How to Rid of Anxiety
Recovery Guide to Anxiety Disorders
Getting rid of anxiety disorders isn't the same as taking out the trash. If you take your trash out to the curb, it's gone forever, and won't come back. But when you try to dispose of chronic anxiety, you often find that this task is more like the child's game, "Whack a Mole", than it's like taking out the trash. Each time you hit a mole, more moles pop up. Every effort that you make to fight against anxiety, invites more of it.
So you need to be able to work smart, not hard, to overcome anxiety disorders. This guide will help you do that.
The Anxiety Trick
The fears, phobias, and worry that you experience with chronic anxiety disorders often seem "irrational", and difficult to overcome. That's because there is a "Trick" to chronic anxiety problems. Have you ever wondered why fears and phobias seem like such difficult problems to solve? The reason is that chronic fears literally trick you into thinking and acting in ways that make the problem more chronic. You can't learn to float through anxiety disorders if you don't understand the Anxiety Trick.
The outcome of the Anxiety Trick is that people get fooled into trying to solve their anxiety problems with methods that can only make them worse. They get fooled into "putting out fires with gasoline".
The Key Fears of Anxiety Disorders
There are six principal anxiety disorders. The fears are different, but each one relies on the same Anxiety Trick, and draws upon the same kinds of anxiety symptoms.
And in each case, the person tries to extinguish the fears by responding in ways that actually make the problem worse and more chronic. Here are the key fears, and typical responses, of the six main anxiety disorders.
Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia
A person with Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia fears that a panic attack will disable him in some way - kill him, make him crazy, make him faint, and so on. In response, he often goes to great lengths to protect himself from a panic attack, by avoiding ordinary activities and locations; by carrying objects, like water bottles and cell phones, that he hopes will protect him; by trying to distract himself from the subject of panic; and numerous other strategies will ultimately make the problem more persistent and severe, rather than less.
The fear of driving is often a part of panic disorder.
Social Anxiety Disorder (or Social Phobia)
A person with Social Phobia fears becoming so visibly and unreasonably afraid in front of other people that they will judge her as a weak, inadequate person, and no longer associate with her. In response, she often goes to great lengths to avoid social experiences, hoping that this avoidance will save her from embarrassment and public humiliation. However, her avoidance of social situations leads her to become more, rather than less, fearful of them, and also leads to social isolation.
The fear of public speaking, and the broader fear of stage fright are considered to be specific instances of Social Phobia.
A Specific Phobia is a pattern of excessive fear of some ordinary object, situation, or activity. A person with a fear of dogs, for instance, may fear that a dog will attack him; or he may be afraid that he will "lose his mind", or run into heavy traffic, on encountering a dog.
People with phobias usually try to avoid what they fear. Unfortunately, this often creates greater problems for them. Not only do they continue to fear the object, but the avoidance restricts their freedom to enjoy life as they would see fit.
A specific phobia is usually distinguished from Panic Disorder by its narrow focus. A person with a fear of flying who has no fear of other enclosed spaces would likely be considered to have a specific phobia. A person who fears airplanes, elevators, tunnels, and bridges is usually considered to have Panic Disorder or claustrophobia. However, the fear of public speaking is usually considered to be a part of Social Phobia.
A person with a Blood Phobia may fear a variety of situations, but they all involve the prospect of seeing blood. A person with a fear of vomiting (either fearing that they will vomit, or that that they'll see someone else vomit) would be considered to have Emetophobia. The official definitions of some of these disorders will change in 2013, so don't get preoccupied with the label.
Whether you have one or multiple phobias, these are very treatable conditions.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
A person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder experiences intrusive, unwelcome thoughts (called obsessions) which are so persistent and upsetting that he fears the thoughts might not stop.
In response, he tries to stop having those thoughts with a variety of efforts (called compulsions). Unfortunately, the compulsions usually become a severe, upsetting problem themselves.
