Overcoming Fear: Dealing With Anxiety

5 Actions to Take When Anxiety Is Near

 

Action # 1 : Normalize Your Feelings

The first and most important thing to do when experiencing anxiety is not to freak out and let it overcome you — this is easier said than done. However, a good first step is to tell yourself that it is normal to experience anxiety. Sometimes, letting yourself feel anxious is the best thing that you can do to help yourself overcome it. Before I continue, I want to convince you that anxiety can be a positive and constructive thing. (Yes! You read that right…don’t worry — I’ll explain more, so keep reading.)

Anxiety is a feeling characterized by intense fear, worry, and apprehension. So far, all of this sounds negative, scary, and overwhelming — and it can be. When you feel anxiety, it is expressed not just emotionally, but also physically. For many, this can be debilitating. These symptoms are typical for millions of people who are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, including panic disorder. In the DSM 5 (considered the bible of psychology) there are 12 types of anxiety disorders. I will not include them all, but will briefly mention the criteria that is required to be diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

Before you tell yourself that you have a “disorder,” you might find it helpful to know that, in order to be diagnosed with a psychological disorder, you have to experience the following symptoms for a certain amount of time. Of course, you will need a professional to help with the diagnosis, but I am including this here so you can understand that what you are experiencing might not necessarily be a disorder, but rather a feeling that many experience. If you allow yourself to experience the anxiety, it may actually dissipate.

When should I seek a professional depression and anxiety therapist near me?

  • You experience excessive anxiety more days than not about several topics, events, or activities for at least 6 months.
  • The anxiety and worry that you experience is accompanied by seeking reassurance from others.
  • The anxiety can be related to work, health, financial matters, or other life circumstances.
  • The anxiety and worry are associated with at least THREE of the following symptoms:
  1.  Edginess or restlessness
  2. Tiring easily; more fatigue than usual
  3. Difficulty concentrating
  4. Irritability
  5. Increased muscle aches or soreness
  6. Difficulty sleeping

It is important to note that one can be diagnosed with GAD only if his disorder is not better diagnosed as a different disorder. Also, GAD cannot be diagnosed if the individual is abusing medication or alcohol.

Action #2 : Practice Mindfulness

Before you go any further, I challenge you to try the following exercise. Read the following instructions, and then pause for 60 seconds while completing the task:

  • Look at the palm of your hand.
  • Focus on your breath while looking at the palm of your hand.
  • When you feel that your thoughts are distracted by the many things you have to do (or whatever else you might be thinking about) gently bring your thoughts back to the palm of your hand.
  • DON’T judge yourself for being distracted. Simply notice the distraction, and bring your attention back to your hand.

How was this experience for you? (If you didn’t actually take 60 seconds to do this, please do it now…:-) )

I must say that when I first tried this exercise, it was extremely challenging for me. When I was first asked to do it in school, I found it difficult to focus my full attention on staring at the palm of my hand. (Who has time to do that?) Besides the fact that I had never actually looked at the palm of my hand or realized how many lines existed (kind of fascinating, no?), I was surprised to find out how challenging it was for me to just be mindful and quiet my mind for five very long minutes.

So, before I continue, it might be helpful for me to define mindfulness in a very simple way: Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present moment without judging your thoughts and feelings. Instead of letting your life pass by, mindfulness means that you are living in the moment with full awareness of your current experience, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future.

Many people practice mindfulness meditation to help with the reduction of stress and anxiety. There is a lot of evidence about the effectiveness of mindfulness, but I will include some studies that may convince you to be curious about mindfulness if you are not already familiar with it. My wish for you is that by the time you finish reading this section, you will have practiced at least 60 seconds of mindfulness exercise.

Can you think about the last time you experienced anxiety? What was the anxiety about? What was your first instinct to do when you felt it?

I have worked with many clients who, for a variety of reasons, are terrified of being anxious. We will all experience anxiety at some point in our lives. When we think about the word anxiety, we are most likely to associate the word with something negative that we must remove from our lives. While anxiety can create challenges for many people, it is important to also remember that anxiety serves a purpose to help and protects us in certain situations.

