- Fitness Tips: Stay Healthy, Manage Stress
- Managing worry in generalized anxiety disorder – Harvard Health Blog – Harvard Health Publishing
- The surprising benefits of worry for people with GAD
- What you can do to get your worry under control
- Tips for Living With Anxiety
- Dealing with Anxiety: How to Live Well and Cope
- Anxiety, Mind, and Mayhem
- Celebrities Living with Anxiety
- Anxiety Treatments
- 4 Tips from Real People with Anxiety
- Coping With Anxiety
- Living With Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Try these when you're feeling anxious or stressed:
- Take a time-out. Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques. Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head.
- Eat well-balanced meals. Do not skip any meals. Do keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
- Get enough sleep. When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.
- Exercise daily to help you feel good and maintain your health. Check out the fitness tips below.
- Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly.
- Count to 10 slowly. Repeat, and count to 20 if necessary.
- Do your best. Instead of aiming for perfection, which isn't possible, be proud of however close you get.
- Accept that you cannot control everything. Put your stress in perspective: Is it really as bad as you think?
- Welcome humor. A good laugh goes a long way.
- Maintain a positive attitude. Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
- Get involved. Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress.
- Learn what triggers your anxiety. Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and look for a pattern.
- Talk to someone. Tell friends and family you’re feeling overwhelmed, and let them know how they can help you. Talk to a physician or therapist for professional help.
Fitness Tips: Stay Healthy, Manage Stress
For the biggest benefits of exercise, try to include at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity (e.g. brisk walking) each week, 1¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity (such as jogging or swimming laps), or a combination of the two.
- 5 X 30: Jog, walk, bike, or dance three to five times a week for 30 minutes.
- Set small daily goals and aim for daily consistency rather than perfect workouts. It's better to walk every day for 15-20 minutes than to wait until the weekend for a three-hour fitness marathon. Lots of scientific data suggests that frequency is most important.
- Find forms of exercise that are fun or enjoyable. Extroverted people often classes and group activities. People who are more introverted often prefer solo pursuits.
- Distract yourself with an iPod or other portable media player to download audiobooks, podcasts, or music. Many people find it’s more fun to exercise while listening to something they enjoy.
- Recruit an “exercise buddy.” It's often easier to stick to your exercise routine when you have to stay committed to a friend, partner, or colleague.
- Be patient when you start a new exercise program. Most sedentary people require about four to eight weeks to feel coordinated and sufficiently in shape so that exercise feels easier.
If you are the parent of a college-aged child with an anxiety disorder, here are some tips to help with managing his or her anxiety.
Managing worry in generalized anxiety disorder – Harvard Health Blog – Harvard Health Publishing
Follow me at @srinipillay
Everyone worries, but some people worry more than others. When worry is excessive, people may develop generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). In fact, close to a quarter of people who go to their primary care physicians with anxiety suffer from this.
In general, stressful events in childhood and adulthood, having strained economic resources, being divorced, and being female all put you at risk for GAD. But what do all of these different high-risk groups have in common psychologically? Why do they worry so much? And what can they do about this?
The surprising benefits of worry for people with GAD
A recent study explained why people with GAD worry so much — and the findings may surprise you. While many people think they are just worriers, they do not realize that they actually worry for a reason.
Their worry is an attempt to protect themselves! If you’re wondering how such a nagging, persistent, annoying, and sometimes distressing psychological state can be helpful, you’re probably not alone.
But the findings do in fact make some sense.
It turns out that worrying about something puts your mind into a negative state, but this helps, because when something negative does happen, you don’t feel that much worse. You’ve already been feeling bad.
For people with GAD, it’s better to feel bad most of the time so that a negative event — someone being ill, sudden financial challenges, or rejection from a loved one — doesn’t have the power to create a massive emotional swing.
It’s the sudden shift from a neutral or positive mood to a negative one that is of great concern to worriers. They will do anything to avoid this, include preparing to be miserable. They really hate the contrast of a situation unexpectedly going south.
To people who aren’t worriers, this would sound counterintuitive, but they don’t have the same sensitivity to sudden emotional shifts. In fact, for them, worry is undesirable, whereas worriers find worry helpful.
This poses a dilemma for treatment, then. If someone has GAD, just asking them to lose the worry will not work. And if you have GAD, expecting your brain to simply stop worrying on command is a tall order.
