The way I was trained to help reduce anxiety symptoms was to implement the 3 C’s—Calming the body, Calming the mind, and Correcting the behavior. There are a myriad of reasons as to why people experience anxiety but below you will find some help that can assist with reducing anxiety symptoms.
So what is Anxiety? Anxiety is basically excessive worry. The worry is difficult to control which are usually associated with physical symptoms such as feeling on edge or feelings of restlessness, feeling more tired than usual, difficulty concentrating, mind going blank, irritability, muscle aches, and difficulty sleeping. Other symptoms can include headache, nausea, diarrhea, and sweating. Anxiety can impair peoples functioning from daily activities and responsibilities. By nature, anxiety wants to create avoidance which can result in not feeling like socializing or functioning which is obviously problematic. Always talk to your medical doctor first to rule out any medical cause to anxiety symptoms.
- Calming the Body:
Breathe—Taking diaphragmatic breaths can help your body to start relaxing
Progressive muscle relaxation—1-2 times per day of progressive muscle techniques prolongs experiencing anxiety symptoms. Only do this when feeling none-minimal anxiety. If you are experiencing heightened anxiety progressive muscle relaxation can make you feel worse. Remember we are calming the body!! If we are experiencing heightened anxiety and we try progressive muscle relaxation—we’re fighting the anxiety which makes anxiety symptoms worse.
Attend a yoga class
Exercise 4-5 times per week 20-30 minutes per day. Exercise stimulates serotonin which helps us with the relaxing process
Sleep—Most adults require 6-8 hours of sleep per night. The rule of thumb is find your sweet spot which can be give or take 2 hrs. So you may need between 4-6, 5-7, 6-8, 7-9, and etc. hours of sleep per night. If you have problems sleeping see sleep under calming the mind.
Have 1-2 cups of coffee or caffeine related equivalent before noon—If you have caffeine after noon and go to bed around 9-11pm at night you may have difficulty sleeping. You may not notice the effects of caffeine later in the day but at night time, caffeine prevents us from going into the deep REM sleep. REM sleep is where the mind still processes emotions at night and it promotes the body to feel calm and rested the next day.
Avoid processed foods—High fatty foods—Excessive Sugar—and food allergens all impact the nervous system
- Correct the Thinking:
Challenge those negative thoughts—Thoughts produce feelings and feelings produce a behavior
Example—John Doe wakes up 2 minutes past the alarm and automatically he thinks “I’m going to be fired if I’m late” (Thoughts)
He feels rushed-anxious-frustrated (Feelings)
He yells at his wife when she asks if he’s ok (Behavior)
So what do you do???
Journal—Journal stressful/anxious times to see if they are any patters to learn your triggers and also to see if there are any patterns to your thoughts. Write the feelings out in one word answers i.e. anxious, irritable, scared
Challenge the reality—This is the most difficult part. Remember calm the body first i.e. Breathe!
John Doe now thinks “If I’m late for work do I have any evidence that my boss will fire me. No, I’m rarely late and he has never written me up. Yet I usually arrive to work 15 minutes early anyway and today I’ll probably arrive 5 minutes prior to work starting.
John Doe now feels—calm and confident
John Doe says to his wife—”I’m just running a little late for work that’s all honey.”
Express Gratitude—Every day to people, places, and things
Have some type of spirituality—Feeling connected to something that we know exists but we can’t put our finger on it.
Remember you are not alone—In 2001 when I was still in my undergrad program, a college professor mentioned that 43.1 million Americans have some form of diagnosable anxiety. What about those who haven’t been diagnosed?? I’d bet that 43.1 million number is higher!!
Sleep—If your having difficulty sleeping problem solve prior to your sleep ritual. A sleep ritual is 1.5-2 hrs prior going to bed we get into our night ware, watch t.v., read a book, or whatever to relax. 1-2 hrs prior to the sleep ritual problem solve—ask yourself these 3 questions…
- Can I do anything about this right now?
- What can I do about this?
- When will I implement my solution?
Racing Thoughts—If you have racing thoughts throughout the day find something boring to do meaning find something that doesn’t excite the brain. I.e. adult coloring books, paint by number, walking, sunbathing—try to avoid electronics for 30 minutes—electronics excite the brain.
- Correct the Behavior:
FDR said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Reinhold Niebuhr gave us the Serenity Prayer “God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, courage to change the things that I can, and wisdom to know the difference”
Remember I said above about not feeling like socializing—It’s now time to do it!!
Take action as long as its a safe and legal behavior
Attend a social gathering
Do something that’s enjoyable and important for you.
Kerry Reed LPC