Dealing with Anxiety can take a toll on your life, family and your overall health. We have all experienced anxiety in some form during our lives and finding ways to cope and move past it can be a daunting obstacle. I hope this will give you a place of solace during this difficult time!! As Always, please consult a physician when you are dealing with something you feel is out of control. I am a registered nurse and I truly want to help, but there are areas that are not my expertise and I highly recommend a specialist when life is beyond your control. Now on to the goodies!!
Getting To Know The Many Faces Of Anxiety
The word ‘anxiety’ reaches far beyond what many people would typically think. It’s common to feel anxious about something in life – whether it is positive or negative. But there are many types of anxiety, and many varying degrees.
Everyone has experienced some sort of anxiety in their lifetime. That’s part of being human. If you are experiencing anxiety, it helps to identify the type of anxiety so you can find the proper treatment. Here is a general discussion of what to look for if you think you may be experiencing anxiety.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Commonly called GAD, this type of anxiety involves a sense of things being out of proportion. You feel things are ‘bigger’ than they are. Your worry is excessive and uncontrollable. Things that most people consider to be a part of everyday living are much more drastic and overwhelming for someone with GAD.
This type of anxiety typically comes on suddenly. The panic attack may last for minutes or hours. A panic attack may be characterized as periods of intense fear or apprehension. It may feel like a heart attack or a nervous breakdown. There can be a feeling of being trapped and wanting to escape. If panic attacks occur on a regular basis, they are then deemed to be a symptom of a panic disorder.
When we rehash an unpleasant outcome of a particular event, that is what we call worrying. It is based upon mental thoughts and images about what might happen. This can be both real and imagined events. Technically, a little amount of worry is common and even helpful. Worry becomes a problem when it dominates our thoughts or prevents us from living a normal life, including taking normal risks.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
This type of anxiety became well known as a result of the increased number of military personnel put in circumstances that cause psychological trauma. An event that puts someone in harm’s way, and/or traumatizes a person’s mental or emotional well-being, could impair the mind’s ability to cope with even normal situations. Think of the brain as being on high-alert at all times. Typical symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, anger, depression, and sleep disorders.
Social Anxiety / Social Phobia
Socializing may be fun for most, but for someone with social anxiety or a social phobia, the thought of being with others in terrifying. A heightened sense of worry about what others will think of them results in fear and low self-esteem. This type of anxiety is a downward spiral – isolation creates low self-esteem and doubt, and low self-esteem and doubt creates isolation, and on and on.
This is probably one of the most misunderstood part of anxiety. Depression is not something we typically see as being anxiety-related. Seen often as simply a period of time when we feel “in the dumps,” depression is in fact a time when our mind and body have suppressed feelings and emotions. It is what happens during these times that can cause our anxiety to rise. During times of depression, we can have negative thoughts and feel fear toward things that may not have bothered us before. When these thoughts and fears start to escalate, our anxiety begins to climb.
With this type of anxiety, a person has only one focus: their health. The slightest physical symptom can manifest itself in the hypochondriac’s mind to be a major concern. A small bump on the leg can be no less than a cancerous tumor. Blurred vision is nothing short of total blindness. This type of anxiety, left untreated, can consume a person’s life to the point of disability, even to the extent of becoming a self-fulfilled prophecy.
As you can see, there is a vast array of anxieties. If you think you or someone you know fits one or more of these categories, be sure to consult your physician. Getting professional help is the first step to recovery.
Understanding The Difference Between Stress And Anxiety
If you use the phrases, “I’m under so much stress” and “I’m feeling so much anxiety” interchangeably, you may not be distinguishing between stress and anxiety. The fact is, there IS a difference. Let’s take a look.
This is a response to pressure where the source is identifiable. Most of us experience stress on a daily basis. Some examples of stress are getting stuck in traffic, forgetting to stop at the store for milk, being late for work, and so forth. You feel this stress for a short period of time and then it goes away.
If the feelings you’re having seem to fall into the “this too shall pass” category, then you’re probably under a bit of stress. Again, stress is something that has a source cause and goes away after some period of time – perhaps in a minute, a few hours, or a day or so.
This is a response to a perceived danger. Anxiety takes place when you worry (become anxious) about what might happen. For example, if you worry about the traffic, or stopping at the store, or that you might not get to work on time, that’s anxiety. This is about the perception, not the event itself.
Actual anxiety is not something that comes and goes; it is something that persists for months or even years. When you are fearful or apprehensive – and that feeling persists – you may be suffering from anxiety. The condition of anxiety is a true mental health issue.