Another study has helped us understand that people who are prone to worrying are soft-wired to pay attention to threatening news, thereby building up a library of evidence in their brains that worrying is necessary. Think about it.
On any given day, there are so many threatening things happening in the world — anything from new viruses, terrorist attacks, or political conflicts to a hostile email or upcoming storm are all real events.
Yet, if you only pay attention to the threats, you have no space left in your brain to process anything else. Threat becomes your reality, and worry becomes your justifiable response. Anyone telling you to give up your worry will sound touch, to say the least.
What you can do to get your worry under control
As challenging as this sounds, there are things that you can do to retrain your brain to stop worrying. Cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of talk therapy where you simply revisit your assumptions in an attempt to reframe your thoughts, works according to some studies but not others.
It’s important to remember that you can benefit from other forms of talk therapy, though, and that you can benefit from medications as well. But if you want to try changing the way you think right now, prior to therapy or while you’re waiting, you might consider the following approach.
Rather than challenging yourself or someone else about worry, you can actually accept that the worry is serving a purpose — to avoid a sudden negative swing. Then, start to delve deeper so you can discover that the negative swing is probably less negative than you think.
Giving up the struggle and control with worry, and accepting that it has not been helpful, is the next step. You can then re-examine your library of negative “proof” and swap out threatening realities for positive ones.
In fact, this kind of deliberate optimism can protect you from GAD.
Worry in GAD can be debilitating, but there is an increasing amount of data that shows you can address this effectively.
Tips for Living With Anxiety
If you deal with anxiety on a regular basis, medication doesn't have to be your only treatment.
To calm your mind and cut stress, try working these self-care tips into your daily routine:
Move your body. Exercise is an important part of physical — and mental — health. It can ease your feelings of anxiety and boost your sense of well-being. Shoot for three to five 30-minute workout sessions a week. Be sure to choose exercises you enjoy so you look forward to them.
Pay attention to sleep. Both quality and quantity are important for good sleep. Doctors recommend an average of 8 hours of shut-eye a night. If anxiety is making it hard for you to fall asleep, create a routine to help you catch your ZZZs:
- Leave screens behind before you hit the hay.
- Try to stick to a schedule.
- Be sure your bed is comfy.
- Keep your room's temperature on the cool side.
Ease up on caffeine and alcohol. Both caffeine, which is an “upper,” and alcohol, which is a “downer,” can make anxiety kick into overdrive. Cut back or avoid them if you can. Remember, coffee and soda aren't the only things with caffeine. It can also pop up in:
- Diet pills
- Some headache medicines
Schedule your worry time. It may sound backward to plan to worry, but doctors actually recommend that you pick a time to think about your fears on purpose. Take 30 minutes to identify what’s bothering you and what you can do about it. Have your “worry session” at the same time every day. Don’t dwell on “what-ifs.” Focus on what actually makes you anxious.
Breathe deep. It sends a message to your brain that you’re OK. That helps your mind and body relax. To get the most it, lie down on a flat surface and put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Take a slow breath in. Make sure it fills your belly enough that you can feel it rise slightly. Hold it for a second, then slowly let it out.
Be the boss of your thoughts. Try to turn any negative thoughts into positive ones. Picture yourself facing your fears head-on. The more you do this in your mind, the easier it will be to deal with it when it happens.
Tame tense muscles. Relax them with this simple exercise: Choose a muscle group, tighten it for a few seconds, then let go. Focus on one section at a time and work through your whole body. This is sometimes called progressive muscle relaxation.
Help out in your community. Spend time doing good things for others. It can help you get your head. Volunteer or do other work in your community. Not only will it feel good to give back, you’ll make connections that can be a support system for you, too.
Look for triggers. Think of times and places where you notice yourself feeling most anxious. Write them down, if you need to.
Look for patterns and work on ways you can either avoid or confront the feelings of panic and worry. If you know the causes of your anxiety, that can help you put your worries into perspective.
Next time, you'll be better prepared when it affects you.
© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Dealing with Anxiety: How to Live Well and Cope
Of all existing psychological and mental maladies, anxiety disorders are the most common affecting over 30% of all adults in the United States. Anxiety disorders are a broad category that includes many different manifestations of anxiety including:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): Excessive anxiety or worry about an array things such as personal health, work, social interactions, and everyday routine life circumstances
- Specific phobia: An intense fear or aversion to specific situations, things or places that is proportion to the actual danger caused by the situation or object.
