So, you have had or are experiencing anxiety, now what? As I wrote in my last blog, having anxiety can take a toll on your health--you may be experiencing physical symptoms. And, if you have not experienced physical symptoms, the psychological ones can also wreak havoc on your life. How do you cope? My idea of coping is the picture below---relaxing on the beach, but we are all different and there aren't too many oceans in Mercer County, Ohio. A beach might not be your thing, so now what?
There are many treatments for anxiety. Just google it and see how many you get. One of the reasons there are so many treatments is no two people are exactly alike. What has worked for your neighbor or friend may not work for you. As you read this, please remember that. I will be focusing on some of the most common ways to cope with anxiety.
First, if you are experiencing anxiety, make an appointment with your family doctor. As I mentioned in my last blog, the mind/body connection is an important factor to your well-being. A sudden onset of anxiety may be related to a health issue, i.e. thyroid or certain medications. You want to “rule out” any physical reason for your symptoms.
You’ve gone to your doctor and gotten a “clean bill of health” but are still experiencing symptoms…..time to look into treatments. While you were visiting your family doctor, medication therapy may have been suggested. There are lots of medications which can effectively treat anxiety. However, many are short term (have a short half-life) and can also cause additional side effects such as addiction. Taking medications is a personal choice which needs to be discussed with your prescriber. However, studies have shown the effectiveness of medication increases when combined with talk therapy (counseling, psychotherapy).
So, what is talk therapy and how can it be helpful? Many people wonder that. I have heard the comments: “you talk to people all day” “how can you help me” “I have talked to my friends/family, etc.” Talk therapy, (counseling or psychotherapy) is exactly what it sounds like. By meeting with a trained professional, individuals are given the opportunity to process feelings and learn new techniques in a supportive, non-judgmental environment. A therapist/counselor may utilize Cognitive-Behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, systematic desensitization and with children, play therapy to address the anxiety. Other common therapies used in dealing with anxiety are Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Additionally, behavior management techniques may be utilized especially with children dealing with anxiety. Sometimes, through therapy, triggers or causes to the anxiety are discovered.
Another way to cope with anxiety (for that matter, any psychological issues) is a proper sleep and nutrition. Remember my statement regarding our bodies being a machine? Think of your body like a car, what happens if you don’t put the proper gas in your car? What about if don’t let your car rest?
Be honest, how many of us truly get 7-8 hours of sleep per night? Proper rest is important for our body. Some suggestions for getting more sleep are: put away the electronics---don’t sleep with your cell phone in your bedroom, go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time, don’t nap for longer than 20 minutes, cut down on use of caffeine and/or nicotine, establish a bedtime routine.
As for proper nutrition, as the expression goes, “you are what you eat”. In our fast paced, busy schedule, how many of us are guilty of eating what is quick and easy? I know I am guilty of it between my own schedule and my kids’ schedules. Remember to eat a well-balanced diet with fruit and vegetables. Along with eating a healthy diet, limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine.
Have a few drinks may take the edge off and assist you in falling asleep, however, it isn’t the healthiest coping skill. Alcohol is a depressant and can cause you to actually feel worse. You might fall asleep easier but may wake up only after a few hours of sleep (when the alcohol wears off). Not to mention, you might also wake up with a hangover.
Caffeine, like alcohol, negatively affects your sleep. It may cause you to not be able to fall asleep at night or to awaken after only a few hours of sleep. Additionally, caffeine can increase your feelings of anxiety by causing a racing heart, feeling jittery, headaches and stimulating your central nervous system. You may want to think twice before reaching for your next cup of coffee or soda pop next time you are feeling stressed.
Along with proper nutrition and sleep, exercise is an excellent way to combat anxiety. I am not saying you have to work out strenuously. Just taking a stroll around the block or taking the dog for a walk, might reduce your feelings of anxiety. Regular exercise provides endorphins which combat stress and anxiety.
Not an active person, then try some meditation. There are several books and apps that can assist you in getting started in learning meditation. Along with meditation, comes deep breathing. When feelings of anxiety creep in, take some time to engage in deep breathing. Hint----pretend you are blowing bubbles (or actually blow them), you aren’t able to breathe shallow if you are blowing bubbles.
Along with meditation and deep breathing, keeping a journal of your feelings may assist you. Journaling can help to uncover triggers to your anxiety or patterns in your feelings. Keeping a journal also gives you a daily time to reflect. I challenge you to focus your journaling on positives. By doing so, you can change your thinking to become more positive and less “doom and gloom”.
Lastly, take some time for yourself. Engage in a hobby, talk to a friend, start a new hobby, or join a group. Often we focus our attention on caring for others, and do not take time to engage in an activity for ourselves. Taking our mind off our worries by gardening, sewing or reading may be beneficial. Instead of attempting to ignore your feelings, expressing them to a caring friend can decrease symptoms.
As you can see, there are many ways to deal with anxiety. It may take a combination of multiple things to assist you in dealing with your feelings and some of things you try may not work. You don’t know if something works unless you try. Lastly, remember, THERE IS HOPE AND HELP FOR DEALING WITH ANXIETY.
Hopefully, you have found some of these suggestions helpful. It was difficult to not write for hours as there are lots of things someone can try to cope with their feelings of anxiety. Thanks for reading…..
Until next time,