It is estimated that 1 in 6 adults and 1 in 4 kids suffer from mental illness. Depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, and anxiety are just a few of the mental illnesses that so many struggle to fight and overcome. With these statistics, it’s probable that you, someone in your family, or a friend struggle with mental illness.
Anxiety Is The Most Common Mental Illness
Of all mental illnesses, anxiety is the most common, affecting over 40 million people in the United States. In today’s society, we are more digitally connected than ever before, yet so many of us are left feeling less communal, less collaborative, and isolated. In the world of Facebook, Instagram, and other social media outlets, we try as hard as we can to connect with one another and to feel accepted or liked. As millennials would say, we have a real FOMO (fear of missing out) and that can cause fear and anxiety for so many.
To help raise awareness of mental health issues, we decided to share with our martial arts community a list of do’s and don’ts for treating anxiety.
Do Look For Symptoms
Many people with chronic anxiety issues either don’t realize they have a problem or don’t know how to get help. We’ve created a life full of busy schedules, working long hours, and needing to prove to others that we are succeeding in every facet of life. This way of life leaves little to no room for relaxation and reducing stress levels. Many of us convince ourselves that these feelings of anxiety and stress are completely normal, when in fact they are not. Here are a few anxiety symptoms to look for in yourself or a family member or friend:
- Poor sleep
- Feeling tense
- Dwelling on negative experiences
- Frequent colds or infections
- Muscle twitching
- Feeling numb
- Unable to concentrate
If you’re a parent or martial arts instructor, be sure to watch for signs in your kids and martial arts students. Not all children have developed the ability to handle difficult emotions in a healthy way yet, so anxiety can be even more difficult to spot. In kids, here’s what to look for:
- Disruptive behavior in school or during your taekwondo or karate class
- Lack of energy, sick often, and frequently missing karate classes
- Dwelling on previous experiences in school or during martial arts
- Extreme anger or lack of control during your jiu-jitsu or aikido class
- No desire to attend school or martial arts classes anymore
Do Start Exercising
Studies have shown that vigorous exercise increases levels of the anxiety-busting chemical serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins in the brain, which create a sense of post-workout euphoria.
Martial Arts Lets You Work Out Anxiety
Martial arts can be a great source of exercise for people who struggle with anxiety because its disciplines require you to learn both self-control, self-trust, and meditation. Learning these martial arts disciplines can help overcome an anxiety attack and trigger a relaxation response in high-stress situations at work, school, or other parts of your life outside of the martial arts classroom.
Karate class, in particular, is known to help people with anxiety because of its ability to let you work out your frustrations and stress through kicking, punching, and yelling when executing a technique. Karate calls for big bursts of explosive energy, creating a healthy outlet for kids and adults to work out their anxiety.
In addition, BJJ is also a popular discipline of martial arts to help combat anxiety. Jiu-jitsu helps a person train their mind to focus on the present and to control their thoughts. Jiu-jitsu also provides the tools to survive under pressure and difficult situations, which so many with anxiety struggle to deal with.
Do Weigh the Pros and Cons of Medication
If you or someone you know is now aware that they are struggling with mental illness and anxiety, taking a medication may or may not be the next step to healing. A variety of medications have shown to be helpful in treating anxiety, but they don’t always work for every person. And because no one is exactly alike, medications frequently have different effects on different people.
- It can treat the underlying cause
- It can prevent attacks
- Can be used to treat most anxiety disorders
- Takes 4-6 weeks to have full effect
- Must be taken daily
- No one medication works the same for every person
Some important questions to ask when deciding whether or not to take medications are:
- How long can the medication be used
- Will you be taking it for the short term or long-term
- What will happen when you stop
Some anti-anxiety medications can cause problems or worsen your symptoms if you quit. Also, the duration you plan to medicate can either minimize side effects or add new side effects. If you’re thinking about getting a prescription for anxiety, be sure to talk to your doctor about all your options. Your doctor is the best source of information since they know you and your health situation best.
Don’t Isolate Yourself
In our technology-driven world, we are now able to reach more people, more quickly than ever before. But the constant comparison and demands placed on us by social media and technology have caused serious problems and created an anxiety-ridden society. Even though we have the world at our fingertips to connect and communicate, many are left feeling more isolated than ever.
It is reported that teens that spend more time on social media have more mental health and anxiety issues than those who have more face-to-face interactions through social events and playing sports. “Connecting” with others through Facebook or Instagram doesn’t make up for real, in-person connection. Plan a lunch meetup with a friend, visit your parents, join a recreational sports team, or make sure to consistently attend your karate or BJJ class every week for in-person interaction.
Don’t Expect Immediate Changes
Being able to treat and overcome anxiety can take time, so don’t expect immediate changes after you’ve started exercising, taking karate, or using medication. People that try to cure their anxiety too quickly can, unfortunately, have setbacks that make their anxiety worse. Make sure to celebrate every small step in your journey to overcoming and controlling anxiety. Even people who don’t necessarily struggle with anxiety experience symptoms from time to time, so don’t expect to be 100% recovered. There will be issues that come up and that is completely normal and natural.
Don’t Give Up
Remember, it’s never too late to treat anxiety. No matter how stressed or terrible you feel, there are always people who are there to help and multiple ways to treat the condition. It’s never too late to try a new technique, new exercise, or new medication to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety.
Mental Health Awareness
It is our hope that you have become more aware of mental illness and anxiety through reading this blog. At Kicksite, we are striving to reduce the stigma and misconceptions of mental illness. We believe that sharing these do’s and don’ts that come with anxiety will help our martial arts community become more proactive in positively impacting our instructors, parents, and students.