Many of the symptoms of anxiety are frustrating. Sweating is especially annoying, and one of the most common anxiety symptoms. This is why so many anxiety sufferers inquire about how to stop or reduce sweating.
Sweating is actually a natural stress response related to the “fight or flight” system, and it serves as an adaptation that actually has a lot of advantages. Sweat on the skin will eventually evaporate, cooling the body to prevent elevated internal temperatures. Unfortunately, sweating with anxiety is not needed to cool the body, but merely causes an unwanted side effect that most individuals wish they could stop.
Why Does Sweating Occur And How Can it Be Controlled?
The reality is that nervous sweating is not only common - it is normal. When you are nervous, your body's “fight or flight” system activates, sending a rush of energy hormones into your body that trigger an increase in heart rate and blood flow, among other things.
Sweating is then also activated to help cool the body down from all of that energy, otherwise we would overheat and possibly damage our muscles, enzymes, and other important biological factors that cannot operate at such high temperatures.
That is why sweating, in the general sense, is both normal and healthy. The problem is when it occurs too often or in undesirable situations.
General nervousness and anxiousness may also cause sweating, even without an anxiety disorder. For example, many people find that before an important meeting or a final in high school or college that their hands start to sweat. That is because they are stressed, and their body is responding to the extra energy by cooling them down.
How to Reduce Anxious Sweating
The key to reducing anxious sweating is not stopping the sweating itself. You cannot (and do not want to) stop your body's ability to cool down; otherwise your body could overheat and potentially damage your brain and organs.
Instead, you need to find a way to control your heartbeat and calm your nerves so that your body is not heating up and sweating to compensate. You also need to reduce excess heat in the areas that are sweating, in order to prevent excess sweating. Some examples of how to reduce this sweating include:
- Let Your Hands/Arms Breathe - When you are stressed or anxious, it is not uncommon to do things like clench your hands into fists, place them in your pocket, put your hands on your face, and so on. This adds extra heat and warmth to your skin, which makes you sweat more. Make sure that your hands are able to air-dry so that the sweat can evaporate.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight - Your body weight also plays a role in sweating. Overweight people have a greater core body temperature as a result of excess fat deposits. When you feel anxious or nervous, your body creates more heat than someone with a healthier weight, causing your skin to sweat even more as a result.
- Jogging - Jogging is actually an extremely effective anti-anxiety trick. Jogging releases endorphins which calm the mood and make it less prone to feelings of nervousness, even in nerve inducing situations. Jogging also tires the muscles, which prevents stress from causing quite as much energy (and thus less heat). Jogging itself does cause sweat, so you should not jog right before or during any event you want to be sweat free, but once you have cooled down jogging can be very beneficial.
- Deep Breathing - A calming technique that can be effective at reducing sweating is deep breathing. Deep breathing involves sitting gently in a chair with your arms at your sides. Take a deep and slow breath in through your nose. Hold for three or four seconds, and breathe out through your mouth almost like you are going to whistle so that it takes almost 7 seconds to fully exhale. Repeat ten times. Deep breathing calms the body, which should cool it down and reduce sweating.
- Do Not Fear Sweat - One of the more interesting problems that occurs with those that sweat excessively is they start to fear their sweat, and this induces more nervousness. They think "I hope I do not sweat too much" and then they start to sweat more. Learn not to fear your sweat. It will go away in time, provided you learn to control your anxiety and stress.
- Wear Clothes That Breathe - If you know you are going to be in a situation that may lead to sweating, try to reduce external body heat. Overly warm clothes will only increase your body's need to sweat, and could make the sweat seem more excessive.
These are the types of strategies you can use in the moment, but in general the key to avoiding sweating is to avoid nervousness and anxiety.
If you just suffer from nervousness in some situations (like going on a blind date) then your sweating is likely normal. The key to preventing sweat is to find ways to calm yourself so that the event does not generate as much of a fear response. Deep breathing, meditation, and jogging long beforehand can be a tremendous help here.
If you are nervous all the time, or as a result of anxiety, then you will need to learn to control your anxiety symptoms. It is crucial to know if you are suffering from constant anxiety or panic attacks; only by checking the symptoms can you be certain you have anxiety and figure out how to manage it.