Anxiety disorders are a group of mental disorders characterized by significant feelings of anxiety and fear. Anxiety is a worry about future events, while fear is a reaction to current events. These feelings may cause physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate and shakiness. There are several anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobia, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, panic disorder, and selective mutism. The disorder differs by what results in the symptoms. An individual may have more than one anxiety disorder.
The cause of anxiety disorders is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Risk factors include a history of child abuse, family history of mental disorders, and poverty.
Making Lifestyle Changes
Not only does regular exercise reduce the likelihood of heart disease and other illnesses, but it has also been shown to treat both depression and anxiety. There are various explanations for why this occurs. First, exercise releases endorphins, a feel-good chemical in the brain that improves mood. It also reduces certain immune system chemicals that cause depression and raises the body temperature, which promotes relaxation.
- Regular exercise also helps you get in shape and improve your overall appearance, which for many people, is enough to rid them of their self-doubt.
- Endorphins help to inhibit your body’s stress response, which lowers your risk for feeling anxious or developing symptoms of panic throughout the day.
- If you’re struggling with depression, try high-impact exercises that get your body moving, like jogging, hiking, and biking. If you have anxiety, try activities like restorative yoga or breath-work.
Cut down on alcohol
Similar to a spring that has to be pressed down harder and harder, your emotions are held down even more by the alcohol. Once the alcohol is gone, the spring will jump even high than it is when it’s just sitting there. This rebound means that you will likely experience more anxiety the next day, or be more susceptible to stress.
Switch to decaf
The high levels of caffeine that are present in coffee can worsen anxiety symptoms in both the short and long run. Caffeine is a stimulant which makes your body and nervous system wired and alert, which increases your risk of worsening or developing depression and anxiety throughout the day.
By limiting your caffeine intake, you can help control your body’s physical response and prevent experiencing anxiety symptoms throughout the day. Consider switching to decaf, or drinking tea instead.
Some tea, such as green tea, still contains some caffeine, but won’t have the same extreme effects of coffee.
Reduce or eliminate nicotine
Nicotine, much like caffeine, is a stimulant and can produce many of the same effects on the body associated with other stimulants, such as feeling wired. Nicotine is in tobacco products and is also in non-tobacco products such as nicotine gum.
Realize that quitting smoking is a difficult task and should only be taken on during non-stressful times. However, doing so could greatly reduce your symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Structure your day
Depression is a painful experience that affects your mood, but also energy and motivation. If you are depressed, it may be difficult to focus or you may be tempted to stay in bed all day. You may be anxious if you don’t know how your day will go. Try to continue your regular routines as much as possible, and avoid letting your moods dictate what you do and what you get done.
If you normally don’t have much structure, it may benefit you to begin to structure your days. Plan out your days, making sure they are full but not overwhelming and stick to the schedule so you can continue to function in your daily life.
Shifting Your Perspective
Learn to live in the present moment
If you are suffering from anxiety, it may be because you are worried, uncertain, or nervous about the future. If you are suffering from depression, it may be because you are constantly dwelling on the past, ruminating about things gone wrong, or thinking self-defeating thoughts. Learning to appreciate the present moment will have a remarkable impact on your life. However, this is no easy feat, but it will help you to separate your feelings from your thoughts.
- The best way to stop dwelling on the past or obsessing over the future is to notice when these kinds of thoughts arise throughout your daily life. When they do, then acknowledge them, label them thoughts, and let them fade away.
- Try to focus on what is happening around you. For instance, when you start feeling anxious, you might stop and slowly count the pleasant things you can see, feel, hear, taste, and smell.
- You can also turn to something that you find calming, like taking a warm bath, listening to calming music, having a cup of herbal tea.
Regular meditation practice has been shown to ease symptoms of stress and anxiety. Mindfulness can also help you feel more connected to others, it can help you gain more control over your emotions and increase your ability to think about situations in a new light. Consider joining a meditation center or group in your area. Most centers offer free meditation instruction and have weekly open houses.
- To practice mindfulness and meditate, take a few moments every day to close your eyes, relax your muscles, and focus all of your attention on your breath. If a thought arises, then acknowledge it and let it disappear. The more you do this, the more you will eventually be able to incorporate it into your daily life.
Quiet your inner critic
Your inner critic is self-defeating or exaggerated thoughts that keep your feelings of depression and anxiety at large. Your inner critic may say things like “I’m a failure” or “There is nothing I can do, and I’m stuck.” Your inner critic may also latch onto one of your worries or thoughts that cause anxiety and then cause a snowball effect of more and more worrisome thoughts. Thoughts such as these keep you from being able to see choices in your life, make you feel incapable or stuck, or perpetuate worries, depression, or anxiety.
- Learn to quiet your inner critic to lessen the effect is has on your perspective and your mood. To quiet your inner critic, practice catching your unproductive thoughts as they come up, and be prepared with a productive counter-thought or mantra that focus on your strengths.