What Can You Do?
Only a professional can evaluate you and decide if you have everyday worries or a confirmed diagnosis of anxiety. However, there are some things you can do to help get a handle on what you are feeling before you call a health care professional.
First, managing your reaction to stressful events is your best coping mechanism. In the moment you are experiencing either stress or anxiety, you need to stop and take a deep breath to clear your head and relax. Then, ask yourself how the event impacts you and your life. Honestly. Not perceived, but truthfully. If you are stuck in traffic, and you forget the milk, and you are late for work, what will actually happen to you. Ask yourself what’s the worse that could happen, and you are typically going to realize that you are going to be okay.
Next, you’ll want to take a moment and focus just on the feelings you’re having. Really listen to your inner monologue and hear what your mind and body are telling you. As you listen to your body, try to work through the situation and calm yourself so it doesn’t feel like you’re having a crisis.
Finally, pay attention to what happened to bring on the stress or anxiety. For example, if you truly did get stuck in a traffic jam, as soon as traffic begins flowing again, ask yourself if the feelings subside or did they become worse? If they subside, that’s probably just a brief moment of stress. If they continue or become worse, such as a panic attack, you may be experiencing true anxiety. Identifying the source of your stress or anxiety is definitely helpful in working through the feelings as well as preventing a recurrence.
With that said, if you experience severe physical symptoms (shortness of breath, heart palpitations, sweating, pain in the chest or neck, chocking, etc.) you need to seek medical help. Don’t assume you are having a panic attack. See your doctor and let him/her be the judge.
Taking Control Of Your Anxiety
It’s no fun having to deal with something that interferes with your life, no matter what it is. Having a flat tire, for instance, is a pain. But, it can be fixed in a relatively short amount of time. Not so with other things that interfere with your life. For instance, anxiety. Dealing with anxiety is not like having a flat tire. Anxiety is not something that can be easily or quickly fixed.
When you experience anxiety, the first thing you should do is seek medical assistance. This is going to help your doctor or other health care professional understand what you need to do in order to deal with the anxiety, and design the best possible treatment program.
But, taking control of anxiety takes more than a doctor’s intervention. You must also work to minimize the day-to-day impact anxiety is having on your life. It’s important to realize there are no magic cures for anxiety disorder. Your goal is to develop coping skills so you can live a normal life. Choosing to face the challenge of anxiety is the only way you are going to get better. But how do you do that?
Like many challenges in life, developing a plan with easy to follow steps often works out well. Here we’ll lay out a suggested plan that you can follow to get you started. After a time, you will want to see what works best for you in managing your anxiety related reactions. Let’s take a look.
Step 1 – The Cause
What is really causing the anxiety? Get out a pen and paper and describe the events leading up to the anxiety in detail. Science shows there is connection between your fingers and your brain as you write down your feelings and thoughts on paper. As you’re describing the problem, don’t be surprised how your perception may change as you vent. Don’t go back and correct or rewrite. Each word is valid at the moment you wrote it, even if your thoughts change completely.
Step 2 – The Validity
Once you’ve clearly defined your worry, determine how valid it is. Is this something that’s a real possibility, or is it more of a “this is what might happen” scenario? If you find that it’s a “what if” scenario, try to justify your fears. Pretend you have to convince someone else this is going to happen. You might find there isn’t really anything to worry about. Or, there may be a reason to be anxious. In either case, the next steps will help.
Step 3 – The Script
Come up with a “script” that allows you to take control of the situation. The script can be actual words or it can be a method of reacting to a situation. For example, when you’re anxious about dealing with a family situation, remember that you can control what you are going to say or how you are going to react. You understand the nature of the problem and how you would like it to be resolved, but you also have to be aware that all you really control is yourself. If you stick to your “script,” you have done your part. Everything beyond that is outside of your control. By going in prepared, you’ll maintain control over what you can – you.
Step 4 – The Release
If you feel you’ve done all you can do, then let it go. Create a mantra of sorts you can use to affirm that you’ve done everything you can and there is no longer a reason to hang onto the anxiety. That’s easier said than done at first, but give it a try. Once you take that first step forward, the next steps will follow, and will become easier each time.
Anxiety is real and it’s not something that simply goes away. How you approach it is what makes the difference, and that approach is all up to you.
