What is Free-Floating Anxiety And How to Overcome
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety is on the rise, with anxiety disorders affecting over 40 million Americans each year.
Maybe it also affects you too.
While a little worry is ok — even totally natural in day-to-day life — it shouldn’t affect the way you function at work or in your relationships.
Today we’ll shed some light on free-floating anxiety and what you can do to keep it at bay.
Is Free-Floating Anxiety the Same as General Anxiety Disorder?
Free-floating anxiety is a symptom of General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) — but the two are often used interchangeably.
The main difference is that GAD is a diagnosed medical condition while floating anxiety is a symptom involving racing thoughts and transient feelings of anxiety.
The sensation of floating anxiety is often described as constant nervousness, worry, or uneasiness in anticipation of an upcoming event. The event doesn’t even need to be very grand and important — it can be as simple as meeting friends or family, riding the bus, or attending a class at university.
But, when these little worries begin to grow so rapidly they take over your thoughts and impact your ability to live an enjoyable life — this is when free-floating anxiety begins to take its destructive grip around you.
The earlier you realize it’s happening the easier it is to overcome free-floating anxiety long-term.
Symptoms of Free-Floating Anxiety
What’s your day-to-day mood?
Are you calm? Can you focus easily on your duties and then switch to “me-time” mode without feeling your mind constantly racing?
People with free-floating anxiety would have probably answered no to these questions.
Here’s a list of common symptoms of free-floating anxiety:
1. Physical Symptoms
- Increased heartbeat
- Cold sweats
- Damp hands
- Hot flashes
- Flushed cheeks
2. Psychological Symptoms
- Feeling worried about “nothing in particular”
- Constantly creating negative scenarios in your mind
- Inability to concentrate or pay attention
- Irritability/Mood changes
- Racing thoughts virtually all the time
There are a number of other conditions that can occur alongside free-floating anxiety.
Here are some of the most common examples:
- Eating disorders
- Major depressive disorder
- Panic disorder
- Selective mutism
- Separation anxiety
- Social anxiety disorder
- Substance abuse
What Causes Free-Floating Anxiety?
A combination of factors come can come together to cause free-floating anxiety.
Although there’s no specific trigger that could cause this disorder, there are four fundamental risk factors that can create perfect conditions for free-floating anxiety to thrive.
1. Unhealthy Lifestyle
Poor quality of sleep, a diet high in processed food, stress, and lack of exercise — they all loom a shadow over your mental health and contribute to feelings of anxiety.
A) Insufficient Sleep
Sleep is the chance for the body and brain go through regeneration processes. Without enough sleep, you’re depriving yourself of the time your brain needs to get back on track to remain in good health. We should be getting 6–8 hours of sleep every night.
B) Poor Diet
Consuming a diet high in processed foods deprive the body of necessary nutrients such as amino acids, carbohydrates, essential fats, vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants. These elements are the precursors of the most important functions within your body.
When you lack basic macro- and micronutrients, both your physical and mental abilities become impaired. Insufficient protein intake leads to poor neurotransmitter production; the lack of carbohydrates and fats will leave you drained of energy and irritable; not taking oxidants, in turn, exposes your body to the oxidative damage caused by free radicals. This damage can lead to neuroinflammation and anxiety.
C) Too Much Stress
Stress will sooner or later take a toll on your mental health because your brain will begin to treat racing thoughts and constant fear as something normal. Over time, high cortisol levels cause damage to our neurological, digestive, and immune systems.
D) Low Physical Activity
Not exercising can make anxiety even worse. Without exercise, your system doesn’t have the opportunity to flush itself from the toxic substances and metabolic byproducts. Additionally, exercising releases endorphins, which are natural opiates, making us feel calm and relaxed.
2. Changes in Brain Chemistry
Lifestyle habits aside, anxiety can also be caused by changes in brain chemistry, especially when serotonin isn’t produced in sufficient amounts. Serotonin is an essential neurotransmitter that allows you to experience the feelings of wellbeing; it also regulates the mood, appetite, and sleep.
Low levels of serotonin are associated with anxiety attacks, depression, and constant mood swings. However, researchers haven’t yet agreed whether the bad mood results from low serotonin levels or the other way round.
It’s probably a combination of both, which is why it takes a holistic approach to cut the free-floating anxiety loose.
3. Genetic Polymorphisms
Genes are the traits we inherit from our ancestors. In much the same way as brown hair might run in your family, you may also be genetically predisposed to suffer from anxiety.
Does your mom or dad tend to worry about everything too much and exaggerate even the most ridiculous trifles? If yes, then free-floating anxiety may run in your genes.
4. Environmental Factors
Everything that happens around you can have a serious impact on your mental health. Living in a stressful environment, engaging in toxic relationships, being isolated from friends and family, or experiencing a traumatic life event such as loss can exacerbate anxiety.
Sometimes, when a child grows up, he or she may be exposed to some chronic stressors and thus develops coping processes. As this coping mechanism develops, the child tends to identify negative thoughts with stressful emotions, but cannot identify the situation, which is why some people tend to overreact to small stresses with a lot of anxiety.