For example, a man may have obsessive thoughts that he might pass swine flu on to his children, even though he doesn't have the flu himself, and wash his hands repetitively in an effort to get rid of that thought. Or a woman may have obsessive thoughts that she left the garage door open, and repeatedly check the garage all night in an effort to stop thinking that. Not only do these efforts fail to rid the person of the unwelcome thoughts, they become a new form of torment in that person's life.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
A person with Generalized Anxiety Disorder worries repeatedly and continually about a wide variety of possible problems, and becomes so consumed by worry that she fears the worry will eventually kill her or drive her to a "nervous breakdown". In response, she often tries a wide variety of "thought control" methods she hopes will enable her to "stop thinking about it." Distraction is one such effort. Unfortunately, the effort to stop thinking about it actually makes the worrisome thoughts more persistent.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
A person who has witnessed or experienced some dangerous or life threatening event (a shooting or a car crash) fears that the subsequent thoughts and powerful reminders of that event will lead to a loss of control or mental illness. The powerful symptoms of fear and upset a person experiences when recalling a terrible event are reactions to that event. However, the person gets tricked into responding to these reactions as if they were warnings of an upcoming danger, rather than reminders of a past one.
And Depression, too?
It's very common for people to experience depression in response to the way anxiety disorders have disrupted their lives. Less frequently, sometimes people experienced a strong depression before the anxiety set in, and this is a different kind of problem. Either way, depressive symptoms need to be addressed in recovery, so it's useful to know something about how depression and anxiety disorders are related.
Anxiety Buster #1: Start Deep-Breathing
If you're not focused on how to calm your body through slow, intentional belly-breathing, you're missing out. Belly-breathing is free, location independent, and easy to implement.
1. Sit with your eyes closed and turn your attention to your breathing. Breathe naturally, preferably through the nostrils, without attempting to control your breath.
2. Be aware of the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. Place one hand on your belly, and the other on your chest. Take a deep breath for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of three. Exhale for a count of four. The hand on your belly should go in as you inhale, and move out as you exhale.
3. Concentrate on your breath and forget everything else. Your mind will be very busy, and you may even feel that the meditation is making your mind busier, but the reality is you're just becoming more aware of how busy your mind is.
4. Resist the temptation to follow the different thoughts as they arise, and focus on the sensation of the breath. If you discover that your mind has wandered and is following your thoughts, immediately return it to the breath.
5. Repeat this as many times as necessary until your mind settles on the breath.
Don't wait to begin belly-breathing. The sooner you make this a daily habit, the quicker you'll feel relaxed.
When you implement belly-breathing, you start the day in a here-and-now state. Better yet, you're not wasting time worrying about the future, or reliving the past.
Anxiety Buster #2: Meditate instead of Medicate
Calm is an inside job. Give yourself the gift of serenity and start the day with ten minutes of solitude and positive energy. Think calm, measured and open-minded, and your daily activities will correspond.
Anxiety Buster #3: Practice Self-Care
Get a massage, a mani-pedi, or a haircut. Nothing says polished and well-maintained like a sexy, healthy glow.
If money is tight, look for a discount salon or a training school which offers quality services for people on a budget. So they don't serve peppermint tea on a silver tray -- close your eyes and imagine that five-star service while you take in the pampering you deserve.
Anxiety Buster #4: Eliminate Soda
That morning jolt of joe can jumpstart your day and provide warmth and comfort, but anything with high fructose corn syrup and 177 other ingredients will not.
If you're accustomed to that 3:00 p.m. Dr. Pepper, switch it out for a soothing green tea. Not only does the caffeine jack up your central nervous system, soda depletes vitamins and minerals from your diet and wreaks havoc on your smile. Teeth become susceptible to cavities when the acid level of your saliva falls below a certain point.
If you drink soda all day, the outer layers of your teeth begin to lose minerals and cavities form. Many dental plans do not cover root canals + you'll end with a huge bill. Speaking of which:
Anxiety Buster #5: Trim the Fat from Your Budget
Financial stress is a common reason people contact me for psychotherapy. Debt will keep you up at night and contribute to feelings of low self-worth and hopelessness.
Take charge of your finances and stop spending on non-essentials.
Track your daily expenses for a week or two and decide where you can cut back. Notice the items you accumulate mindlessly.
- Switch out your cable TV for Netflix
- Contact your car insurance carrier, your mobile device company, or your credit card company and ask if they'll reduce your bill
- Cancel your newspaper delivery during the week and opt for the Sunday paper, or an online service, instead
Anxiety Buster #6: Get Rid of the Clutter
Do you ever wonder how much time is lost when you can't find your car keys, or that package of Epson 400 color ink?
