What should you do if you have anxiety?
Slow your thoughts down
A quick anxiety reducing tip: Since anxiety is usually fueled by thoughts and since you can only have one thought at a time, focus on replacing worrisome thoughts with comforting thoughts – one at a time. This might be hard, since extreme anxiety or panic attacks can sneak up on you so fast that they can overwhelm you before you can pull yourself together to gain control.
Slow your body down
Take a deep calming breath, focus on that comforting thought or vision and count, tap or even sing. Mindfulness author, Dan Siegal, says the mind is like a two year old – it will run around the room doing whatever until you give it something specific to do. Once you learn how to do this, you may find it very effective. Psychotherapists specialize in helping you very effectively break down your anxiety into pieces that you can manage. A number of anti-anxiety drugs are now handled as controlled substances.
That’s just a start. There are many very effective strategies to learn and practice to reduce your anxiety. You may, for a brief time, need more than that. There are different levels of intensity of anxiety and different lengths of duration. Someone with overwhelming, crippling anxiety 24/7 will need more help to start than someone who feels only mild anxiety when facing a medical procedure, for example.
Get a good physical to eliminate physiological sources of anxiety. You might want to eliminate any physiological contributors to anxiety such as low blood sugar, hypertension, asthma & food allergies, irregular heartbeat, thyroid disorders, seizure disorder or sleep disorders. People can get a prescription for meds that reduce anxiety without identifying a physical cause of that anxiety.
Thyroid disorders, for example, may cause problems with controlling physical symptoms of anxiety, along with high blood pressure, shallow breathing, insomnia and depression. Taking thyroid hormone replacement may solve all of those symptoms. Ask your physician to look for the possible physiological causes for your anxiety. Anti-anxiety meds should not be the only solution to anxiety but when you are in the throes of a panic attack they may certainly seem like the best. Many anti-anxiety drugs are now considered controlled substances.
Dietary stimulants like some energy drinks, some highly caffeinated coffees & sodas and diet pills (usually with ephedrine in them) and even some cough syrups & decongestants can cause a speedup in physical symptoms that can mimic anxiety attacks.
Slow your problems down
Identify the things in your life that are making you anxious and map out the steps to changing them, such as, getting a new job, moving from a difficult living situation, getting help with debt, getting a physical problem treated, etc. There’s nothing that gets rid of the “boogey man” better than turning around and facing it with a plan. If you can’t do that on your own,
See a therapist. Get help with the stressors in your life and get new ideas from professionals in problem solving to reduce those stressors. Often the person with an anxiety disorder looks calm and cool in the face of a very difficult relationship or tremendous work pressure. While they are out of touch with what they’re feeling, their body is sounding the alarms. They have trouble sleeping, have headaches, shoulder and neck tension, TMJ, difficulty breathing, chest pain, stomach problems, lack of appetite or chronic eating. When anxious people do look at their stressors, they magnify the negative possibilities. An objective therapist can magnify the positive possibilities and support you while you try them out. Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to change the way your mind thinks about stressors or using hypnosis or guided imagery to help you disconnect the thoughts or relax your nervous system.
Natural solutions include changing the diet to eliminate processed carbs, alcohol, caffeine, energy drinks and diet pills. These foods can affect your brain and blood sugar levels. Walking and/or exercising (swimming, aerobics) up to thirty minutes a day can raise your brain hormones that improve your mood. Yoga or meditation are proven ways to both reduce stress and anxiety and improve your ability to calm down.
There are homeopathic and herbal remedies which, when wisely chosen and used (consult your herbalist or naturopath), can reduce moderate anxiety. There are natural remedies for sleep. Improving sleep helps regulate your mood hormones & improve your problem solving ability. Even herbal remedies can cause a problem if not of a good quality, if mixed with certain other chemicals and/or medications, if not taken exactly as recommended and if not recommended by an herbal specialist.
There are non-addictive anti-anxiety meds which may be obtained from your medical provider and are helpful in the short term while you consult a therapist for ongoing psychotherapy to help you identify and resolve your feelings. While drugs can be very effective in limiting anxiety, anxiety does not arise because of a lack of drugs in the body. It’s important to fix the root cause of your anxiety and to get back in conscious control of your life.
The thought to remember, though, is that most anxiety will soon be a thing of the past when you make the effort to get help with it.
Anxiety strikes women more than men and it can also strike children. Women might find that they are more prone to anxiety and depression just before their cycles. This is sometimes indicative of vitamin or mineral deficiencies. School avoidance, chronic stomach aches, asthma, sleepwalking and whining and fighting can be indicators of anxiety in children. Play therapy with a therapist who works with children is a constructive way to reduce anxiety and build permanent strength in children. Other problems such as bullying by other kids, anxiety provoking adults, improper medications, nightmares, loss or frightening world events (think of all the school shootings that kids hear about), inadequate supervision (some kids cannot be alone at middle school age) cause children to feel anxious.