Managing Anxiety: Techniques To Help You Cope
Anxiety is one of the most serious ailments plaguing America today. It is estimated that around 40 million Americans are currently being treated for some sort of anxiety disorder. This entails one overriding implication: If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you are much less alone than you think you are.
Defining Anxiety: What Makes It A Disorder?
To some degree, everyone will suffer from anxiety at some point in their lives. It is natural for a human being to encounter some level of anxiety during the course of their everyday lives. Against this backdrop, it is notable that negative emotions such as anxiety and sadness are necessary, otherwise we would not be able to appreciate the happier, more relaxed moments in life.
Thus, given the fact that everyone will suffer anxiety at some point in their lives, what catapults into a menacing disorder? How do we discern the difference between normal anxiety and acute anxiety?
Anxiety becomes a disorder when it starts interfering with your daily life. There are different types of anxiety as well, all of which can affect you in myriad ways and at different points in time. For example, those with acute social anxiety will struggle to go out in public or maintain relationships with friends. Similarly, those with exacerbated phobias will struggle to be around the things that make them scared. Another type of anxiety might be surrounding the pressure and stress of the workplace.
Regardless of the reason, anxiety can be life-changing. Those who are newly diagnosed will find themselves suddenly unable to complete tasks that they have always found simple. They will struggle with every day, commonplace concerns such as food shopping, preparing a simple meal, or even something as seemingly normal as looking after the children. In extreme cases, a phobia or fear can impel someone into isolation, thus preventing them from leading a normal life.
It is only when the level of anxiety a person experiences on a daily basis spirals out of all control that it is considered to be an anxiety disorder. The disorder part indicates that the emotion is taking more control of your life than it actually should. To make matters worse, even though a patient can logically understand why they are feeling what they are feeling; there is a strong probability that this knowledge won't bring with it the ability to control the emotions.
Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders
There are some common features that run through many different types of anxiety problem. Some of the symptoms of anxiety disorders are as follows:
- Muscle aches and pains, muscle twitching or muscle spasm – when you are anxious you tend to squeeze your muscles together without even realizing. Take your mind back on how your shoulders rise towards your ears when you are stressed.
- Rapid or racing heartbeat, which is commonly accompanied by breathlessness.
- Fatigue – with so much tension in your muscles, you will wear yourself down quickly. Added to that the excessive, obstructive worrying that you do all day and you’re bound to feel drained out.
- Insomnia – many sufferers spend the night hours recounting incidences from throughout the day, or worrying over matters far beyond their control.
- Panic Attacks – sometimes referred to as anxiety attacks, a panic attack can feel similar in severity/intensity to a heart attack.
This is by no means an exhaustive list as the symptoms and signs of anxiety disorder vary greatly from patient to patient. You may experience all – or even only one – of the above-mentioned symptoms. If you do, it is important that you learn how to manage this condition, and make sure to consult with your primary care physician or trained professional with immediacy.
The Best Ways To Manage Anxiety Levels
So now that we know what anxiety disorder is – we need to figure out what is causing it. It is only by identifying the root causes (or triggers) that we are able to start managing the problem. Every person will have their own, unique set of triggers. Learning what your own triggers are can help you to deal with them in a more relatable way. Negotiating your triggers properly can lead to a life that is barely interrupted by the constant day-to-day strains an anxiety issue can bring.
Step 1 – Identifying Your Triggers
It is notable that identifying triggers is much easier than the process of learning how to not be affected by them. A trigger can be recognized as anything in your life that makes you feel as if your anxiety level is spiraling out of control at an alarming rate. This can be particularly daunting when you are suffering from the throes of insomnia and hyper-tension – so let's make it a little easier.
Starting from today, you will keep a journal. In this journal, you will record any moments throughout the day where you felt particularly vulnerable to your condition. You will write down what you were doing when you started to feel unwell, as well as the circumstances surrounding your emotional state at the time. For example, if bad news triggers your negative response that day, record what that bad news was, when you heard it, and how it made you feel. Marking your level of anxiety on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest and 1 being the lowest) will also help you discern what your triggers are.