- If you think “There is nothing I can do, I am stuck” Test if that is true. Make a list of all your possible options. Change your inner critic to say “Although my options are not the best, I do have a choice, and I choose_________ because….”
- If you have a thought that pops into year head that triggers a worry, fear, or other anxiety symptoms, be sure to counter you inner critic with a reassuring statement or phrase such as “I know the likelihood of that happening is very low, so I have nothing to worry about” or “Everything is going to be ok, I am fine at this moment and this feeling will pass.”
Cope with painful memories
Many people are depressed or anxious because they are holding on to one or more traumatic experiences from the past, and they are going through a significant change, or have lost a loved one. While it is extremely difficult to erase these memories and go through these experiences, there are things you can do to reduce their prevalence in your everyday life.
- Grieve when you need to. If you feel the need to cry or scream, then do it. Catharsis is a necessary part of the healing process. You can even look for grief groups in your area for support through your time of grief. If you are grieving, remember that it is a normal process with many emotions involved. You may not feel like yourself some time. However, if you continue to feel symptoms of grief long after losing your loved one, you should contact a therapist or mental health professional.
- Write out what happened and how it made you feel. There are many feelings involved with traumatic events that often need to be expressed. Many times, traumatic events will get compartmentalized and any feelings associated with the event will get pushed aside. Instead of doing this, which can lead to anxiety and depression, write down exactly what happened in as vivid detail as possible. Write down what you felt and what you still feel about the event. This will help you cope and move on.
Get your thoughts out
When you are having issues with depression and anxiety or you are trying to get over past trauma, describe what happened and how it made you feel. You can do this by journaling or speaking with someone you trust. Getting it out is better than repressing it. Also, think about the contextual aspects of the traumatic event. Remembering other aspects of the day the event happened, such as the weather or who else was there, can help you dissolve some of the negative associations. You will never be alone. And talking to people is hard, but it can be very helpful. Tell your parents, friends, or someone you trust. Therapy can also help. Talking about it online is really not a good idea. Sometimes even talking to pets or stuffed animals can help calm you. They can’t answer back, but it just helps to talk to them. Keeping a diary is also something that can help a lot. You can talk about your thoughts, but talking to a person is still very helpful.
- If you are dealing with memories of a traumatic past, it is essential that you seek professional help to deal with the painful emotions caused by trauma.
Cope with anxiety and depression in the moment
Anxiety can be a gripping experience and can make your feel as though you are losing control. There are some techniques you can try to get your body and mind to slow and calm. Depression symptoms have a wide range and differ depending on the type of depression you have. For some, they feel overwhelmingly sad while others feel nothing at all and just feel numb. Still, others can have sudden bouts of irritability.
Try progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a method that helps to physically reduce the tension in your muscles, which signals the brain to begin calming down. In a serial fashion, contract, hold and then release muscle groups of the body. Work from head to toe, and be sure to focus on the sensations you feel when you release the contraction and feel your muscle tension reducing.
- Beginning with your facial muscles, tighten the muscles for six seconds and then release for six seconds. Repeat this down your body with your neck, chest, arms, hands, legs, calves, and feet.
Practice diaphragm breathing
Controlled breathing, or diaphragm breathing, is another way to signal your body to begin relaxing and start to calm its stress response, which is often anxiety. Controlled breathing signals your brain to release neurotransmitters, which tells your body that it is no longer in danger and can calm down. Practice diaphragm breathing by taking a full breath making your abdomen expand, hold it, then release.
- The timing for this should be five seconds breathing in, hold for five seconds, and then breathe out for five seconds. Take two normal breaths, then repeat the timed, abdominal breathing until you feel your anxiety subside.
Distraction is a short term technique that you can use when you are in a situation that may not be appropriate for depression or anxiety, such as at work. Some distraction examples include engaging in activities. If you are at work, talk to a co-worker about funny cat videos or organize the supply cabinet. If you are with your children or grandchildren at home and cannot deal with your emotion at that moment, take them for a walk or read a book together.
- You can also distract yourself with small activities. Try doing simple math in your head, grabbing a piece of paper, and folding it into multiple different shapes, splashing water on your face, or playing a word game. You can also do word or number puzzles like crosswords or Sudoku.
- For a quick distraction when you feel your emotions may overtake you, distract yourself with sensations, such as squeezing a rubber ball or holding onto an ice cube.
Harmony Healing Center for Professional Help
Sometimes you may find that you need some support to help you live life more fully. Or you may have a long history of struggling with certain issues. Whether you would like help with something mild and fleeting or more long-term support, we are here to help.
There are various approaches that are proven to help people with different challenges. Your counselor or psychologist is trained in a number of methods, which means we can ensure you receive an approach that is tailored to you.
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