Chances are you've got too much stuff clogging up your living space.
Try this quick organization hack:
1. Choose a drawer, cabinet or closet
2. Categorize the stuff you don't use
3. Make three piles for a) Items to throw away, b) Items to donate, and c) Items to sell
Hold a yard sale and use the money to...
Anxiety Buster #7: Plan a Day Trip
When you spend time in nature, you give your mind and body a much needed break from the hustle and bustle which causes you to Google things like "How to get rid of anxiety" in the first place.
Chances are no matter where you live, there's a serene, interesting and charming place within a couple hours.
Anxiety Buster #8: Go to Bed Early
This may sound impossible if you're accustomed to staying up late to catch up on the To-Do list. But this one's a MUST.
Sleep deprivation is a huge anxiety culprit. Inadequate shuteye can amplify the brain's anticipatory reactions, upping overall anxiety levels, according to research.
"We all have anticipatory anxiety," explains researcher Fugen Neziroglu. "Having moderate levels of anxiety about doing well is important. But it can be destructive when it begins to interfere with your life." It's impossible to have healthy emotional functioning without adequate sleep.
Don't burn the midnight oil in hopes of catching up on the weekends. Unused sleep minutes don't roll over.
Anxiety Buster #9 Wake up 15 Minutes Early
Like most anxious people, you're probably rushing around in the morning and yelling at everyone in your wake, "Hurry up! We're going to be late!"
Go slowly, and set yourself up for a relaxed day ahead. If you start to worry about the To-Do list, take a deep breath and think, There is enough time.
Anxiety Buster #10: Get Your Lavender On!
Lavender oil(link is external) has many healing properties and can be used as a natural remedy to reduce anxiety and other nervous conditions. There are many ways to incorporate lavender into your calm tool kit:
1. Add essential lavender oil to your bath water for a calming bath. Use water infused with lavender leaves to soothe painful joints and muscles.
2. Fall asleep quicker when you add a few drops to a tissue and place under your pillow.
3. Use lavender in an oil diffuser to help with insomnia. The sweet woody smell of the lavender oil helps you to fall asleep and stay asleep.
4. For headaches, apply lavender oil to a cotton ball or your fingertips and massage slowly into your temples. The smell will relax you as the oil eases your headache.
5. Lavender is used in aromatherapy massage as a muscle relaxant. Massage the oil into the skin and unknot the muscles of the back and reduce spasms.
6. Lavender can be used as an expectorant. It breaks up the mucous from nasal and chest congestion that accompanies a cold.
7. Inhale lavender oil to help with pain management, especially after a workout, a therapy session, or surgery.
Anxiety Buster #11: Reduce Caffeine, Sugar and Processed Foods From Your Diet
Caffeine can cause heart palpitations if you ingest too much. Caffeine also can trigger panic or anxiety attacks, especially if you have an anxiety disorder. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can also cause palpitations.
Sugar acts as an adrenal stimulant and can cause anxiety or even panic attacks. Other offensive foods include those containing refined flour products, and even wheat since this causes inflammation.
Besides caffeine, and sugar, food allergies are a big contributing factor in your overactive central nervous system. Do this step along with #12...
Anxiety Buster #12: Go Green!
Diet affects anxiety. A morning glass of green juice can get you on the right side of calm.
For a different and delicious way to get your daily vegetables try this recipe: Combine one banana or green apple, a bunch of kale, sliced ginger, one lime, cucumber slices, a few ice cubes, and a cup of water to a blender or juicer. For added protein, add an egg, yogurt, nuts, or protein powder.
Anxiety Buster #13: Know that Feelings Are Not Facts
One of the hardest jobs of a psychotherapist is to convince your anxious client that the feelings of low self-worth, guilt and shame are not accurate. Negative thoughts cause negative feelings. This one's tricky because many of our negative thoughts are automatic, deeply internalized, and rooted in the unconscious.
Do this in tandem with #14...
