Coping with anxiety can be a hard journey. From straddling day-to-day tasks to managing relationships, life’s daily requirements can be a challenge.
Part of learning to cope with your anxiety stems from understanding the root of the disorder and knowing when to see a mental health provider. That means the fundamentals like what anxiety is and how it affects the brain.
We’ve unpacked all of this, and more, within this blog post. Learn more about this disorder and a range of anxiety coping skills that can help you begin to approach and deal with this disorder.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety can manifest itself in many different ways. Common symptoms include feeling overwhelmed, having difficulty concentrating, and experiencing physical symptoms such as headaches or muscle tension. Other signs may include restlessness, irritability, difficulty sleeping, sweating, and an increased heart rate.
Causes of Anxiety
There are a variety of factors that can contribute to anxiety including genetics, environment, trauma, or stressful life events. In some cases, it is caused by an underlying medical condition such as thyroid disease or hormonal imbalances. It is important to understand the root cause of your anxiety in order to effectively treat it.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
According to its clinical definition, anxiety is a state that consists of both physical and psychological symptoms brought on by apprehension of a perceived threat. Now, anyone can experience moments of anxiety. We’ve all had those moments of utter fear and panic. Many of us have even experienced a full-blown anxiety attack when the symptoms get worse. Some people might not know they are struggling with anxiety.
There are several types of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder (PD), separation anxiety, certain phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Each type has its own unique set of symptoms and treatment options, so it is important to get a proper diagnosis from a mental health professional in order to determine the best course of action for managing your condition.
How Anxiety Affects our Brains
You might be thinking that anxiety seems a lot like stress. On the surface level, you’re right. They look a lot alike to the untrained eye. Anxiety is actually a result of stress, however.
Stress is caused by outside triggers. Anxiety, on the other hand, doesn’t always have a real source. It’s an innate internal response, which can make it harder to understand.
So, do we even know what happens in our brains when we’re experiencing anxiety? We do!
The main culprits are the amygdala and the hippocampus. The amygdala serves as a kind of communications hub deep in your brain that receives sensory signals and passes them along to the part of your brain that processes them. There are a lot of emotional memories stored in the amygdala that can get in the way of this communication process. When you experience anxiety, some of those negative memories can get mixed into the signals and cause uncomfortable feelings.
The hippocampus, on the other hand, is responsible for storing threats in your memory. Studies have shown that those with anxiety or PTSD have a smaller hippocampus. However, we’re still trying to figure out what causes this shrinkage and how it plays into anxiety symptoms.
How to Deal With Anxiety
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a type of psychotherapy that helps people to identify and modify their thought patterns and behaviors in order to reduce symptoms of anxiety. CBT focuses on the connection between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, helping individuals to recognize how their beliefs about themselves and the world can lead to anxious feelings. Through this process, individuals identify anxiety triggers and learn new coping skills for managing anxiety such as relaxation techniques or problem-solving strategies.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness is a practice that involves focusing one’s attention on the present moment without judgment or criticism. When practiced regularly, mindfulness can help reduce stress levels by allowing individuals to become more aware of their thoughts and emotions without getting overwhelmed by them. Similarly, guided meditation is another form of mindfulness that involves sitting quietly with your eyes closed while focusing on your breath or repeating a mantra silently in your head. Both practices have been found to be effective at reducing symptoms of anxiety when practiced regularly over time.
Exercise and Physical Activity
Exercise has long been known as an effective way to manage stress levels due to its ability to release endorphins, which act as natural mood boosters. Regular physical activity also increases energy levels, helping combat fatigue associated with anxiety. Additionally, exercise provides an outlet for releasing pent-up tension from stressful situations, further reducing symptoms of anxiety over time if done consistently enough.
Natural Remedies for Anxiety
Herbal supplements can be a great way to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. Popular herbs for treating anxiety include chamomile, lavender, passionflower, valerian root, kava kava, and St. John’s wort. These herbs work by calming the nervous system and helping to relieve stress and tension in the body. It is important to talk with your doctor before taking any herbal supplement as some of them may interact with medications or have side effects.