Listening To Your Anxiety Messages
When it comes to anxiety, that little voice inside your head can wreck havoc with your peace of mind, as well as your behavior. You may be making lifestyle decisions based on these messages. Most, if not all, of these messages you’re hearing (telling yourself) have been planted there by something, whether external or internal. Either way, you have to be able to sort through those messages to get to what’s real versus what’s perceived. Let’s take a look at some common messages that often go hand-in-hand with anxiety.
I will never overcome this fear.
Fear is a major stressor in most of those individuals who have mild to severe anxiety. Many people battling anxiety can be paralyzed at the thought of trying to overcome a fearful situation or thought. The solution? Take one small step forward. This is nothing elaborate, just taking one small step, making one small change, that might alleviate at least a portion of the fear.
I know things will get worse.
You see a situation as being bad, and the more you think about it, the more you believe things will get worse. This begins a spiral of heightened anxiety. The solution? Go ahead and imagine the worse. Don’t hold back. Voice it out loud. As you put the worse case scenario into words, you begin to release your worry, and your anxiety starts to lessen.
I am going crazy.
When you have a multitude of thoughts racing around in your head, it can feel overwhelming, out of control. Things start to become a blur of confusion, chaos ensues, and that’s when your anxiety skyrockets. The solution? Stop the madness! Literally. Put a stop to everything you are doing – everything. Draw an actual stop sign and hold it up and say “STOP!” Give yourself a break – for a minute, for an hour, or even a day. When you are ready, come back into your world with the realization that you are not, in fact, going crazy. Your brain was just spinning like a hamster wheel and you had to stop it and get off. Now, focus on doing one thing at a time.
I know something bad is going to happen.
Worrying about what bad thing is going to happen next is not uncommon. Being certain that bad things are around every corner can be anxiety. No matter how much you play something out in your mind, you won’t be able to predict the future. Why? Because you don’t have complete control over all the factors that make up any event. The solution? Plan ahead for the things you have control over – your words, your reactions, your actions. That’s the proper way to handle any situation as it unfolds. Of course bad things happen to everyone at some time. We all live through bad times. If you are paralyzed by the thought of bad things happening, anxiety may be at the root.
I need to be worrying about this.
Worry is something we all do to some degree. But, when worry consumes you and limits your normal activities, this is the foundation of anxiety. For some, much of their anxiety is self-imposed, caused by finding things to worry about, as if it were their mission in life. The solution? Write out a list of worries that cause you anxiety. Then rank each worry in order of severity. Now take any worry off your list that you have absolutely no control over. You should now be looking at a list of things that you can learn how to handle in such a way as to not cause anxiety.
I have no control.
In reality, you are neither totally without control or totally in control of any situation. Feeling that you have no control may cause anxiety. The solution? Control what you can; your actions and your reactions. Take a situation, perhaps something that’s already happened, and decide what you could have controlled and what was outside of your control. Be realistic and don’t fill in the event with ghosts of conversations or actions that didn’t occur. Just think of what was in your power to control (again, your actions and reactions) and play out the scene with those items. Now you see how you might turn that event or a similar episode around to be something you can handle without becoming anxious.
I can never overcome this even with help.
Helplessness is a serious contributor to anxiety. If you feel helpless, you’ll feel hopeless. That’s when the feeling of losing control can take over and you may become fearful. Again, the spiral leads downward into anxiety. The solution? If you fall into the trap of believing that nothing can help, educate yourself by researching, reading, and asking others for advice. Call on professional help and be honest. Explain that you believe your anxiety is helpless, and hopeless. That is what taking action is all about.
The conversation you are having with yourself is really a learning tool. What are you telling yourself about your limitations, conditions, weaknesses, and helplessness? When the phrases pop into your head, there is something going on that you need to put in perspective, talk through, and learn from. Follow these suggestions and see if you can put your mind to rest and send anxiety packing!
Changing Your Anxiety Filled Lifestyle
Sitting and wallowing in your doubts, worries, or fear is the worst thing a person prone to anxiety can do. There are things you can start doing today, even before considering medication and therapy, that will help alleviate some of the anxiety you are feeling, and lead you away from getting more and more anxiety-ridden. Finding positive and rewarding things to do will be a wonderful change if you are used to fretting. The idea is to remove the things that are magnifying the problem, and replace them with things that bring enjoyment. Let’s take a look at a few ways you can rid your world of some of the stressors that may be adding to your anxiety.