- Social anxiety: Excessive worry about actions or behaviors in social or performance situations and a fear of feeling embarrassed causes those with social anxiety to avoid social situations–gatherings, parties or events—leading to a kind of self-imposed isolation.
- Panic disorder: Episodes of intense fear that come on quickly and reach their peak within minutes. Attacks can occur unexpectedly or can be brought on by anxiety or a trigger, such as a feared object or situation
Anxiety isn’t all bad. Sometimes it’s a life-saver. It’s an evolutionary trait meant to protect us from marauding animals and other dangers. In a normal measure, anxiety is an alarm system (marauding beasts) and a motivator, the push needed to finish a project on time or meet a deadline (what I experienced writing this article).
But when anxiety exceeds its benign function as a temporary motivator, when it overflows its banks, flooding the mind with toxic thoughts and poisonous worries and monkeying with the body’s stress hormones, havoc ensues.
Thousands of years ago, the Buddha described the chaos and havoc of the monkey mind, a state where unruly monkeys—thoughts and fears– collided into each other creating stress and anxiety.
Anxiety, Mind, and Mayhem
That theme carries over in Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel B. Smith. Describing himself as “anxiety personified,” Smith writes, “Anxiety compels a person to think, but it is the type of thinking that gives thinking a bad name: solipsistic, self-eviscerating, unremitting, vicious.
My walks to therapy, for example, were spent outlining with great logical precision the manner in which my state of mind would lead me to complete existential ruin. A typical line of thought went something this: I am anxious. The anxiety makes it impossible to concentrate. Because it is impossible to concentrate I will make an unforgivable mistake at work.
Because I will make an unforgivable mistake at work, I will be fired. Because I will be fired, I will not be able to pay the rent.”
That torturous, negative thinking pushes the thinker into an ever more anxious state. Anxiety not only begets anxiety, it also causes physical reactions.
The body responds to anxiety and fear by releasing cortisol and other stress hormones that can lead to a buffet of symptoms ranging from dizziness, heart palpitations, sweating and lightheadedness to nervousness, flushing, trouble concentrating, rashes and more.
Moreover, living with anxiety can be a lonely and isolating experience. As one sufferer lamented, “it’s not visible, people don’t understand it and too often think willpower can make it go away.”
Celebrities Living with Anxiety
In recent years, as more and more celebrities reveal their own struggles with anxiety, these disorders seem to be emerging from behind the curtain and stepping onto the world stage.
In a recent People magazine interview, singer and songwriter, Jewel, spoke about the panic attacks, anxiety, and agoraphobia that plagued her from the age of 15. Now 44, she credits journaling and meditation with helping her manage her anxiety.
She recently shared a video of two mindfulness/meditation exercises she regularly uses to calm and center herself.
Anxiety has been a constant, unwanted companion in actor Ryan Reynold’s life. In a New York Times, interview the Deadpool actor revealed, “I’ve always had anxiety….Both in the lighthearted ‘I’m anxious about this’ kind of thing, and I’ve been to the depths of the darker end of the spectrum, which is not fun.”
For Reynolds, performing helps him manage his anxiety, a practice that also works for late show host Stephen Colbert.
In a recent Rolling Stone interview, Colbert said that he “needed to be medicated when I was younger to deal with my anxiety…” After he married, he had “a bit of a nervous breakdown… — kind of panic attacks,” he said.
“My wife would go off to work and she’d come home—because I worked at night—and I’d be walking around the couch. And she’s , “How was your day?” And I’d say, “You’re looking at it.” Just tight circles around the couch.
” “I would go to the show, and I would curl up in a ball on the couch backstage and I would wait to hear my cue lines,” he said. “Then I would uncurl and go onstage and I’d feel fine. Which occurred to me at the time: , ‘Oh, you feel fine when you’re out here.’ And then as soon as I got offstage, I’d just crumble into a ball again…”
The take away is that while anxiety disorders share certain behaviors and characteristics, how an individual experiences agoraphobia, GAD or a phobia differs and is influenced by that person’s psyche and life experiences, biology and perhaps their DNA.
The standard treatments for anxiety disorder are:
1. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), is the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings and behaviors, not external things, people, situations, and events.
The benefit of this therapy is that we can change the way we think to feel and act better even if the situation does not change.
