How to Stop Shaking From Anxiety?
It’s normal to feel anxious from time to time, whether it’s about an upcoming interview or a major exam. But when your anxiety makes it difficult to continue functioning, that’s when you need professional help. Over 40 million US adults suffer from one anxiety disorder or the other. Symptoms like shaking and tremors can occur when you experience high levels of anxiety. While the symptom isn’t dangerous, it can be uncomfortable.
If you struggle with anxiety and symptoms like shaking and are wondering why it happens and how you can manage it, here’s what you should know.
Why Your Body Shakes When You’re Anxious
Anxiety occurs as a result of our fight or flight instinct, which is activated to help you react to a perceived danger or life-threatening event. When you’re in this state, your body has elevated epinephrine and cortisol. The purpose of these hormones is to increase your blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate so you’re prepared to fight or run away from the source of danger.
As a result, your muscles are primed to act, whether you need to stand your ground or flee. But when you’re anxious, this instinct is activated in the absence of an apparent threat, so there’s no need for you to use that built-up energy fighting or fleeing. Consequently, you start shaking and trembling.
While some people are able to manage this response in healthy ways, others are unable to control it, and it has significant effects on their ability to function. The fight or flight response can contribute to symptoms like tremors, headaches, and nausea.
Symptoms That Accompany Anxiety Shaking
When you’re anxious, your body can start shaking, but there are other physiological symptoms you can expect as well:
- Rapid Heart Rate: When your brain senses that you’re in danger, it signals the heart to beat faster so it can pump blood to the muscles, preparing them in case you need to run. It’s one of the most common symptoms that you experience, along with shaking.
- Muscle Tension: Stress hormones that are released when you’re anxious can cause your muscles to contract, increasing their tension. This keeps you ready in case of a life-threatening situation, but when you don’t use that built-up energy, it just leaves your muscles feeling sore.
- Dry Mouth: During the body’s fight or flight response, the brain diverts all energy towards your muscles while slowing down the digestive system. It’s why your mouth feels really dry when you’re particularly anxious.
- Shallow Breathing: When anxious, you take quick and shallow breaths instead of long and deep ones. This change in breath rate allows you to take in more oxygen that goes to your muscles, but you’ll feel like you’re running out of breath.
- Sweating: The fight or flight response raises your body’s internal temperature, so you start sweating as a way to stay cool.
Is It An Anxiety Disorder or a Panic Attack?
Shaking due to anxiety can be very uncomfortable, but their disadvantages go beyond just inconvenience. When you start experiencing tremors, it becomes difficult to calm down, concentrate on work, or even sleep. But to manage the symptoms, you need to be sure about what’s causing it: is it an anxiety disorder or a panic attack?
These two conditions aren’t mutually exclusive, but they’re not the same either. You can have an anxiety disorder with panic symptoms, but just because you experience a panic attack doesn’t mean you have an anxiety or panic disorder.
Tremors When You Have an Anxiety Disorder
When you have an anxiety disorder like generalized anxiety or social anxiety, severe anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as trembling or shaking. Usually, however, symptoms of an anxiety disorder are psychological and take place in your mind.
Tremors During a Panic Attack
Panic attacks are sudden episodes when you experience intense fear in the absence of a real threat. They can cause physical reactions such as shivering and trembling and can be very frightening for the person experiencing them. You may feel like you’re losing control or that you’re dying. Compared to anxiety, the symptoms of a panic attack are easily seen and identified by other people.
How To Manage Shaking Caused by Anxiety
Shaking from anxiety can make all types of activities much more difficult to complete. Thankfully, using appropriate treatment and management strategies can help reduce the intensity of the symptoms. There are a multitude of self-help techniques and evidence-based therapies that can help.
As mentioned above, anxiety can cause your breathing to become shallow and rapid. While this is effective for preserving energy in dangerous situations, it’s not ideal in the long run. One of the first things to do when you’re facing bouts of anxiety is to calm your breathing and take slow, deep breaths.