Anxiety Buster #14: Challenge Negative Core Beliefs
Remember that thoughts precede feelings. Negative thoughts lead to negative emotions, which lead to negative behaviors. For example:
- Jocelyn wakes up and immediately thinks, I'm gonna blow the PowerPoint presentation today. I just want to stay in bed all day
- She feels unmotivated, nervous and sluggish
- She yells at her kids when they don't dress fast enough
How to challenge your negative mood:
1. Record your thoughts periodically. Pay attention to when you feel stressed out.
2. Write the feelings that accompany the thoughts. Think one-word responses like frustrated, angry, worthless and defeated, etc.
3. Challenge reality. This is hard because we tend to lack objectivity about the truth. Is there proof you don't deserve that job promotion? Were you written up because of shoddy work performance?
If you commit to recording your daily thoughts and feelings, along with reality testing, you'll see that many of your negative feelings are created in your mind, and not based in reality.
The good news is you created the negative thought, and you can uncreate it.
Anxiety Buster #15: Practice Gratitude
As bad as your situation is, there's always someone in a worse predicament.
Read a chapter of Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, or check out the headline of the daily newspaper. Be thankful your life is not the feature story.
Make a mental note of the positive things in your life. Remember everything in life is temporary -- the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Anxiety Buster #16: Get Some Accountability
If you're BFF with Nervous Nellie or Anxious Allen, put your keyed-up energy to good use. Vow to work on healthier ways to cope when feeling stressed.
How to get your accountability on:
- Share this resource with a friend
- Pick a few strategies that resonate with both of you
- Make a plan to call each other out when you stray
- Give praise when you make positive changes
- Start a Facebook group and post regular tips to decrease stress and anxiety
Anxiety Buster #17: Attend a Social Gathering (Even If You Don't Want To)
If you're prone to social anxiety, it's important to make time for socialization. It's cool to be an introvert, but know that we live in a universe that revolves around connecting with others.
Anxiety Buster #18: Schedule a Physical Exam to Rule Out a Medical Condition for Your Anxiety
If your anxiety has spiked recently, or if you were previously able to cope with life, and now not so much, your doctor can determine if there's a medical condition responsible for your anxiety. Ask for a blood panel, and be honest about your symptoms.
Anxiety Buster #19: Schedule a Visit with a Therapist
Nobody deserves to feel bad. A qualified mental health professional is your best bet if your anxiety is unbearable.
Ask a trusted friend or colleague for a referral, or use the Psychology Today directory for a therapist in your area.
Anxiety Buster #20: Exercise, Exercise, Exercise!
Exercise is nature's anti-anxiety remedy. Besides clearing the mind, firing up the endorphins, and helping you sleep soundly at night, researchers have found that individuals who exercise vigorously and regularly were 25 percent less likely to develop an anxiety disorder within five years.
Anxiety Buster #21: Accept Your Anxiety
Whether you inherited the "anxiety gene" from your parents, or your lifestyle, or both, accept your anxiety rather than fight it.
It's not about rolling over and giving up. Understand you have to work hard every day to bring calm to your environment.
Remember there's always options in life, and worse fates exist than being anxiety-sensitive. After all, when push comes to shove, at the end of the (stressed out) day, anxious people get the job done!
Anxiety Buster #22: Check Out These Free Online Resources
I've created a few relaxation audios for you. All resources are free, downloadable and portable.
CLICK HERE FOR THE MUSIC
The key to making the actions above work is consistency. You're the expert on your life. Choose the ones that work best for you, and give 'em a shot.
See you on the calm side!
We all get a little anxious here and there, but sometimes that anxiety can become overwhelming. Whether you’re pushing to get through your coursework or your job is making your head spin, the constant worrying and stress can take a toll on your wellbeing. Constant anxiety can get in the way of everyday activities, from your diet, to your social life, and even your sleep habits.
In some cases, medication may be the right answer, but there could be variety of reasons why someone wouldn’t want to turn to pills. Taking medication can include unwanted side effects, chemical dependence, or even loss of everyday emotions.
“Drugs do not ‘cure’ anxiety disorders and may have side-effects or production of ‘tolerance,’ requiring higher doses for the same effect,” says Dr. Bruce Levine, a Board-Certified Clinical Psychologist at the UCLA School of Medicine. “Given these facts, many people may choose non-drug treatments to either avoid, supplement, replace or eliminate the need for medication.”
