects through talk therapy or through coping skills that don’t require revisiting traumatic memories. Antidepressants and off-label medications are also a common addition to treatment plans.But for those whose symptoms linger, return, or fall below the threshold of a PTSD diagnosis, there are many other healing modalities to consider. Research on a variety of treatment options is especially pertinent for some of the most vulnerable people with PTSD, including those who struggle with severe substance use disorder or self-harm.“The available approaches we’ve developed—which have very good empirical evidence behind them—don’t fully solve the problem [for some people],” says Dr. Yehuda. “The future is not only developing new therapies, but maybe we need to think about completely new approaches, new paradigms of care.” Here’s what that might look like:Free self-help toolsIn light of the emotional turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers are working even harder to make self-help tools accessible. In early 2022, a team of experts at the Stanford University School of Medicine launched Pause a Moment, a digital well-being program geared toward helping health care workers who are at an increased risk of PTSD manage symptoms of stress related to on-the-job struggles. Based on a self-reported questionnaire, the platform suggests personalized coping mechanisms to help ease feelings of anxiety, guilt, and depression. The National Center for PTSD has also introduced online programs as well as apps like PTSD Coach, PTSD Family Coach, Insomnia Coach, and Mindfulness Coach, all of which provide tools that can help a person form restorative habits and track progress.Online and text-based therapyTelehealth and mobile apps are making trauma-focused therapy more accessible, Shannon Wiltsey Stirman, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, tells SELF. Researchers are working to innovate traditional talk therapies to boost their effectiveness in tech-based forms. For example, a pilot study is in the pipeline to determine whether texting your therapist at any time and getting a response will outperform text-therapy-as-usual (scheduled text therapy appointments) for people with PTSD. Dr. Wiltsey Stirman, the study’s principal investigator, says her team’s findings suggest this approach is more discreet and convenient—meaning you could step away from a triggering situation to send a text or log on to do a lesson at midnight. For people who face barriers like lack of child care, money, free time, transport, or nearby clinics, that could make therapy finally possible.Psychoactive drug-assisted psychotherapyCombining psychedelic drugs, which launch you into an altered mental state, with traditional forms of psychotherapy is a promising new approach that needs to be carefully investigated, Dr. Yehuda says. Ongoing studies suggest certain drugs with psychedelic properties like ketamine, MDMA, and psilocybin may have the potential to help alleviate PTSD symptoms, although more research is needed to understand how these drugs work and for whom. Dr. Yehuda says her lab has begun enrolling participants for an upcoming MDMA trial and hopes to start recruiting for a psilocybin study as well.
For decades, Pink has been known for her fearless stage persona, but she still has her share of vulnerabilities like any other person. For Mental Health Awareness Month, the “All I Know So Far” singer opened up about the debilitating panic attacks she used to live with—and why talking about it is so important.“I used to get pretty awful panic attacks and I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t have anybody to talk to about it and I didn’t know what to do,” Pink said in a video shared to Instagram and Twitter. “I would feel like I was having strokes, like, stroke symptoms, it was terrifying.” She shared this part of her story in partnership with the nonprofit Child Mind Institute, whose new campaign seeks to prevent young people from remaining silent about their mental health. Panic attacks are the hallmark sign of panic disorder, which is a type of anxiety disorder, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine. These attacks are characterized by sudden, unexpected feelings of intense fear and anxiety, as well as distressing physical symptoms. The signs of a panic attack can include an irregular or racing heartbeat, shaking, sweating, breathing difficulties, chills, chest pain, nausea, and feeling like you have lost control. In severe attacks, a person may even feel like they are having a heart attack or dying.Instagram contentThis content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.For Pink (born Alecia Beth Moore), panic attacks would sometimes prompt her to visit the emergency room, but her concerns were often brushed off. “I had a number of EKGs [electrocardiograms] that always led back to ‘You’re fine, you’re fine, there’s nothing wrong, you’re imagining it all, it’s all in your head,’” she recalled. No one deserves to live with the symptoms of panic disorder—and professional treatment is necessary when the condition starts to overwhelm a person’s daily life. Some go-to treatment options include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or various forms of talk therapy, where you can discuss your feelings with a licensed mental health professional in order to better understand your anxiety triggers and how to manage them. For Pink, therapy was a game-changer. “I started learning all these steps on how to take care of myself, I’d never been taught how to take care of myself,” Pink said.
