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Coping With Anxiety

requiem-for-innocence-1433368Anxiety is possibly one of the most common reasons people seek therapy. It can range from mild to severe and have any level of impact on your quality of life. So what exactly is Anxiety? Anxiety is a broad spectrum of disorders, as well as being a component or symptom of several other mental disorders. Anxiety can present as distressing thoughts, physical symptoms, avoidance of specific things or places, or compulsive behaviors that negatively impact a person’s daily life. Some of the varying anxiety disorders are:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Social Phobia
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Symptoms of Anxiety:

Symptoms of anxiety vary greatly and range in severity from mild to severe. Symptoms may include:

  • Physical symptoms such as rapid heart rate, trembling and sweating
  • Repetitive thoughts that involve worry or fear
  • Insomnia (inability to sleep)
  • Fear of dying, crowds, people, natural environments, contamination, etc.
  • Avoidance of people or places due to fear
  • Chronic worry over several areas of one’s life
  • Extreme perfectionism
  • Self-doubt

How Can You Cope With Anxiety?

  • Therapy: because Anxiety is such a broad spectrum of disorders, there is no one specific way to treat it. The most widely used form of therapy to treat Anxiety Disorders is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. This modality focuses on the thought patterns that contribute to anxiety by helping one recognize and modify thinking habits that are dysfunctional and correct them; as well as, utilizing breathing, relaxation, and mindfulness training to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety. Other forms of therapy are also very successful in treating anxiety. It is important to remember that finding the right therapist and form of therapy for YOU is vital to therapy process and will lead to the best possible outcome.
  • Medication: there are a number of medications that treat anxiety and have success when prescribed and taken correctly. A psychiatrist can help determine what type of medication would work best for you. Some options include a pill taken daily, a pill taken as needed, or a combination of different types of medications.
  • Mindfulness: is an awareness of all that is around while being present and in the current moment, without judgment. There are a number of techniques that help slow down the chaos that can be every day life, sorting out what is unnecessary, and experiencing each moment with your full awareness. It is a way of thinking that keeps you present and engaged only in the current moment. These activities can include spiritual, physical, sensory, or emotional exercises.
  • Self-Care: or the act of taking the time to take care of yourself. It seems so basic as a concept, but it is often the first thing we neglect when things get difficult. Letting ourselves fall apart will only amplify anxiety and taking the time to slow down and make sure we are physically okay and cared for, as well as mentally will help reduce anxiety.
  • Exercise: physical activity is not only good for our bodies, but our minds as well. Exercise releases hormones that reduce anxiety and even depression, improving mood. The more frequently and patterned we exercise the longer these effects will last.
  • Diet: certain foods can either increase of decrease anxiety. It is important to avoid things with caffeine as that can raise anxiety levels. It is equally important to have a healthy balanced diet, as a healthy body leads to a healthier mind.
  • Social Support: in times of emotional distress it is easy to isolate ourselves. Forcing ourselves to use our social networks as support and even just a distraction from anxiety will help reduce the symptoms of anxiety and improve our overall mood.
  • Relaxation: relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation help slow our heart rate, breathing, and thinking. The resulting effect is a lessening in the anxiety we are experiencing. In order for these techniques to be the most effective it is important to practice them even when not in the moment of anxiety. It is like playing a sport, you have to have practices in order to play well in the game. Practicing these techniques when not anxious will help you be a pro at them when the anxiety hits.

Source: by: Lindsey Traudt, LCPC

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