CBT focuses on determining the thought and behavior patterns responsible for sustaining or causing anxiety or panic attacks.
2. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a form of cognitive therapy that emphasizes individual psychotherapy as well as group skills training to help people learn new skills and strategies—including mindfulness and distress tolerance–to manage their anxiety and panic.
3. Exposure therapy involves exposing the patient in a safe and controlled environment to physical sensations they experience during an anxiety or panic attack. The idea is that by repeating the things that may trigger a panic attack those triggers will eventually lose their power.
4. Medication can be used to control or lessen symptoms related to anxiety disorder. It is most effective when combined with other treatments, such as the aforementioned cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy.
Medications used to treat panic disorder include antidepressants, though they take several weeks to reach effectiveness. Benzodiazepines such as Ativan and Xanax work quickly.
However they are addictive and should only be used for a short time,
While these classic treatments have a good success rate, treatment options are expanding.
One anxiety-alleviating method much discussed recently is a practice called Tapping, otherwise known as EFT or Emotional Freedom Techniques.
First developed in the 1980s, Tapping combines ancient Chinese acupuncture–minus the needles—and modern psychology explains Nick Ortner, author of The Tapping Solution: A Revolutionary System for Stress-Free Living. The basic idea of Tapping is that you identify something that is anxiety-provoking or stressful.
You then go through the designated meridian points in a specific order saying something positive , “Even though I’m stressed or anxious about this, I deeply and completely accept myself.” The meridians in order are:
- The side of the hand: Outside of your hand below your fingers (the Karate Chop Point) tap with four fingers
- Head: The crown, center, and top of the head. Tap with all four fingers on both hands.
- Eyebrow: The inner edges of the eyebrows, closest to the bridge of the nose. Use two fingers.
- The side of the eye: The hard area between the eye and the temple. Use two fingers. Feel out this area gently so you don’t poke yourself in the eye!
- Under the eye: The hard area under the eye that merges with the cheekbone. Use two fingers, in line beneath the pupil.
- Beneath the nose: The point centered between the bottom of the nose and the upper lip. Use two fingers.
- Chin: This point is right beneath the previous one, and is centered between the bottom of the lower lip and the chin.
- Collarbone: Tap just below the hard ridge of your collarbone with four fingers.
- Underarm: On your side, about four inches beneath the armpit. Use four fingers.
And back to the head to complete one sequence. As you tap on each meridian, keep repeating your positive phrase such as “even though I’m anxious about (fill in the blank), I accept myself. As you go through the rest of the meridians, repeat a simple reminder phrase, such as “my anxiety” or “my interview” or “my financial situation.” This sequence should be repeated several times.
The technique has garnered approval from the Veteran’s Administration for the treatment of PTSD. And a 2016 study by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev concluded that the “Emotional freedom technique treatment demonstrated a significant decrease in anxiety scores, even when accounting for the effect size of control treatment.
” However, the researchers pointed out that more studies are needed.
4 Tips from Real People with Anxiety
Early in her career, Los Angeles-based author, actor and TV personality Terra Wellington would get panic attacks just before going on air. “It was an out-of-body experience,” says Terra. “I would also not breathe enough to get the oxygen I needed, so I would feel light-headed.
” Over the years, she came up with a few simple anxiety and stress reduction skills that she still uses. Along with practicing mindful breathing to calm her, she uses a grounding technique.
“I purposely wiggle my toes and tell my feet to feel the floor, even with shoes on; if I can ‘feel’ the floor under me, I’m more grounded,” she says.
Rob Cole, a licensed mental health counselor and the clinical director of Mental Health Services at Banyan Treatment Center suggests these grounding and other anxiety-reducing techniques.
- Take a moment to center yourself and bring yourself back into the present moment. Tune into 4 things around you that you can see, 3 things that you can touch, 2 things that you can smell, and 1 thing that you can taste (you can carry around mints, or gum, to use in this situation). You will distract yourself from the anxiety that is trying to take over your body.
