Coping with Anxiety
Whether it is a fleeting case of anxiety or something more serious like Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
there are things you can do to feel better and cope
. There are many proven techniques to help you manage anxiety ranging from maintaining healthy lifestyle habits around exercise, sleep and eating, practicing mental wellness strategies like mindfulness, as well as medical support in various forms of therapy and, if needed, medication.
The Connection between Modern Lifestyle, Social Media and Anxiety
Awareness of triggers and an understanding of influences from our modern lifestyle are an important component to managing anxiety.
Some societal influences include:
- A cultural shift from an internal definition of success (how I feel about my achievements) to an external focus (do I look successful).
- The pace of modern living and inadequate coping mechanisms.
- Screen-based entertainment which stimulates the central nervous system and amplifies anxiety.
- Social media use which has been linked with low moods and depression.
are the most impacted. According to the American Psychological Association (APA)
, millennials experience more stress and are less able to manage it than any other generation. A recent study on the addictive nature of smart phone use from Baylor University
reports American students are on their phones an average of nine hours a day. Many college age social media users express a universal feeling of inadequacy about their lives and FOMO, the anxious feeling from the perception of missing out on a social event or experience learned through a social media post. Different life stages have different levels of stress/anxiety. All generations feel levels of anxiety but millennials have been coined "the anxious generation."
Ongoing anxiety takes a toll on our bodies.
If possible, it's best to start coping habits if you feel anxiety is a problem. Early intervention is not necessarily psychiatric medications or therapy. First, think if you can manage your stress effectively. If no, pause and look at what areas of life are overwhelming such as time, emotions, finances or social situations, and then come up with a plan. Replenish and reboot your state-of-mind by doing things you love and your emotional resilience will reboot too.
For those suffering from anxiety it is important to have a wellness routine
in place that includes:
Exercise works out all of the cortisol and adrenaline that builds up in the body during times of anxiety and stress. Exercise provides a natural release.
The cleaner your diet is, the better you are going to feel. Take out processed foods and stimulants. Removing sugar from your diet is the number one thing to help with stress and anxiety. Strip down your diet to the bare minimum, then start adding things in and see how you feel.
Food and water are biological needs so anxiety naturally follows hunger and thirst. Drink at least the recommended eight glasses of water a day.
When we are stressed and feeling strained, it is resilience which brings us back to center and a feeling of control. There are different paths for resilience such as listening to music, yoga, practicing mindfulness, spirituality and even connecting with family and friends.
Types of Therapy
For those experiencing clinical anxiety, therapy may be a necessary step.
Therapy always starts with an evaluation identifying concerns and understanding what a patient's life has been like. A therapist may use a variety of methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback, basic skills training, distress tolerance and trauma expertise.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
- CBT treats problems by modifying dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and thoughts.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
- MBCT combines cognitive therapy with meditative practices and attitudes based on the practice of mindfulness.
- A form of therapy that helps clients understand their own psychic makeup such as triggers that they may not have known existed.
School counselors, especially on college campuses, are a great resource as well. There are also a few programs that have been very successful in helping people manage anxiety, they include:
- This program, developed in the UK by a psychotherapist, teaches how to manage your thoughts, emotions and beliefs so you can be in control of your life. Often people who have phobia and anxiety very often have low self-esteem, social anxiety, and a need to control. The program teaches three supporting premises: Locus of control
, self-confidence and self-esteem. Throughout the six to eight week program, participants learn to think differently, focus on the facts of the situation and practice working on social anxiety and self-esteem.
- The mission of the HeartMath Institute is to help people bring their physical, mental and emotional systems into alignment with their heart's intuitive guidance. A focus on the connection between the heart and deep breathing balances out important parts of nervous system and stimulates hormones released into the body to activate an uplifting emotion.
Medication for Anxiety
Medication is useful for alleviating the symptoms of anxiety disorders and is often prescribed in conjunction with other therapies. If experiencing any form of clinical anxiety, consult your doctor to see if medication may be right for you.
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