While medication may seem like a quick fix, there are a variety of things you can do at home to get rid of that gnawing, uncomfortable feeling of uneasiness. If the thought of even taking an Advil makes you cringe, here are five helpful ways to get rid of anxiety without a having to get a prescription.
Physical exercise can not only help get rid of your anxiety in the present moment, but it also helps you deal with your emotions in the long run. Regular exercise has been shown to improve mood, help with sleep patterns, provide stress relief, and also improve self-esteem. Research has shown that even a short 10-minute walk can be as beneficial for anxiety as more vigorous exercise, so if you are feeling uneasy, taking a quick walk around the block might be a helpful solution.
Meditation isn’t just for hippies. Practicing mindfulness meditation can be more powerful in quelling anxiety symptoms than general stress management techniques, studies have found. By sitting quietly and focusing on their awareness, people experienced improved anxiety, less stress, and better eating and sleep habits. There are different levels of meditation, from sitting in silence to hours to just being aware of your thoughts and not trying to change them, but starting somewhere can have profound effects on your anxiety levels.
LIMIT YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA
Recent studies have found that looking at social media can raise people’s levels of anxiety. “People look at Facebook and Instagram, and it makes them more depressed because they’re comparing their lives to other people,” says Lindsey Rosenthal, a Los Angeles-based Individual and Couples psychologist Try to stay off these social media sites to avoid comparing yourself to people’s best parts of themselves or to avoid getting that dreaded fear of missing out.
Although coffee has its benefits, caffeine consumption can actually worsen anxiety symptoms or even create anxiety in situations where you wouldn’t normally be anxious. Caffeine is a stimulant that can trigger a fight or flight effect in your body as well as trigger insomnia, so you might want to consider putting down that cup of joe if you’re feeling a little anxious.
GET TO THE ROOT OF YOUR FEELINGS
“The best way to deal with anxiety is to figure out what the underlying fear of your anxiety is,” says Rosenthal. “Then you have to change your pattern of thinking.” It can be easy to fall victim to the constant pressure of having a stable job, financial security, and something important going on in your life, but try for a moment to stop thinking about these things and just be, Rosenthal suggest. “Be aware of the conversations in your head and don’t try to control anything you can’t control.”
Tips to Manage Anxiety and Stress
When you're feeling anxious or stressed, these strategies will help you cope:
- Take a time-out. Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques. Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head.
- Eat well-balanced meals. Do not skip any meals. Do keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
- Get enough sleep. When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.
- Exercise daily to help you feel good and maintain your health. Check out the fitness tips below.
- Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly.
- Count to 10 slowly. Repeat, and count to 20 if necessary.
- Do your best. Instead of aiming for perfection, which isn't possible, be proud of however close you get.
- Accept that you cannot control everything. Put your stress in perspective: Is it really as bad as you think?
- Welcome humor. A good laugh goes a long way.
- Maintain a positive attitude. Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
- Get involved. Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress.
- Learn what triggers your anxiety. Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and look for a pattern.
- Talk to someone. Tell friends and family you’re feeling overwhelmed, and let them know how they can help you. Talk to a physician or therapist for professional help.
- Get help online. Lantern offers online programs guided by professional coaches to help you turn healthy anxiety management into a habit. (Sponsored)
Fitness Tips: Stay Healthy, Manage Stress
For the biggest benefits of exercise, try to include at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity (e.g. brisk walking) each week, 1¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity (such as jogging or swimming laps), or a combination of the two.
- 5 X 30: Jog, walk, bike, or dance three to five times a week for 30 minutes.
- Set small daily goals and aim for daily consistency rather than perfect workouts. It's better to walk every day for 15-20 minutes than to wait until the weekend for a three-hour fitness marathon. Lots of scientific data suggests that frequency is most important.
- Find forms of exercise that are fun or enjoyable. Extroverted people often like classes and group activities. People who are more introverted often prefer solo pursuits.
- Distract yourself with an iPod or other portable media player to download audiobooks, podcasts, or music. Many people find it’s more fun to exercise while listening to something they enjoy.
- Recruit an “exercise buddy.” It's often easier to stick to your exercise routine when you have to stay committed to a friend, partner, or colleague.
- Be patient when you start a new exercise program. Most sedentary people require about four to eight weeks to feel coordinated and sufficiently in shape so that exercise feels easier.