“That’s why we often talk about belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing,” says Dr. Potter. This is a grounding technique where you essentially breathe slowly and deeply by really using your diaphragm (the main muscle involved in breathing tucked underneath your lungs), and research shows it can have a really positive effect on both physiological and psychological stress.2 By slowing down how quickly you’re breathing, you have more of a chance to get the oxygen you need, Dr. Potter explains.3. Constant exhaustionFeeling like you’re always tired or worn out is another physical symptom to take note of, according to the NIMH. For starters, that anxiety-activated uptick in stress hormones can keep you revved up on high alert, which can be seriously draining, says Dr. Potter. But there’s an additional factor that feeds into fatigue: Sleep and anxiety have a complicated relationship, which brings us to the next symptom…4. Trouble sleepingIf you have a tough time falling asleep or wake up during the night and can’t doze back off, anxiety could be a culprit, according to the NIMH. Elevated levels of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline make it hard to get a good night’s sleep, since your buzzing body may not be able to relax enough to rest. The racing thoughts that can come with anxiety are no recipe for great sleep, either.To make matters worse, the problem can often turn into a vicious cycle. Struggling to get enough sleep (and chugging coffee the next day to make up for it)3 ends up making you more anxious, which makes it even harder to fall and stay asleep, and so on and so on, the Cleveland Clinic explains.5. Muscle tightness, soreness, and painAccording to the APA, your muscles tense up as part of your stress response. And holding parts of your body so rigidly for prolonged periods can actually lead to tension and pain, says Dr. Potter, who notes that many people with anxiety report feeling tight in their neck, back, or shoulders. You might also clench your jaw or feel muscle tension all the way up into your head, leading to headaches, says Dr. Potter. This can include your everyday tension headache4 and range to a full-blown migraine5 in those who are susceptible.6. Stomach discomfort“Anxiety really hits the G.I. system hard,” says Dr. Potter. People with anxiety may notice general stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, or other kinds of digestive distress, she explains. Gassiness and bloating can become regular physical signs of anxiety as well, per the APA.All the bad belly stuff is thought to come from what experts call the gut-brain axis, a communication system between your brain and the enteric nervous system that governs your digestion.6 This connection is why stress can so easily mess with your poop. There’s also the fact that anxiety-induced lifestyle choices, like eating foods that don’t agree with you or not exercising regularly, can affect your digestion as well.7. NauseaConsidering anxiety’s overall effect on your digestive system, it might not come as a surprise that feeling nauseous is another common physical symptom. In fact, a one-year study published in the journal General Hospital Psychiatry found that people who regularly reported symptoms of nausea were more than three times as likely to have an anxiety disorder compared to those who didn’t have frequent nausea.78. Heart palpitationsRemember that racing heart we talked about earlier? In some cases, it can get so intense that it can actually start to feel like your heart is skipping beats or jumping into your throat. While the sensation might (understandably) make you even more anxious, try to keep in mind that even though heart palpitations can feel scary, they aren’t typically dangerous in this context and will ease up as you start to feel calmer, according to the Cleveland Clinic. (With that said, you should seek medical attention if you experience heart palpitations with feelings of chest pain, dizziness, trouble breathing, or confusion.)9. Nonstop nervous sweatingIf you’re already grappling with anxiety, the thought of sweating profusely may just make it worse. Who wants to worry about pit stains or wiping their palms when they’re already feeling worried and on edge? Unfortunately, sweating is a common physical symptom of anxiety disorders, per the NIMH.