Not everyone who worries a lot has an anxiety disorder. You may be anxious because of an overly demanding schedule, lack of exercise or sleep, pressure at home or work, or even from too much coffee.
The bottom line is that if your lifestyle is unhealthy and stressful, you’re more likely to feel anxious—whether or not you have an anxiety disorder. So if you feel like you worry too much, take some time to evaluate how well you’re caring for yourself.
- Do you make time each day for relaxation and fun?
- Are you getting the emotional support you need?
- Are you taking care of your body?
- Are you overloaded with responsibilities?
- Do you ask for help when you need it?
If your stress levels are through the roof, think about how you can bring your life back into balance. There may be responsibilities you can give up, turn down, or delegate to others. If you’re feeling isolated or unsupported, find someone you trust to confide in. Just talking about your worries can make them seem less frightening.
Self-help for Anxiety Attacks and anxiety disorders #1: Challenge Negative Thoughts
- Write down your worries. Keep a pad and pencil on you, or type on a laptop, smartphone, or tablet. When you experience anxiety, write down your worries. Writing down is harder work than simply thinking them, so your negative thoughts are likely to disappear sooner.
- Create an anxiety worry period. Choose one or two 10 minute “worry periods” each day, time you can devote to anxiety. During your worry period, focus only on negative, anxious thoughts without trying to correct them. The rest of the day, however, is to be designated free of anxiety. When anxious thoughts come into your head during the day, write them down and “postpone” them to your worry period.
- Accept uncertainty. Unfortunately, worrying about all the things that could go wrong doesn’t make life any more predictable—it only keeps you from enjoying the good things happening in the present. Learn to accept uncertainty and not require immediate solutions to life’s problems.
Self-help for Anxiety Attacks and Anxiety disorders #2: Take Care of Yourself
- Practice relaxation techniques. When practiced regularly, relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing can reduce anxiety symptoms and increase feelings of relaxation and emotional well-being.
- Adopt healthy eating habits. Start the day right with breakfast, and continue with frequent small meals throughout the day. Going too long without eating leads to low blood sugar, which can make you feel more anxious.
- Reduce alcohol and nicotine. They lead to more anxiety, not less.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise is a natural stress buster and anxiety reliever. To achieve the maximum benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days.
- Get enough sleep. A lack of sleep can exacerbate anxious thoughts and feelings, so try to get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep a night.
While self-help coping strategies for anxiety can be very effective, if your worries, fears, or anxiety attacks have become so great that they’re causing extreme distress or disrupting your daily routine, it is important to seek professional help.
If you’re experiencing a lot of physical anxiety symptoms, consider getting a medical checkup. Your doctor can check to make sure that your anxiety isn’t caused by a medical condition, such as a thyroid problem, hypoglycemia, or asthma. Since certain drugs and supplements can cause anxiety, your doctor will also want to know about any prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, and recreational drugs you’re taking.
If your physician rules out a medical cause, the next step is to consult with a therapist who has experience treating anxiety attacks and anxiety disorders. The therapist will work with you to determine the cause and type of your anxiety disorder and devise a course of treatment.
Anxiety disorders respond very well to treatment—and often in a relatively short amount of time. The specific treatment approach depends on the type of anxiety disorder and its severity. But in general, most anxiety disorders are treated with behavioral therapy, medication, or some combination of the two. Sometimes complementary or alternative treatments may also be helpful.
Behavioral therapy for Anxiety disorders
Cognitive-behavioral therapy and exposure therapy are types of behavioral therapy, meaning they focus on behavior rather than on underlying psychological conflicts or issues from the past. Behavioral therapy for anxiety usually takes between 5 and 20 weekly sessions.
- Cognitive-behavior therapy focuses on thoughts—or cognitions—in addition to behaviors. In anxiety disorder treatment, cognitive-behavioral therapy helps you identify and challenge the negative thinking patterns and irrational beliefs that fuel your anxiety.
- Exposure therapy for anxiety disorder treatment encourages you to confront your fears in a safe, controlled environment. Through repeated exposures to the feared object or situation, either in your imagination or in reality, you gain a greater sense of control. As you face your fear without being harmed, your anxiety gradually diminishes. Exposure Therapy does not work for all situations, a professional needs to determine if it is applicable and would be helpful.
Anxiety Treatment and Self-Help
- How to Stop Worrying: Self-Help Strategies for Anxiety Relief
- Therapy for Anxiety Disorders: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exposure Therapy, and Other Options
- Anxiety Medication: What You Need to Know About Anti-Anxiety Drugs
- Benefits of Mindfulness: Practices for Improving Emotional and Physical Well-Being
Types of Anxiety Disorders
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Symptoms, Treatment, and Self-Help
- Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Symptoms and Treatment of Compulsive Behavior and Obsessive Thoughts
- Phobias and Fears: Symptoms, Treatment, and Self-Help for Phobias and Fears
- Social Anxiety Disorder and Social Phobia: Symptoms, Self-Help, and Treatment
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Symptoms, Treatment and Self-Help for PTSD
Resources and References:
National Alliance on Mental Illness Information Helpline – Trained volunteers can provide information, referrals, and support for those suffering from anxiety disorders in the U.S. Call 1 (800) 950-NAMI (6264), Monday through Friday, 10 am-6 pm, Eastern time. (NAMI)
Find a therapist – Search for anxiety disorder treatment providers in the U.S. and find advice on selecting the right doctor or therapist. (Anxiety Disorders Association of America)
Support Groups – List of support groups in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and South Africa. (Anxiety and Depression Association of America)
Anxiety UK – Information, support, and a dedicated helpline for UK sufferers and their families. (Anxiety UK)
Anxiety Disorders – Guide to the different types of anxiety disorders, their symptoms, and how to get help. (National Institute of Mental Health)
Anxiety & Panic Attacks Symptoms – Extensive list of the signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders and anxiety attacks. (National Panic & Anxiety Disorder News)
Anxiety Treatment Options – Article looks at the many treatment options for anxiety, including exercise and breathing techniques. (Better Health Channel)
What are the Psychotherapeutic and Other Non-Drug Approaches to Anxiety Disorder? – Overview of therapies and complementary treatments for anxiety. (University of Maryland Medical Center)
Progressive Muscle Relaxation – Step by step guide to progressive muscle relaxation for the reduction of anxiety. (A Guide to Psychology and its Practice)
More Info from Calm Clinic: http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/causes