Decrease the Bad
Turn off the TV. With news and reality shows, you’re getting an overload of what’s not good in the world. Watching others suffer can stir up feelings that can compound your anxiety issues. If fear-based anxiety is an issue, watching events that make you fearful just exacerbates the problem. You may begin to believe what you’re seeing will happen to you or someone you love, potentially causing you to become paralyzed emotionally with fear. If you do tune in to watch TV, choose shows that are lighthearted and make you smile. Set your TV remote to store some fun “favorites” and delete the channels that cause you any fear. Now you can surf in comfort and enjoy only positive viewing.
Turn off your electronic devices. Unplug. Much like the TV, these computer devices provide way too much information, much of it not very pleasant. When you are away from your TV, don’t be tempted to “just take a quick look” at what’s going on in the world.
If you are prone to anxiety, leave your information gathering to a trusted friend or family member. Ask if they would put you on a “need to know basis” and contact you only if there is something important enough going on that you actually do need to know. Of course, you want to be informed, but for people who battle anxiety, the constant bombardment of information can be overwhelming. Do not sit with your eyes glued to the screen to learn what you need to know.
And this is something to consider when unavoidably faced with the news of a tragic event: Many people report a reduction in anxiety related to bad news when they actively engage in a relief effort. After a disaster, for instance, give time, money, or other services to help out. This action gives you a feeling of control, which helps to alleviate anxiety when faced with tragedy.
Increase the Good
Sometimes the simplest thing can be the most valuable tool for reducing anxiety. For instance, keeping a “gratitude journal” helps you focus on the positive things in your life. Each day, record a few things for which you are grateful. Allow yourself to relax and soak in the positive things in your day. These things can be tiny or big. If you have a situation that has turned around for the good, be grateful for this transition.
Spending time with positive people is another way to increase the good in your life. Simple distraction from your worries is one of the best ways to take an anxiety break. Being with other people, especially positive people, changes your focus and helps you put your worries aside, even if just for a short time. Engage both with people and activities that are upbeat, enjoyable, and relaxing.
Take up a new hobby, or resurrect an old one. This may help alleviate stress, but you must be mindful that this is not always successful. Why? The hobby may actually cause more stress than it alleviates. For example, you may have liked to golf at one time. But, golfing takes time and money, so if these issues cause stress in your life now, perhaps a less time consuming or expensive hobby is better for you. Even something as simple as doing puzzles has to be thought out. If you used to love to do puzzles, but now the thought of concentrating that hard heightens your anxiety, a less meticulous hobby may be better now. Gardening could be more relaxing and provide less stress just as long as you can allow yourself some time to enjoy the peace and quiet, and not get stressed about your crop yield. When you start a hobby, take a close inventory of your stress level. If your stress heightens during your hobby, try a new hobby. Open your mind and see what else is out there.
A pet can provide much needed stress relief. Just ask any pet owner. Of course, you may think they are biased, so go ahead a back up this suggestion with scientific facts. Studies now have proven that pets are mood lifters and help lessen depression and lowers blood pressure. Playing with a pet increases levels of serotonin in the brain, delivering a calming and relaxing effect. There are even studies that show heart attack patients who have pets survive longer, and pet owners over the age of 65 make fewer visits to the doctor.
Physical and mental inactivity feeds stress and anxiety in a big way. Sitting around doing nothing turns the focus inward, causing worries that will grow continually. An active body releases endorphins which calm the brain and produces happy feelings and thoughts. Physical activity also improves general health, making one less thing to worry about. Mental activity keeps the brain focused and ‘alive’ as the neurons fire away happily. Keeping the brain active also improves the thought process, helping straighten out those spiraling negative messages. Walk, swim, read, write, sing, dance – do something every day to keep your body and mind active.
Find something positive to do for someone else. Volunteering can be one of the most beneficial actions taken by those suffering from anxiety or stress. Not only does volunteering help you get a fresh focus, it gives you a real perspective of your own life. You may end up feeling grateful for what you have, what you can do, and for the people in your life. Oftentimes, anxiety creates the feeling or belief that the world is very, very small, and that you are in danger. When you volunteer outside of your own four walls, you find the world is much larger than your own personal experience, and people are genuinely appreciative of your efforts. This has a very real impact on your own self-esteem, moving you toward healing your anxiety.
Living in constant fear causes anxiety because we feel we are doomed, either by external forces or internal forces. Rather than live in fear, try living in faith. Take a moment to do a little self-talking. Tell yourself that everything is going to get better. Tell yourself that you will have good days. Remind yourself that even though bad things happen, you get to keep the good stuff that happens! Bad does NOT erase good. Take time to meditate, pray, visualize, say a mantra, repeat affirmations, or anything that puts you in a place to see things in a better light.