- Carry loose change or count backward by 3’s. These techniques help those who are about to have a panic or anxiety attack by forcing the brain to focus on another, overriding activity. The act of counting at random intervals helps people to focus, overriding the anxious thoughts that are trying to creep in. Loose change is a great way to do this. Add a dime to a nickel and you have 15. Add another two pennies and you have 17, so on and so forth. By showing yourself that you are capable of controlling your thoughts by this systematic, deliberate counting, and focusing on something outside of yourself, you will begin to feel calmer. Similarly, count backward from 100 by intervals of 3. This is another way to force your brainpower onto a task that is not your anxious thoughts, allowing you to regain control of the situation.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. Using relaxation exercises can be an effective way to reduce your stress and anxiety. Alternate between tensing and relaxing different muscle groups throughout the body. Tensing your muscles is a common symptom of anxiety and by learning to immediately relax those muscles you’ll program your body to relax when it feels the tension.
- Focus on one single task at a time. You will instantly feel less overwhelmed. If you are in the car, focus on staying in the middle of the lane. If you are at work or school, take care of the most important thing you need to do that day. Focusing on a single activity distracts your mind from the anxiety it is producing.
And speaking of activity, find something, be it coloring, doing a crossword puzzle, writing, knitting or anything else that occupies your hands and your mind will help keep anxiety at bay. Living with anxiety doesn’t have to feel a life sentence. Take a proactive role in your own mental health treatment and find techniques that work for you to help manage your anxiety.
Coping With Anxiety
From the WebMD Archives
Divorce, layoffs, threat of terrorism — there's plenty of anxiety around for everyone these days. And very often, the source is something we can't change. How do you know when it's time to get help dealing with your anxieties?
To better understand the underpinnings of anxiety — and how to better cope — WebMD turned to two anxiety experts: Jerilyn Ross, MA, LICSW, director of The Ross Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, Inc., and Linda Andrews, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
The cold sweat of anxiety is that “fight or flight” response that kept our early relatives safe from grizzly bears and other scary characters, says Andrews. “That adrenaline rush still serves us well under certain circumstances. Anxiety is a natural reaction to those very real stresses.”
In today's world, “that reaction helps motivate us, prepares us for things we have to face, and sometimes give us energy to take action when we need to,” adds Ross.
Big job interview is coming up, and it's got you in knots. So “you spend a little more time getting dressed or rehearsing what you're going to say,” Ross says. “You've got an appointment with the divorce lawyer, so you do more homework. That kind of anxiety can motivate you to do better. It helps you protect yourself.”
But as we know too well, sometimes it doesn't take a specific threat — only the possibility of crisis — to send humans into anxiety mode. “The difficulty comes in learning to tone down that automatic response — to think, 'How serious is the danger? How ly is the threat?' “says Andrews.
“The thing about anxiety is, it can take on a life of its own,” she adds. “Everything becomes a potential crisis. The unthinkable has happened. So around every corner, there's the next possible disaster.”
When anxiety is taking a toll, your body knows it. You have trouble sleeping, eating, and concentrating. You get headaches; your stomach is upset. You might even have a panic attack — the pounding heart, a feeling of lightheadedness.
Anxiety may also feel depression. “The two sometimes overlap,” Ross says.
When anxiety becomes so overwhelming that it interferes with day-to-day activities — when it keeps you from going places, from doing things you need to do — that's when you need help, says Ross.
Generalized anxiety disorder is a bigger syndrome — ” a worry machine in your head,” Ross says. “If it's not one thing, it's another. You're procrastinating to the point that you're almost afraid to take a step. You're so nervous about going to your child's school to talk to the teacher, you just don't go — you miss the appointment.”
In the case of such overwhelming anxiety, “people are not making good decisions,” says Ross. “They're avoiding things, or they're unable to rise to the occasion because the anxiety is too much.
They're procrastinating because they can't concentrate, can't stay focused. It's really interfering with their day-to-day life.
At that point, they may have a more serious anxiety problem and need professional help.”
To cope with plain-vanilla anxiety, “get real,” as they say. “Separate out the real risks and dangers that a situation presents and those your imagination is making worse,” advises Ross. It's a twist on the old adage: “Take control of the things you can, and accept those you can't change.”
“Ask yourself: Where can you take control of a situation? Where can you make changes? Then do what needs to be done,” she says. “What things do you simply have to accept? That's very important.”
Very often, it's possible to get past an anxiety cycle with the help of friends or family — someone who can help you sort out your problems. But when anxiety becomes overwhelming, it's time for a therapist, or perhaps medication.
Here are two strategies that therapists use to help us conquer anxiety:
Challenge negative thoughts.
Ask yourself: Is this a productive thought? Is it helping me get closer to my goal? If it's just a negative thought you're rehashing, then you must be able to say to that thought: 'Stop.' “That's difficult to do, but it's very important,” Ross says.