After a few days of keeping your journal, you will be able to review your findings and identify the biggest contributors of anxiety in your life. Now that you know what these triggers are, you can start to do something about them! You are strongly recommended to discuss it with your primary care physician or professional mental health counselor.
Exercise imparts many more health benefits than those that you see in your body. Exercise is an effective natural way of boosting the body's own production of serotonin – one of the key chemicals involved in anxiety disorders. You experience an instant mood lift when the neuroreceptors in the brain are flooded with serotonin... much like what is sometimes referred to as the runner's high.
In the long term, this sustained release of serotonin provides the body with more sustained resources to cope with a high anxiety level, thereby helping you to manage your condition.
Step 3: Improve Your Diet
Improving your diet is another way to trigger the natural release of serotonin. When you suffer from an anxiety disorder, it is advisable for you to stop consuming cafe. Excessive amounts of caffeine trigger the same bodily reactions as you might experience during an anxiety attack (i.e. sweaty palms, racing heart, loss of breath, cold sweats). If you cut down on your caffeine intake, you may find your symptoms easing off.
In a similar vein, alcohol is known to be a mood enhancer. If you are already feeling on edge when you start drinking, it will only exacerbate your misery. In addition, alcohol can also have an adverse interaction with any anti-anxiety medications that you may be on. Always read the label and follow the advice given.
Nutrition wise: always make sure that you are getting a varied diet. The right nutrients are key to the optimal functioning of your full system. To that end, lack of certain vitamins or minerals in your diet may even explain some of your symptoms. Salmon, eggs, and spinach, are all recommended serotonin boosters.
Anxiety is an invisible illness, but that doesn't mean it can't have the same negative impact on your life as a broken leg or a fractured collar bone. Thankfully, invisible also does not mean incurable. Anxiety is usually best treated with a mixture of medication and the appropriate counseling or therapy. Your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist but this is nothing to panic over. The psychiatrist is especially trained in both the medications you will need in order to re-balance your brain chemistry, as well as in the therapies needed for you to recover.
A very common anxiety therapy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This method of treating anxiety uses techniques such as exposure and careful self-assessment to help you identify behavioral patterns – and effectively change them. It does take some time, but we can certainly un-learn some of the negative thinking patterns that make us anxious in the first place. Identifying triggers is one of the first steps towards managing your anxiety disorder through CBT.
Step 5: Additional Supplementation
There are some supplements that have proven to be effective in helping managing anxiety. You must be careful with these and fully research the interactions and symptoms that they may produce. Some herbal supplements have proven to be very efficacious for anxiety – but will cause depression to worsen. Since anxiety and depression commonly go hand-in-hand, things can become a little trickier. Always read the label!
Some credible supplements that can be explored for anxiety management include:
- Omega 3 – Recent research has shown that omega 3 oil supplements can help alleviate/manage the symptoms of anxiety.
- Vitamin B6 – Vitamin B deficiencies can actually cause panic attacks!
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D regulates your mood. This lack of Vitamin D causes Seasonal Affective Disorder, among other things.
- L-Theanine – Research suggests that L-Theanine lowers stress and cortisol levels, helping to soothe the symptoms of anxiety.
- Valerian Root – Valerian tea is known to be good for the short-term treatment of anxiety. If you suffer from the symptoms of insomnia, one cup of Valerian tea an hour before bed will help you feel better on the worst days.
We advise you to seek medical care from trained professionals straight away.
All said and done, anxiety is a horrific condition. There would be days when, no matter how hard you try, hiding under the duvet is the only viable option.
Disclaimer: No content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
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- How to boost serotonin and improve mood. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322416.php#eight-foods-that-naturally-boost-serotonin. Accessed October 19, 2019.
- Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). International OCD Foundation. https://iocdf.org/about-ocd/ocd-treatment/erp. Accessed October 19, 2019.
- Could omega-3 supplements help reduce anxiety? Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323331.php#1. Accessed December 10, 2019.
- Low serum concentrations of vitamin B6 and iron are related to panic attack and hyperventilation attack. National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23603926. Accessed October 19, 2019.
- Is L-Theanine Good for Anxiety? Vitagene. https://vitagene.com/blog/theanine-anxiety. Accessed October 19, 2019.