We all experience moments of being anxious. But true anxiety is ongoing. A generalized anxiety disorder is unpredictable, strong and grips a person, emotionally and physically, even affecting their cognitive functioning.
Struggling with this disease can be debilitating. There are many ways to cope. Medication is always an option. I’m not a medication person, but, it’s a viable option, especially when one is in a very negative cycle or unable to manage the anxiety they are feeling. If you or your child are spiraling downward, reach out to a mental health professional. There is NO SHAME in asking for help. I’m a big proponent of including the following strategies even if you are on a medication regime.
There are many ways to address anxiety. This list is not exhaustive. I’m going to share 7 strategies that have been successful for those with whom I have worked. Some of these may seem a bit, well, odd, and others may seem obvious. Some may work for you and some may not. Everyone is different. Just like one diet doesn’t work for everyone, each person may require something different to regain control of their life.
The key, and this is critical, is to be consistent, EVEN WHEN YOU ARE IN A GOOD SPOT! Just because your anxiety is under control does not mean you stop doing what is right for your body.
Look at it this way….if you started eating a healthy diet and exercising, you would, no doubt, gain benefits like losing weight, sleeping better and having more energy. But, if you started eating garbage again and lying on the couch 10 out of 12 waking hours, you’d become an exhausted, overweight, sad version of yourself.
YOU MUST CONTINUE TO GIVE YOUR BODY AND MIND WHAT IT NEEDS, IN ORDER TO CONTINUE TO GET THE POSITIVE OUTCOME.
1. Exercise. I know, i KNOW, many of us don’t like this one. But, consistent exercise decreases stress hormones and distracts us from our own negative thoughts. Even more important, research suggests that when we exercise our body releases endorphins, dopamine and increases serotonin (think SSRI’s like Zoloft (R) which increase serotonin!). All of these chemicals help to decrease stress and anxiety. Essentially, exercise helps our bodies work at a highly efficient level, both physically and emotionally.
2. Journaling gratitude and accomplishments. Take time each day to focus on 5 things that you are grateful for and 5 things that you have accomplished…both within the last 24 hours. Your starting statement could be:
I am so grateful that….
I am proud that I….
When we spend time in quiet thought on things that have happened in the past 24 hours, it helps to train our brain to find things that we are grateful for and proud of on a daily basis. It shift our focus from what we can’t to what we DID.
3. EFT. Emotional Freedom Technique. I began using this practice some time ago and recently became a practitioner. Tapping is free and easy to do. Essentially you are tapping on each of the bodies 12 meridian points while focusing on the negative emotion. As we proceed through the tapping sequence, we move toward an acceptance of the emotion and create resolve to proceed without anxiety. I love this because some strategies want you to pretend the anxiety doesn’t exist and that can be frustrating. But, EFT recognizes and helps you to accept and move beyond the anxiety. This is a great resource: https://www.thetappingsolution.com/what-is-eft-tapping/
4. Meditation. In our hectic, technology filled world, our minds rarely have time to take a break. We are surrounded by visual stimulation. How often do you actually sit quietly without tv, phone, computer or radio? I’ll be honest…it almost never happens. Meditating increases your awareness of yourself and surroundings. When anxiety is high, your body is on attack. Meditation sends a sign of relaxation to your entire body, including your mind. It’s sending a message that it is time to release the stress, to let it go.
5. Thought replacement. Many who struggle with anxiety, have a voice in their head that spews garbage all the time.
You can’t do that. You aren’t smart enough. Don’t go to the party. No one likes you. That girl is so much prettier than you.
One strategy to shut this voice up is to have a statement at the ready to repeat and to help block those negative comments. It should include your great qualities and should end with your success.
Follow this formula (loosely):
I am a ______ and _______ woman/man/young woman/young man, who <<insert a verb>> with <<quality>>. I am a <<adjective>> <<adjective>> and I will <<verb>>.
For example: I am a likable and successful woman who meets every challenge with dignity. I am loved by my family and friends and I will go to the party and have a great time talking to all of the guests.
You get the idea. Replace the negative with positive. I recommend having a general statement about yourself that you repeat morning and night. Have it visible so that you see it often. If there are particular moments in your life that are very difficult, have a statement prepared like the one above.
The uniqueness of anxiety is that everyone responds differently. Choose a strategy and give it a few weeks. Take data in a journal or on a calendar and indicate your feelings of anxiety. Take note if anxiety is heightened or diminished by a strategy. Try different combinations of the strategies. Don’t give up. Just because one doesn’t work, doesn’t mean none of them will work.
Anxiety is a journey. Talk to your friends, keep them a part of your journey. There is no shame. This is a real and invisible disease. BE kind to yourself and reach out for help when needed.
To mental health!