Making these changes to alter your environment and beliefs is up to you. No one can do this for you. You can, and should, ask for professional help when you are stuck in an anxiety spiral. But, these small changes are your responsibility. Make one small change at a time and see what works best to relieve your anxiety. Then make another small change. You may be pleasantly surprised to find a whole new world awaits you.
Moving Toward Anxiety Relief With A Few Simple Changes
Things may be going along fine. Even if you have some rough times, you’re getting by and dealing with what comes up. Then something happens. Maybe it’s an unplanned event. Maybe it’s an escalation of an existing problem that you’ve been handling just fine. But, suddenly you find yourself filled with anxiety, even paralyzed, unable to figure out what to do. You may even experience a panic attack. Perhaps you worry a bit too much. Maybe you worry so much that it interferes with your day-to-day decisions.
No matter what level, or what precipitates your anxiety, you need to take steps to address the situation and find ways to manage and prevent the next episode. Let’s take a look at a few suggestions that may help to diminish your anxiety.
Avoid Anxiety Triggers
Not all our troubles should be faced head-on all the time. When you’re anxious because you already have too much on your plate, avoid talking with those who have a tendency to add to your pile of worries. If you know that a conversation with someone is going to involve some guilt-making, skip the call. Set the boundaries for who you want to talk to, when you want to talk, and about what you want to talk about. Turn off your phone if you are not ready, willing, and able to talk to someone who causes you stress and anxiety. Use your time instead to talk to those people who lift you up with positive messages and feelings.
Do everything you possibly can to create a peaceful sleeping environment. If fretting about “things that go bump in the night” keeps you awake, try turning on a fan or using a ‘white noise’ machine. Of course “there’s an app for that,” too. The ‘white noise’ is a steady sound which helps mask those noises that are adding to your sleep disturbances. Leaving the TV on or listening to music is not going to help as it can keep your mind working instead of allowing it to rest. If you have a spouse who snores or tosses around in bed, consider making a change and sleeping in a different room – even if temporarily. Yes, getting a proper night’s rest is THAT important for lessening anxiety.
Spell It Out
On individual slips of paper, write down everything making you anxious. Toss them into a bowl, mix them up, and pick one out. Sit down and focus on that one, and only one, item. Delve into why it worries you. Don’t think of anything else, just focus on this one issue. Write out your thought process. Try and look at the issue from a different perspective. For example, if you’re worried about an upcoming job interview, knowing you are not good at answering questions off-the-cuff, come up with a response you might say, such as; “I’d have to think about that for a minute.” Practice saying that response. This is perfectly acceptable and the interviewer may appreciate that you didn’t just rattle off an answer but are giving the question some thought.
Rank Your Tasks
When you’re plagued with anxiety, the last thing you want or need is to add to the pile of things to take care of. Even a simple task, when piled on top of other tasks, becomes overwhelming, causing more anxiety. When this happens, it sometimes puzzles you and those around you. After all, how can one little stop at the grocery store, or one little permission slip for a school field trip send you over the edge? It’s because the tasks have piled on top of each other in no particular order. They need to be prioritized. Create a rating scale, write each task down, then rank everything according to importance and/or urgency. If something has to be done right away, handle it and allow yourself to truly feel how relieved you are that you completed the task. Celebrate that you now have one less thing on your list. What you need to avoid when you make this priority list is that little voice in your head that says, “something else is waiting in the wings” or “I have so much more to do.” Enjoy crossing things off your list as you deal with them, then move on to the next item.
Ask For Help
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask someone for help. Choose a friend to whom you can vent or someone you’ve admired for how they handle all that happens in their life. Maybe they have some suggestions for dealing with anxiety from their own experiences. Suggestions from someone who’s been in a similar situation are a good start to building a less anxiety filled life. Of course, when anxiety takes over your life, stopping you from living normally, consult a health professional.
It’s surprising how many little things we can do to help alleviate stress and anxiety in our life. If you have experienced normal daily stress escalating into anxiety, you know getting through those moments without falling apart or becoming paralyzed is a very welcome feeling. Take these simple suggestions and put them to work in your life, and enjoy some much needed relief from anxiety.