Aromatherapy is an ancient practice that uses essential oils from plants to create a soothing atmosphere and help alleviate symptoms of anxiety. Essential oils are believed to have healing properties that can help relax the mind and body when inhaled or applied topically on the skin. Some popular essential oils used for treating anxiety include lavender, bergamot, ylang-ylang, frankincense, vetiver, cedarwood oil, sandalwood oil, and more.
Acupuncture and massage therapy are both holistic approaches that can help reduce stress levels by promoting relaxation. Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body which helps restore balance within the energy pathways known as meridians in order to improve overall well-being. Massage therapy, on the other hand, works by kneading muscles along with applying pressure at certain points throughout the body which releases endorphins – hormones responsible for creating feelings of happiness and contentment and promoting progressive muscle relaxation.
Professional Help for Anxiety
Psychotherapy is a form of talk therapy that helps individuals identify and work through the underlying causes of their anxiety. It can be done in individual or group settings, with a licensed therapist or counselor who specializes in treating mental health issues. During sessions, the therapist will help you understand your thoughts and feelings related to your anxiety, develop coping strategies to manage emotions, and build resilience against future episodes. Therapeutic modalities that have been shown to be effective at treating anxiety and depression include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
- Exposure therapy
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
- Psychodynamic therapy
Psychiatry and medication management services are available to those who need additional support in managing their medication regimen for anxiety-related conditions. These services involve working closely with a doctor or psychiatrist to ensure that medications are taken correctly and at the right dosage levels for maximum effectiveness. The doctor may also adjust medications as needed over time based on how they affect an individual’s symptoms.
Support groups provide a safe space where people can share their experiences with others who have similar struggles with feeling anxious. In these groups, members offer each other advice on how to cope with difficult emotions while learning from one another’s successes and challenges along the way. Additionally, peer networks can connect individuals with resources such as therapists or online communities that specialize in helping people manage their mental health concerns more effectively.
Practicing Self-Care for Anxiety
Eating a healthy and nutritious diet
Eating healthy foods is an important part of self-care for anxiety. Eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help to reduce stress levels and improve overall well-being. It’s also important to limit processed foods as they can be high in sugar and unhealthy fats which can worsen anxiety symptoms. Additionally, eating small meals throughout the day instead of large ones helps to keep blood sugar levels stable which can help with mood regulation.
Getting a good night’s sleep
Getting enough sleep is essential when it comes to managing anxiety symptoms. Not getting enough sleep or having poor quality sleep has been linked to increased feelings of stress and worry so it’s important to make sure you are getting at least 7-8 hours each night. Creating a bedtime routine that involves winding down before going to bed such as reading or taking a warm bath can also help you get better quality rest.
Limiting caffeine and other substances
Limiting caffeine intake is another key component of self-care for anxiety sufferers as too much caffeine has been linked with increased feelings of nervousness and jitteriness which are common symptoms associated with anxiety disorders. This is especially true for college-aged students who might be pulling all-nighters to study. If you do choose to consume caffeinated beverages, try limiting them during the afternoon/evening hours so they don’t interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night. Additionally, consider switching out coffee for herbal teas like chamomile or lavender tea which have calming properties that may help reduce stress levels naturally without the added stimulant effects of caffeine consumption. Research shows that alcohol and recreational drugs can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and other mental health issues. Be sure to limit alcohol intake and stay away from drugs and rather focus on eating healthy and mindfulness techniques to feel calm and abate anxious thoughts.
When to Seek Professional Help for Anxiety
It is important to remember that anxiety can be managed and it is possible to live a healthy, fulfilling life. Developing coping strategies can help you manage your symptoms and reduce the intensity of your feelings. It is essential to take time for yourself, practice self-care, and seek professional help if needed. Learning how to cope with anxiety will not only benefit you in the short term but also in the long run as well.
Do you or someone you know struggle with anxiety and these coping skills aren’t helping? Let the mental health experts at Clear Behavioral Health support you. We offer a range of virtual mental health services such as individual therapy, group therapy, case management, and life skills that can teach our clients effective coping strategies for managing excessive anxiety. Our experienced team is committed to providing compassionate care in order to promote healing and wellness. Take the first step towards overcoming your struggles today – contact us now for more information about our services!