How to Overcome Free-Floating Anxiety
Fortunately, overcoming free-floating anxiety doesn’t take a diploma in neurobiological sciences.
More often than not, all you have to do is incorporate some simple strategies into your lifestyle. They’ll help you curb the anxiety that has grown and developed over the years, but you need to stay patient. After all, if something has been neglected for such a long time, it won’t be gone in the blink of an eye.
Be nice to yourself, don’t push these strategies too far, and you’ll find that you feel calmer and experience fewer bouts of anxiety.
Working outcomes with a range of well-documented health benefits for the body, but did you know that it plays a huge role in supporting your mental health?
A review of studies issued in Frontiers in Psychiatry concluded that physical exercises can help manage anxiety and depression in several ways. For example, aerobic exercise can increase levels of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor whose deficiencies are linked to the above conditions.
More importantly, when you work out, your brain releases endorphins — the compounds responsible for elevating your mood.
But the best part of working out is that you don’t need to hit the gym and go hard on yourself to get rid of anxious thoughts. Why don’t you go for a walk? Or get on a bike and enjoy some casual hiking instead of driving a car everywhere?
Simply play your favorite tunes and lose yourself in the exercise. Remember, you’re not a professional athlete, so doing 15 to 30 minutes of a moderate workout should do the trick.
2. Write Down Potential Triggers
Free-floating anxiety got its name for a good reason — people can’t tell what triggers their anxiety most of the time.
A great way to track your anxieties (and make coping with them easier) is to bullet journal.
Write about the events that took place in your day and take some time to spot the triggers.
Take note of the parts that caused you to feel anxious.
Doing so will help you understand your triggers and find creative solutions to overcome it.
3. Make Sure There’s Always Room For “Me Time”
We live in a fast-paced era when too much burden is put on our shoulders on a regular basis. Being constantly under peer pressure and unrealistic expectations, as well as having absolutely no time for yourself can ravage your mental health.
No matter how hard you work, how many children you have, and how much of a dick your boss is — there must always be room for me-time.
Is there anything that makes you smile and helps you feel calm right away? That’s good because it means you’ve got a hobby. Now, the most important thing is to find the time to practice that hobby.
Cooking, reading a book, doing yoga, having a spa-like bath, or simply meditating in silence are also excellent activities to help you relax and ease your anxieties.
Finding time to care for yourself is particularly important for women, who are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety.
4. Fine-Tune Your Brain Through Diet & Supplementation
Your body is a complex machine, and just as machines need high-quality fuel to function properly for a long time, humans need that fuel to live a happy and healthy life — simple as that.
Junk food is equally as damaging to your brain as it is the rest of your body.
A diet high in inferior-quality foods like sugar, refined carbohydrates, trans-fats, and meat from mass production can have an adverse effect on all aspects of health, including mood and stress coping mechanisms.
When trying to overcome free-floating anxiety, make sure that your diet consists of both saturated and unsaturated fats in their natural form (not hydrogenated), high-quality complex protein (preferably from organically bred animals), complex carbohydrates, and plenty of vegetables to supply your body with vitamins.
Sometimes, free-floating anxiety may result from endocannabinoid deficiencies. Humans have endocannabinoid systems that are responsible for regulating an array of biological functions including the mood and reaction to stress.
Active compounds found in cannabis plants, such as CBD (or Cannabidiol), can regulate those deficiencies, bringing back the chemical balance in the body and brain.
On top of that, CBD operates on several different molecular pathways, affecting serotonin receptors, CB1 cannabinoid receptors, and slowing down the breakdown of the body’s natural cannabinoids.
CBD has recently made huge headlines in the world of contemporary medicine; people turn to CBD-based products to find relief from inflammation, pain, chronic stress, and anxiety.
With all that said, CBD on its own may not necessarily prove a miracle-worker. In order to draw the most of the supplementation with this therapeutic compound, you need to take care of all the above points in the first place.
Popular Herbs & Supplements For Anxiety
- CBD (Cannabidiol)
- B Vitamin complex
- Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
- Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
- Kava (Piper methysticum)
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
- Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)
Final Word on Free Floating Anxiety
Anxiety is a natural part of our everyday lives. We all can have anxious thoughts and experience a little bit of stress from time to time. But you don’t have to be a prisoner of free-floating anxiety.
As soon as you realize that you’re suffering from symptoms of free-floating anxiety, you can make a conscious decision to begin your journey to overcome it.
Free-floating anxiety is a multifactorial condition, one that can become debilitating over time. Fortunately, small changes can bring up the big difference; reading a book, going for a walk, taking time out for a nap, and eating nutritious food are all simple steps you can take to take control of your mood once again.
Do you suffer from free-floating anxiety? What triggers anxious thoughts in your case? Do you have your own strategies to curb anxiety?
Share your tips in the comments below!
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About James Reed
James Reed is the founder and editor-in-chief at iSum. He’s a big advocate of marijuana and spent most of his time writing about these topics, sharing what he learned over the years.