Evaluating Your Anxiety Treatment Options
Each person has their own coping mechanism when it comes to emotional stress. Unfortunately, sometimes that involves simply ignoring the problem. When it comes to anxiety issues, ignoring the situation isn’t really viable. In fact, ignoring the matter can make it worse. Receiving a confirmed diagnosis of anxiety is the first step to getting the help you need to live a normal life. Luckily, there is a wide array of options today for proper treatment. Let’s take a look at a few places to turn to when you are faced with anxiety.
Medical Doctor (MD)
You can always start with your regular physician. With some basic information, your doctor may be able to do a preliminary evaluation of what’s troubling you and causing your anxiety. It’s likely your doctor may feel comfortable prescribing a medication to see if this is something that you will respond to. Your doctor may also refer you to someone with expertise in treating anxiety – medical or non-medical.
Therapist or Psychologist (LCSW, LPC, etc.)
Sometimes people simply need someone professionally trained to listen and sort out what is causing the anxiety. Therapists and psychologists are professionals who cannot prescribe mediation but can help bring an informed perspective to what’s happening. They can help you evaluate possible solutions and continue to support and monitor your progress. As with a medical doctor, a therapist or psychologist may feel that you would benefit from another level of care, and can make the necessary recommendations for further help.
This professional is a medical doctor with specialized training to diagnose, medicate, and manage a treatment plan for mental or emotional trauma and difficulties. They typically work in conjunction with a non-medical therapist or psychologist to ensure that medications are working and that progress is being made toward coping with your anxiety. If and when changes need to be made to your medication and/or treatment, having a psychiatrist and therapist working together can be very beneficial.
One of the non-medical routes available is cognitive therapy, focusing on changing how you think and what thoughts and beliefs may be triggering your anxiety. This therapy identifies the source of the problem and teaches various techniques to try, such as evaluating your self-talk, testing your reality, and restructuring how you think. It’s a good option for those who want to take a proactive role in their anxiety treatment.
Facing your fears is the basis for behavior therapy. You expose yourself to the situations that make you anxious and learn how to redefine them. Behavior therapy includes a multifaceted process to work through the fear. The following is an example of what you might expect in this type of therapy:
- Rank your fears from most to least threatening.
- Think about the least threatening of your fears and imagine yourself experiencing the situation.
- Create a series of small steps that move you away from the fear, such as decreasing the amount of time spent in the situation.
- Diminish the urge to flee by using breathing techniques and other suggested copying skills.
Each type of treatment is valuable in its own right. However, many who suffer from anxiety have found that a combination of treatments yields the best results. At one point, you may need to be on medication. You may then benefit from behavior therapy. Perhaps a licensed therapist will be called in to help. Medication may be monitored and changed or even dropped after a while.
It’s important to understand that no one option is better than another. They all may be used in conjunction in an individual’s case, or one option may work by itself. No matter what, your treatment will be specific to your needs. When you decide on your treatment options along with your health professionals, you will feel more in control of the outcome. And that’s exactly where you want to be when it comes to dealing with your anxiety.
Wandering The Path Of Natural Anxiety Treatments
Often when attempting to deal with a mental health issue (or even a physical one), we rush to decide on a medicinal treatment route. That’s understandable since medication can sometimes relieve the symptoms quickly. But, there are other non-medical treatments that should be considered as they can be effective and very beneficial. Let’s take a look at a few natural treatments.
This is one of the herbs used in scientific studies found to be very successful for treatment of anxiety disorders. It contains an active ingredient – kavalactones – which appears to regulate how the body uses epinephrine and serotonin. It keeps epinephrine from overwhelming the body, while leaving serotonin unaffected. Since serotonin makes us feel calm, this is a good thing.
As a milder version of kava, this is a great alternative for someone who has a less severe case of anxiety or is not ready to take something as strong has kava. Passionflower doesn’t have the same scientific backing as kava, but it is considered to be a remedy worth trying. Because of its mild properties, passionflower is often used by people who are living under stress, and not necessarily diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
This particular product doesn’t have the same anti-anxiety effect as kava, or even passionflower. Instead, valerian root provides symptom relief. For instance, valerian root can be used for sleeping problems, even if someone does not have anxiety. Taking valerian root before bed helps relieve muscle tension and slows those racing thoughts that often accompany anxious and agitated feelings.
This mineral is in shorter supply in today’s diet due to several reasons. In our municipal drinking water, treatment removes the magnesium. The soils are quickly being depleted of magnesium as it is over produced and over fertilized. Our ancestors ate more organ meat and seafood, both rich sources of magnesium. But, why is magnesium necessary and how is it related to anxiety relief? Chronic stress can lead to anxiety. Magnesium appears to regulate the stress response in the brain, preventing the barrage of negativity in the thought process. When magnesium is in your bloodstream, it can actually block stress hormones from entering the brain. Considering most of us are magnesium deficient, it would make sense to eat more magnesium rich foods or take a supplement.