Rather than becoming paralyzed with anxiety, here's another message you can send yourself: “I may have to take a job I don't as much, may have to travel further than I want, but I'll do what I have to do now. At least I will have the security of income in the short term. Then I can look for something better later.”
The most important thing: “to realize when you've done everything you can, that you need to move forward,” Ross says.
Learn to relax.
You may even need “breathing retraining,” Ross adds. “When people get anxious, they tend to hold their breath. We teach people a special diaphragmatic breathing — it calms your system. Do yoga, meditation, or get some exercise. Exercise is a terrific outlet for anxiety.”
Most of all, try not to compound your problems, adds Andrews. “When things are bad, there is a legitimate reason to feel bad,” she says.
“But if you don't deal with it, you're going to lose more than just a job — you'll lose relationships, your self confidence, you could even lose technical abilities if you stay dormant in your profession. Try not to compound one stress by adding another.”
Often your ability to work through anxiety — get past it — varies depending on the type of crisis you faced.
“The more severe, the more surprising it was, the longer it's going to take to get over it,” says Andrews. “You may be on autopilot for several weeks.
If you're depressed, that can complicate things. In the case of divorce, it may take months to years to really get back to yourself.”
But take heart. “If you're doing well in one aspect of your life — in your work or your relationships — you're probably on your way,” she says. “Fear and anxiety are no longer running your life.”
Medication will not cure an anxiety disorder, but it will help keep it under control. If anxiety becomes severe enough to require medication, there are a few options.
Antidepressants, particularly the SSRIs, may be effective in treating many types of anxiety disorders.
Other treatment includes benzodiazepines, such as Valium, Ativan, and Xanax alone or in combination with SSRI medication. These drugs do carry a risk of addiction so they are not as desirable for long-term use. Other possible side effects include drowsiness, poor concentration, and irritability.
Beta-blockers can prevent the physical symptoms that accompany certain anxiety disorders, particularly social phobia.
© 2005 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.
Living With Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Living with generalized anxiety disorder can be difficult, but it is possible with the right steps. This begins with a professional diagnosis and comprehensive treatment involving behavioral therapy, medications, and other strategies.
Outside of therapy, patients with anxiety can learn to live with it by using relaxation techniques, by changing negative thoughts, and by making positive changes to reduce stress.
Also important to living with generalized anxiety is being socially engaged and taking time for healthy self-care.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) causes excessive worry and anxiety over many different things.
The difference between healthy anxiety and anxiety disorder is that worry caused by the anxiety disorder is excessive, difficult to control, and proportion with the situation. This extreme anxiety can be debilitating, but it is also treatable.
It is possible to live well with GAD if a person gets professional treatment, practices relaxation strategies, actively works toward changing negative thoughts, and engages in healthy lifestyle habits that minimize stress.
Living with GAD presents many challenges, but without treatment it can take all the joy life. The best thing anyone who struggles with anxiety can do is get a professional evaluation.
A psychiatrist or other mental health professional will use observations, interviews, and other evaluation tools to determine if someone should be diagnosed with GAD or another anxiety disorder.
With an accurate diagnosis from a professional, treatment can then begin.
Treatment for GAD is essential for living well with this chronic condition. Anxiety disorders have no cure, but they can be successfully managed with treatment and self-care.
Medication is an important component of overall treatment for anxiety.
Patients are often prescribed benzodiazepines to manage anxiety in the short-term and antidepressants, which take longer to begin working, for long-term management.
Along with medications, patients being treated with anxiety benefit from therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the gold standard for managing anxiety.
CBT teaches patients to recognize negative thoughts and behaviors, to be aware of irrational worries and fears, and to take steps to change them.
Additionally, a comprehensive GAD treatment plan includes teaching strategies for relaxation, for coping with stress, and for practicing healthy habits that combat anxiety.
A treatment plan is only the beginning when it comes to living with generalized anxiety disorder. For the best long-term outcomes it is important to be proactive and take steps to prevent and manage anxiety.
A good treatment program will teach patients numerous strategies for controlling anxiety after treatment has ended. It will also help each patient develop a plan for using these and other strategies at home.
Residential care for GAD is a great way to kick-start management of this condition, but patients then need to take control and take active steps for lifelong success in combating anxiety.
One of the most powerful things a patient in treatment for anxiety disorders can learn is how to change negative thoughts and behaviors.
