Anxiety disorders all have acute fear and/or nervousness as the predominant symptom. They are disturbingly common, affecting millions of people. Generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic attacks and separation anxiety all come under the collective umbrella term. The reason for anxiety disorders is not agreed, however, they could be causedby differences in brain circuits that regulate fear and extreme emotions. The brain has elasticity; trauma, or long-lasting stress, can affect the activity in our brains. Neuroplasticity means that there are ways to help alleviate (and sometimes eliminate) the symptoms of anxiety disorders.
Here are ten suggestions to help you on your road to recovery:
Seek medical advice – Medications, sometimes, ease the symptoms. However, they are not a cure. GoodGP’s will refer you for talking therapies, or provide you with information on support groups, also. Be careful if choosing to take medication. Take in accordance with guidelines. Be aware of side effects.Be wary of any that are addictive.
See an alternative health practitioner– Many people turn to complementary heath practitioners, especially if they are not comfortable with Western medicines. Acupuncture can be effective for lessoning symptoms of anxiety. Studies show solution focused hypnotherapy can be as productive as a course of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
See a Psychotherapist – Psychotherapy is a supported way of working through unresolved traumas, or stresses. The space created by a great therapist is safe and contained, encouraging you to explore and reflect upon your feelings. Psychotherapy aids in understanding, and managing, particular triggers and helps you develop resilience and coping strategies.
Practice Mindfulness – Mindfulness is proven to significantly calm symptoms. Mindfulness encourages knowledge of the mind, soothes thoughts and brings oneself into the present moment (where we are distracted from our fears). Mindfulnesswill also help manage the physiological reactions in the body that occur when we are anxious and afraid.
Meditate –Ten minutes a day of deep breathing can be effective. If your mind is racing, and you feel restless at first, don’t think you are ‘doing it wrong’. By sitting quietly, and focusing on your breath, you will notice the endless chatter, and become reflective about the stories that your mind tells. By slowing your breathing, your nervous system re-sets into a calmer state of being. You can use this technique at any time.
Spend time in nature – There is a life force evident in the natural environment that is more powerful and profound than us, and our worried minds. Being in nature is restorative and calming. We are not bombarded with stimulants, or activities, that can provoke agitation. It creates a feeling of space that expands our awareness, takes us out of the nuances of our daily lives, and into a sense that there is something bigger than us, and our problems. Fresh air increases oxygen in the body and enhances well-being.
Diet and Nutrition – Diet is essentialto the balance of the body. As many hormones are created in the gut, and then send messages to the brain, our physical health and the food we eat has a direct impact on our mental health. Avoid completely caffeinated products, or other stimulants such as sugar and nicotine. Instead, introduce foods that are high in B and D vitamins. Eat oily fish and leafy greens at least three times a week.
Exercise – Exercise instantaneously changes mood and encourages long-term health and confidence. Cortisol levels (a hormone associated with stress) are highest in the morning. A twenty-minute stint, not long after waking, will do you wonders. If that is difficult at first, try twenty minutes, three to five times a week. Mix cardiovascular exercisewith low impact stretching. Find something you enjoy. Exercise will release endorphins and ease tension.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy –Referrals can be made by doctors; work -books are online. CBT changes the troublesome neural pathways by challenging you to think about your fear and anxiety in different ways. It encourages new thought patterns, and goal setting, to transform the way you relate to the world. CBT is practical. You have exercises and strategies to use whenever you need them.
Support groups –Support from peers is powerful. This can be a good way to face some fears, gently, and at your own pace, in order to overcome them. The group will offer you understanding and encouragement in a non-judgmental way. It’s beneficial to know that you are not alone with your illness.
Deep breathing –During moments of increasing panic, or high agitation, try putting one hand on your stomach and taking some long, deepbreaths. This can be done anywhere. You want to de-activate the ‘fight or flight’ system, which believes you’re in danger. Taking slow, calming breaths will activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This is our basic, resting state. We want to encourage this often.
Muscle relaxation – There is a feedback loop between the mind and body. When highly anxious, your body responds by preparing itself for ‘fight or flight’. Blood flows to your muscles preparing them for battle. Release tension by clenching your muscles really hard. Then let go. You can also shake –seriously! Shaking your whole body loosens muscles and releases trauma and trapped emotion.
This post is contributed by Ron McDiarmid, who is the founder of My Healthy Living Coach. Having had health challenges along the way Ron was keen to share the research and learning he gathered. Through MHLC this continued into a current presentation of healthy lifestyle choices and how to implement them. Check out his website at www.myhealthylivingcoach.com.