Outside of the plant world, there are other natural therapies to consider for anxiety relief. One method that is gaining favor is reflexology. By applying specific pressure to various regions of the feet or hands, a calming effect can be achieved. Reflexology is not just a foot massage. This ancient remedy requires professional training and should be provided only by a licensed reflexology practitioner. Along with reflexology, many who suffer from anxiety report relief through massage therapy. Unlike reflexology that focuses on specific points, massage takes a “whole body” approach. A skilled massage therapist (licensed, of course) can develop a plan specifically to relieve anxiety.
There is a wide array of choices for dealing with anxiety. Natural remedies provide some additional options for anxiety management for those who prefer not to travel the traditional medicinal path.
Managing Your Anxiety With Medication
Treatment of anxiety disorders is not a singular approach. It can involve everything from environmental changes, dietary adjustments, physical exercise, or even alternative therapy. In this bundled approach, the anxiety sufferer will most likely also consider prescription medications.
Anxiety medications are a two-sided coin. On one side, there are the benefits achieved to help reduce or eliminate anxiety symptoms. On the other side, you can become dependent on anxiety medication instead of learning coping mechanisms. Let’s take a look so you can make an informed decision if and when the time comes to discuss medication with your doctor.
Not all antidepressants are designed to treat anxiety, but some are successfully used to help handle stress and can actually curtail the onset of anxiety-related symptoms. Antidepressant drugs are broken down into various categories:
ñ SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) include Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro, Paxil, Luvox, Celexa and Viibryd. These are mostly used for social phobias and similar conditions. These antidepressants affect the neurotransmitters in the brain.
ñ SNRIs (Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors) include Effexor, Pristiq, and Cymbalta. These also affect the neurotransmitters in the brain. Effexor is commonly used to treat generalized anxiety disorder.
ñ TCAs (Tricyclic Antidepressants) include Tofranil, Norpramin, Sinequan, Pamelor, Elavil, and Anafranil. These work similarly to the SSRIs and SNRIs.
ñ MAOIs (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors) include Parnate, Nardil, and Marplan. These increase the amount of active monoamines in the brain, helping to balance the brain chemicals.
This class of drugs is specifically designed for anxiety symptom control, and has been found to be beneficial in managing panic attacks. They provide a very sedating effect and help your body more effectively respond to stressors. Common medications include Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, and Ativan.
There are some downsides, unfortunately. These medications can cause fatigue, memory loss, and concentration issues. The effectiveness can also decrease over time. Another issue to take seriously is you cannot simply stop taking these medications on your own if you think your anxiety has lessened. There are severe withdrawal symptoms associated with a sudden halt in taking the medication. There can also be dangerous reactions if taken with alcohol or other drugs, both prescription and non-prescription.
Other Pharmacological Agents
Treatment should always be based upon your particular diagnosis and type of anxiety you have. Your doctor will take into account what has worked or not worked for you previously. Some other well-known agents are beta blockers and anti-convulsants. These work to control the symptoms, rather than treat the problem at the neurological level.
Anxiety can be a very complex disorder, so treatment for each individual is going to be different. There is no single cure, and the combination of drugs used, the dosage amounts, and the lifestyle changes are all unique to each individual. Choosing a qualified professional, such as a psychiatrist who specializes in medication management, is the best approach to take when dealing with the complicated question of anxiety and its treatment.
Discover The Role Food Plays In Anxiety
We know food plays an integral role in our health. But, did you know that food affects our brain as well as our body? We know our diets have changed a great deal through the ages. Unfortunately, much of this change has not been healthy.
The good news is you can actually affect your anxiety in a positive manner by making some changes to your eating habits. You may find this difficult since many of the foods you love are the ones that will need to be eliminated. But, this is a “must do” if you want to manage your anxiety, and potentially overcome it entirely. Let’s take a look at your new and improved diet.
What to Avoid
You know what’s coming. I know you dread it. The first item to eliminate from your diet is fried foods. The lack of nutrition and problems with digestion caused by this category of food can wreak havoc with your physical and mental health. If these types of food have no nutrition, and are only going to give you digestive and coping problems, why eat them?