The reason deep breathing is recommended so often is because it slows down your sympathetic nervous system, dampening the fight or flight response. Deep breathing signals to the brain that you’re no longer in danger. A simple exercise is to try inhaling for about 4 seconds and holding your breath for 7. Once 7 seconds are up, exhale for 8 seconds. Having a longer out-breath than in-breath stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system so you can relax.
When you experience an uncomfortable anxiety symptom like shaking, the discomfort can perpetuate further anxiety, making it difficult to stop shaking. Practicing mindfulness to be present and aware of what’s happening to you and around you can stop you from shaking and becoming overly reactive or overwhelmed.
Start by sitting comfortably with your back against a wall or any other form of support. Take deep breaths and focus on how your abdomen moves upwards as you breathe in and falls when you breathe out. Now, this is just mindfulness of your own body. Next, widen your consciousness so you’re mindful of what’s happening around you: take in the sounds, sights, and sensations.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Besides shaking, you’ll also feel that anxiety makes your muscles feel very tense. Trying progressive muscle relaxation can tell your muscles to relax and keep them from shaking. In this relaxation technique, you pay attention to a specific muscle group, like your leg, arm, or shoulder. Then, you focus on contracting and relaxing that muscle group. As you move from one muscle group to the next, you end up targeting the entire body, getting the muscles to relax and stop shaking.
Getting a little bit of exercise every day isn’t just great for your physical health, but half an hour of activity can prevent anxiety-related shaking, too. By working out, you’re able to use up any excess energy built up when your body is in its fight or flight mode. Not to mention, it stimulates the circulation of feel-good chemicals such as endorphins and dopamine.
Catch Some Zs
When you’re dealing with high anxiety, getting at least 6 to 7 hours of sleep each night is essential. Studies indicate that inadequate sleep can raise anxiety levels by 30 percent, and it’s also a trigger for premature activation of your fight or flight response. Meanwhile, a full night of sleep can cause anxiety levels to drop. It also reduces physiological and emotional reactivity, making you less likely to experience shaking due to anxiety.
Treatments To Address Shaking From Anxiety
Though the above-mentioned management techniques are great for alleviating anxiety levels, it’s always recommended to see a professional if symptoms don’t persist.
The best course of action for addressing anxiety and symptoms like shaking is to seek psychotherapy. It’s an evidence-based method that can involve adopting different approaches. The most commonly used, however, is CBT, which requires you to focus on the negative thoughts perpetuating anxious feelings. You’ll work with your therapist to restructure the negative thoughts behind your anxious feelings, allowing you to gain control over your symptoms.
If your anxiety and subsequent symptoms stem from a traumatic event, experts recommend undergoing EMDR therapy. It reduces the distress associated with the event, so you feel less anxious upon recalling it. In this therapy, your practitioner will have you recall the event while engaging in some form of bilateral stimulation so as to divert your attention.
In most cases, psychotherapy is recommended as the first course of action for helping with shaking from anxiety. But when psychotherapy doesn’t help, your mental health practitioner can prescribe medication. Usually, they prescribe antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors to regulate the balance of neurotransmitters in your brain. Other options include anti-anxiety medication like benzodiazepines, but these have a risk of tolerance, so they should only be prescribed for short-term relief.
Enrolling in Inpatient Treatment To Address anxiety-shaking
The best approach for addressing shaking from anxiety is to combine management strategies and professional treatment methods. However, this can be difficult to manage on your own, especially when you’re struggling with an anxiety disorder. One way to incorporate both aspects for a holistic approach is by enrolling in a residential treatment program.
Staying at a dedicated treatment facility allows you to focus on healing in a calm environment that’s free of triggers while engaging in different strategies and therapies for a positive outcome.
Shaking from anxiety occurs as a physiological symptom of experiencing high levels of anxiety. It accompanies other symptoms like a rapid heart rate, shallow breathing, and sweating. Techniques to manage shaking from anxiety include relaxation strategies like progressive muscle relaxation, getting adequate sleep, and regular exercise. It’s also a good idea to see a professional and undergo therapy to address your anxiety disorder.