This is the strength of CBT, and when a patient embraces the therapy, he or she learns how to take those strategies and keep using them long after treatment is over.
Anxiety cannot simply be driven away by willpower, but the negative thoughts can be altered.
Changing negative thoughts begins with awareness. It is easy to worry without actually giving it much thought. CBT teaches patients to be more aware and to actively recognize anxiety and determine what is causing it.
They then learn to take the negative thoughts surrounding those worries, “If I go to that party something embarrassing will happen and everyone will make fun of me,” and change it to something more positive: “If I go to that party I’ll get to see people I haven’t spoken to for a while, and if I really feel uncomfortable I can always leave.”
It takes practice to master this, but with the tools provided by a good therapist and active engagement in CBT, it gets easier. The more a person actively tries to recognize and change the negative thoughts associated with worry, the easier it becomes to manage and minimize anxiety.
You're Not Alone. We're Here to Help.
Another thing that a good treatment plan for anxiety teaches patients is how to induce relaxation. Having several practical strategies can help a person take immediate steps in a stressful situation to reduce anxiety and relax the body. These are techniques that combine the body and the mind to bring quick relief at times when anxiety is building and threatens to take over:
- Deep breathing. This relaxation technique uses deep and slow breaths to induce relaxation. When anxiety rises, so does breathing rate, so intentionally slowing it down induces relaxation.
- Meditation. Mindfulness meditation is known to reduce stress and anxiety, even after just a few minutes, and it is easy to do. Similar practices that use mindfulness and reduce stress include tai chi and yoga.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. Slowly tensing and then relaxing muscles in the body both induces relaxation and draws the mind away from anxiety.
- Autogenic relaxation. Imagining words, mantras, and suggestions along with peaceful, relaxing images and awareness of tension leaving the body help create relaxation in a stressful situation.
- Visualization and guided imagery. Guided imagery involves visualizing a peaceful or calm place and focusing on what it looks, sounds, and smells to reduce stress.
Relaxation strategies can be very useful in reducing stress and managing anxiety, but they take practice. The more they are practiced, the more useful they will be in times of more intense stress.
Healthy lifestyle habits and positive changes are important in creating a life in which anxiety and stress are minimized. Some people find that making big changes are necessary to reduce stress.
For instance, a job may be causing the most stress, so changing professions can help. An unhealthy and stressful relationship may cause more stress than enjoyment; cutting ties with certain people can help.
Smaller changes and healthy habits that promote a positive mindset with less anxiety include:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Getting adequate exercise and maintaining a healthy weight
- Avoiding smoking, alcohol, and drugs
- Getting enough high-quality sleep
- Spending time doing enjoyable and relaxing activities
- Taking time to be alone and reflective
- Being more socially engaged
For someone striving to live well with GAD it is important to remember that this is a chronic illness. To manage it requires active, consistent, and ongoing care.
With a solid foundation of professional treatment, most patients can continue living their lives, practicing self-care, using relaxation techniques, and minimizing stress to control anxiety and keep it at a manageable level. However, there is always a chance that anxiety will flare up again, requiring more treatment.
It is important not to get frustrated by these setbacks and to recognize that GAD is chronic, has no cure, and will require occasional treatment from professionals, just any many other illnesses.
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Living with and loving someone who struggles with anxiety can be challenging. It can trigger frustration, anxiety, and compassion fatigue, but it can also be difficult for another person to understand.
Not everyone who has a loved one with GAD realizes just how serious it is and how debilitating it can be. The first step in helping someone with excessive anxiety is to listen without judgement and to encourage that person to seek professional help for diagnosis and treatment.
If already in treatment, encouraging that person to stick with it and supporting them throughout treatment is crucial.
Understanding and patience are needed when living with someone with GAD. It is important to learn more about anxiety disorders to be able to provide compassion and empathy.
It’s easy to get frustrated, but this reaction will only exacerbate anxiety. Instead, be there to listen and support. Provide friendship and the basis of a social network. Encourage the person struggling with anxiety to go out and socialize.
Greater social connection helps reduce the burden of anxiety.
While it may seem impossible to live well with generalized anxiety disorder, it can be done and the prognosis is generally very good. The key to managing this condition is to start with good treatment and to follow it up with numerous strategies that promote relaxation, minimal stress, and a healthy, positive lifestyle.