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ANXIETY

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”

Mark Twain

What is anxiety?

Are you anxious about getting a new job?  You could possibly feel nervous waiting for a medical test results or uneasy in a new social situation.  Worrying is normal and everyone, adults and children experience anxiety from time to time.    It could last for a few hours or days.  For some people, the anxiety does not go away and could last for weeks, months or years. It may be overwhelming, become more severe and affect functioning in daily life.  If you experience physical symptoms and struggle with work, school, your relationships and family life, therapy can help.

What are symptoms of anxiety?

Anxiety symptoms may vary from one person to another.  When anxiety is debilitating, it may evoke the fight or flight response as you may feel that you are in danger or something terrible may happen.  Those experiences may trigger the following symptoms:

  • Overwhelming worry, restlessness, or nervousness

  • Difficulty controlling feelings of panic

  • Hyperventilation or rapid breathing

  • Sweating excessively

  • Heart racing

What can I do to reduce my anxiety?

You can release some anxiety by devoting time to self-caring and making some lifestyle changes.  You can reduce your stress level and anxiety when you distract yourself and change your focus.  Set time for exercise as it is known to improve your physical and emotional health and would help reduce your stress level and anxiety.  If you are typically sedentary, begin by spending a few minutes in a few activities and gradually increase more time. 
Coping with anxiety can be consuming and difficult but making some lifestyle changes may help you reduce your anxiety.  Avoid or reduce alcohol as it tends to increase your anxiety. Quit smoking and reduce caffeine as both negatively affect your anxiety.  Instead, increase your water intake.  The practice of meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and the use of mantra can reduce stress and anxiety as well as improve your sleep. A lack of sleep can increase irritability and could elevate anxiety.   Practice eating balanced meals and increase vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains.  Listening to calming music could also help you relax and take a different focus from stressors in your life.   
Although self-care and lifestyle changes may ameliorate the worry, they do not replace therapy when you struggle, feel overwhelmed and have difficulties functioning in everyday life tasks.  You may benefit from seeking professional help.

How can therapy help with my anxiety?

When you are struggling with debilitating anxiety and cannot function in daily life activities, therapy can help you.   It will help you gain healthy coping skills to transition back or experience a more normal life where you feel happier and able to cope with life stressors.  Evidence-based therapies for anxiety include: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), and Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).  CBT has become the leading treatment for anxiety.  It will help you identify thoughts which may contribute to your anxiety symptoms and gain an understanding on how your thoughts may contribute to your anxious feelings and unproductive actions.   When you learn to challenge your anxiety-producing thoughts, you will experience more pleasant feelings, dare to take actions you may have feared and replace ineffective with more desirable actions.  ERP may be difficult to tolerate initially but with continued professional guidance, you can learn to tolerate actions you typically feared or avoided.  MBCT Could help you transition to feeling happier and more relaxed.  Research has shown it to be effective in the treatment of panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder, among many other conditions.