Some say caffeine in small quantities can be good for you. But, when it comes to managing your anxiety, caffeine is not your friend. The purpose of that cup of coffee in the morning is to rev you up, right? If you’re already prone to anxiety (a heightened sense of agitation), the last thing you need is to add “fuel to the fire.” Replace your morning cup of coffee with a soothing cup of herbal tea. And by all means, put down that soda.
And the fun continues with (oh no!) sugar. We’re not talking about the sugar in fruits. We’re pointing the finger at the white sugar found in cakes and cookies and sodas and so on. Is it possible that all the sugar you consume could be a contributing factor in that jittery feeling you keep having? The simple answer is YES!
If you’re a big fan of dairy products (milk, cheese, and the like) you don’t have to completely cut yourself off. You do, however, need to cut back. Dairy products can actually affect your adrenal glands which play a part in making you feel anxious. Do a little testing on your own – cut back and see what happens.
Dehydration is a serious matter when it comes to anxiety. A dehydrated brain simply can’t process information well. One of the most common ways to become dehydrated is by drinking alcohol. Avoiding alcohol is crucial to maintaining not only hydration, but also to keep hormones and nutrition levels in balance in your brain and body. In addition to those issues, alcohol may become a crutch in coping with the feelings of anxiety, making alcohol a bad choice on several levels.
Surprisingly, acid-forming foods can contribute to anxiety because acid can deplete magnesium, a mineral necessary for producing elements in the body that combat anxiety. Eating foods such a pickles, sour cream, and yogurt can drop your magnesium levels and increase your anxiety. Just keep an eye on how much you eat and, again, do a little testing.
So now we’ve covered the bad stuff. It’s on to the good stuff. Healthy eating does the body good, but also does the brain good, getting the synapses firing thing working well. When you’re feeding your brain proper nutrition, it helps you balance your thoughts so you can cope with stress as it comes, helping to keep anxiety at bay. Here are a few good food items to add to your diet.
What to Eat
Water, water everywhere! If you’re not used to carrying around water with you all day, start now. Get yourself a good sturdy reusable water bottle or cup with a cap and keep it filled 24/7. Keep it with you at all times, including on your nightstand. Last thing at night and first thing in the morning, drink up. Do not – I repeat – Do NOT allow yourself to feel thirsty. Ever. Thirst is a sign that your body is dehydrated already. Waiting until you’re thirsty to take a drink of water means you are allowing yourself to get dehydrated before you drink. If you are dehydrated (thirsty) your brain is not going to work like it should. Your brain is already dehydrated when you feel thirsty. Oh, did I already say that? It bears repeating. Studies have proven that dehydration causes anxiety. So, let’s say it again, shall we? Drink lots and lots of water – all day, every day.
We talked about sugar being bad, but not in every form. Natural sugar, such as fruit, provides a necessary nutrient for energy. The ‘good carbs’ that fruit offers the body are also important for energy, as well as healthy blood formation. And, as we know, we need healthy blood to operate our brain. This just makes sense. Fruit is also a rich source of many vitamins and minerals we need to keep both our brain and body healthy. Stress drains our body of nutrients, notably vitamin C and the B vitamins. Replenishing our supply of nutrients is crucial. So, eat your fruit.
Your next beneficial food is vegetables. Rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, vegetables contain just what your body needs, especially when under tremendous anxiety. Anxiety hurts both your mental and physical well-being. Again, it’s important that you replenish what you lose to stay healthy.
If you believe tryptophan is what makes you tired after a big Thanksgiving dinner, you you are partly correct. You may feel sleepy after a turkey dinner, but it’s really a combination of the relaxing effect of tryptophan coupled with a really full tummy. Foods such as poultry, oats, and sesame seeds are all a good source of tryptophan. Eat these foods to enjoy the relaxing properties of tryptophan.
Magnesium has a profound effect within our bodies, which is no surprise since magnesium is involved in over 300 bodily processes. Be sure to eat foods that are good sources of magnesium, such as natural rice, wheat bran, whole oats, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, and black beans.
Changing your diet alone most likely won’t cure your anxiety, but it can help manage your symptoms. And, every step you take toward feeling better will give you the chance to explore other treatments as needed. Eat well. Feel better. It just makes sense in the overall effort to deal with your anxiety.
I know anxiety and stress may gripe you from time to time but know there are resources and help out there!! I hope that some of this information will help and know that if you are ever worried or concerned you may hurt yourself or others, it is ALWAYS time to call for help. You are amazing and deserve FABULOUS!!