Help! My Anxiety Is Ruining My Life!
By: Ashley Brown
Updated November 17, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Avia James
Anxiety affects different people in different ways. For some people, it fills the mind with excessive and useless thoughts. It drowns out everything else, pushing and pushing until you feel suffocated. Eventually, it reaches the point where you feel like you're going to burst.
Some anxiety is actually normal and can even be productive. Studies show that performers or athletes have enhanced performance when they have a little bit of anxiety. In other cases, however, it can be a problem, so we need to train our brains to prevent them from responding so strongly to non-threatening things. In this article, we'll talk about how to do this productively—because there is no reason to let anxiety dictate how you live your life.
What Causes Anxiety?
There are many things that can cause anxiety, including events that are happening in your life, having too much caffeine, and even your hormones. It's a common feeling when people are under stress, which is something that happens to most of us. In other words, it's completely normal to feel anxiety from time to time. While there isn't a way to cure this entirely, there are things you can do to manage it, such as seeking out help or learning techniques to help you focus and breathe.
If you suffer from anxiety regularly, you may have an anxiety disorder. Panic disorder is one type of anxiety disorder, but it's also possible to have anxiety without experiencing a panic attack. For people with panic attacks, a proper coping strategy and medications can help them interrupt the panic process before it starts—before the shaking, tears, and other responses hijack a seemingly unimportant or small event.
Many people struggle with anxiety like this, so if it happens to you, know that you're not alone. There are around 18 million people in the U.S. with anxiety, but it's highly treatable. Many people have found relief through some of the following methods.
Ways to Alleviate Anxiety
There are a few ways that you can lessen your anxiety.
- Medication: Some people choose to see a doctor or a psychiatrist who can provide medication that helps to decrease anxiety. Some prescriptions are able to calm the nerves, so they do not fire as quickly, and other medications are anti-depressants. Either type of medication comes with advantages and disadvantages that you should discuss with your healthcare professional beforehand.
- Different types of therapy: Many people find relief through participating in therapy that discusses positive coping methods. Some choose to use both medication and therapy to see faster results. A common form of therapy for anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy (also known as CBT). It can help you identify and change the mental links between triggers for anxiety and the resulting behaviors.
- Meditation: Meditation is a great tool for anxiety because it teaches the mind to focus, so it doesn't get too attached to negative thoughts. Meditation allows the mind to practice controlling that focus, so you can let go of thoughts that don't serve you when you feel anxiety.
- Grounding: Grounding is another important tool for anyone struggling with anxiety or panic attacks. There are many different methods of grounding, but one common technique is the 5-4-3-2-1 method. This exercise requires you to use all five senses to count off things that are real and in front of you, instead of focusing on the anxious thoughts inside your head.
- Find a friend: When you feel anxious, you may not want to be alone. Instead, you might want to call a friend or a family member to see a movie with you or do something else that is entertaining. It can take your mind off things and change your perspective. You can even use them as a sounding board. They may be able to suggest things that haven't occurred to you yet
- Find something to do at home: Even something simple like changing what you're doing can change your state of mind. To keep your mind from focusing on your anxiety, get up and do a chore, cook dinner, or watch an internet video. Any healthy activity that will distract you for a bit can be beneficial.
- Go on vacation: Work can often create a lot of anxiety. If this is the case, you may want to take a short vacation or trip. This can give you a chance to unwind, so you will be able to handle your stress better in the future.
Other Helpful Strategies to Decrease Anxiety
In addition to therapy and medication, there are also some lifestyle changes you can make to help manage anxiety.
- Exercise: If you tend to feel nervous regularly, perform some physical activities that you enjoy and work them into your regular schedule. During exercise, you breathe more deeply, filling your lungs with oxygen and steadying your breath, which has a calming effect. As a bonus, you are doing something good for your overall health at the same time.
- Take care of your needs: Some people experience more anxiety when they have not attended to certain physical and emotional needs. For example, you may feel nervous when you don't say no to another obligation even though you're already feeling pressed for time. It could help to identify areas of your life that need some attention, whether it's focusing on eating a healthy diet or just making sure you're well-rested. Do these things first before worrying about everyone else and what they want from you.
- Stay away from harmful or potentially harmful triggers: You may want to avoid alcohol, caffeine, and other drugs. According to research, many people turn to alcohol to get rid of anxiety, and unfortunately, this can lead to an addiction. This does not help you get over your anxiety disorder, and it can actually cause more harm. The same thing may be true for caffeine or other substances as well.
- Control your breathing: If you're having trouble, do your best to control your breathing. This can help you calm down and get back in the moment. Sometimes you may not notice that you're breathing differently, so it's important to pay attention to your breath during moments of high anxiety.
- Try essential oils: If you're already a fan of essential oils, you can use them in your home to help you calm down. If you haven't used them in the past, you can begin to explore them and take advantage of their benefits. Speak with your doctor before trying any oils or supplements to avoid any potential negative side effects.
Research shows that online therapy is a beneficial way of managing symptoms stemming from anxiety. In a study published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research, a peer-reviewed medical journal, researchers outlined the effectiveness of internet-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in successfully guiding patients through anxiety treatment. The participants were given access to a CBT program, in addition to counseling sessions, which is in line with many other treatment plans for anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. Post-treatment, the patients showed significant decreases in the severity of anxiety symptoms. Researchers also noted that online therapy can bridge the treatment gap, giving those who may not otherwise seek help easier access to mental health resources.
If you’re uncomfortable meeting a counselor face to face, online therapy through BetterHelp allows you to work with a licensed counselor from the comfort of your home. You can communicate with a therapist through text message, phone call, live chat, or videoconference. Getting help does not mean you have failed; it just means you've had enough and want to move forward. BetterHelp has thousands of licensed therapists who have helped people understand and deal with their anxiety. Below are reviews of some BetterHelp counselors, from those experiencing similar issues.
"Dr. Broz is a brilliant, kind-hearted woman. She listens to everything I have to say and responds promptly. We're in contact constantly with each other. Her worksheets are very helpful and I'm starting to work my way towards being able to better handle my anxiety and panic attacks. She is very relatable and often chimes in with stories of her own that relate to what I am experiencing as well. I would definitely recommend Dr. Broz to anyone in need of help or someone to talk to."
"I have been working with Latise for several months and could not be more pleased. She is flexible with her schedule and our weekly sessions have made a huge difference with my anxiety and depression. I would recommend her to anyone that is in need of counseling."
If you’re experiencing anxiety symptoms that are negatively affecting your life, you have options. There are so many things you can do on your own to alleviate your symptoms, and you can always talk to a supportive counselor who can help you learn to manage it. An anxiety-free life is possible—with the right tools.
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