Action # 3 : Write Down Your Thoughts and Feelings

If I told you that writing down your thoughts and feelings would reduce your anxiety, would you at least try it? Many studies have shown that writing down your fears eases overall stress, and helps you perform better in life’s stressful situations.

A University of Chicago study that was published in the journal Science found that test takers who wrote down their worries before the test had higher scores than students who did not write down their anxieties and fears before taking the test. The researchers concluded that identifying and getting out all of their concerns helped to ease tension, and allowed them to free up brain power for more important things, like actually responding to the questions on the test!

Writing in a journal every day or two is a great way to release some of your tension. Write about happy things, as well — write about whatever you want! The important thing is to write. You may be happy to have those journals years down the road. Or, if you’re worried about leaving a paper trail, write things down and recycle the paper — it doesn’t have to be a precious keepsake! The point is, write down what’s bothering you, what scares you, what makes you nervous, and then move onto more important life things! Stop letting it take up space in your brain.

Action # 4 : Know That You Are 100% In Charge Of Your Thoughts And Feelings

This one took me a long time to actually understand, believe, and practice! Once I understood that I had the power to control my thoughts, though, my life changed and I was much happier. Let’s assume that you are reading this and believe that you INDEED have the power to change your thoughts and feelings. First, can you acknowledge how awesome it would be if you could have full control over your thoughts and feelings? So? What would you actually do with that? Understanding/awareness is only the first step towards achieving the desirable behavior (=reduction in anxiety). Basically, some event happens and you tell yourself something that it is causing you to feel/experience anxiety.

I am going to include some psychology terms, but feel free to ignore the terms and just understand the ideas behind them. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) are the two treatment modalities that helped change my life and many of my clients’ lives. The simplest way to explain CBT is that our thoughts affect our emotions and behavior, so if you can change your thoughts or learn to redirect them, you will feel better and will be able to change your behavior. DBT is a specific form of CBT that emphasizes acceptance of what cannot be changed.   

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most commonly practiced forms of psychotherapy today. Its focus is on helping people learn how their thoughts color and can actually change their feelings and behaviors. It is usually time-limited and goal-focused as practiced by most psychotherapists in the U.S. today. DBT seeks to build upon the foundation of CBT, help enhance its effectiveness, and address specific concerns that the founder of DBT, psychologist Marsha Linehan, saw as deficits in CBT.

DBT emphasizes the psychosocial aspects of treatment — how a person interacts with others in different environments and relationships. The theory behind the approach is that some people are prone to react in a more intense and out-of-the-ordinary manner toward certain emotional situations — primarily those found in romantic, family, and friend relationships. DBT was originally designed to help treat people with borderline personality disorder, but is now used to treat a wide range of concerns.

The basic logic is that your thoughts affect your emotions and behavior. So, if you take the example of you looking at yourself in the mirror and thinking that you are fat and ugly, the associated emotions will be sadness, anxiety, and other negative emotions.

Now, let’s remember that you have the full control of your thoughts and the ability to redirect your thoughts to a more positive place. With this in mind, you will look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself, “I am ugly, fat, and I have the worst sense of style…” Then look at yourself again, this time with love and compassion, and tell yourself that you are a beautiful, healthy looking individual who is doing the best you can in order to be happy (or any other positive things you want to say to yourself). How do you imagine you will feel telling yourself these positive things? I am hoping better than you feel when telling yourself that you are ugly and fat. This might take some time and practice, but once you learn how to redirect your thoughts to a more constructive place that helps change your behavior and drives you to a more desirable behavior, your will feel so much more happy and healthy. It’s not about lying to yourself, it’s about acknowledging your thoughts and redirecting them to a positive place.

Action # 5 : Reach Out For Professional Help

Should I look for a therapist near me for depression and anxiety?

Asking for help is not always easy, but there is nothing wrong with asking for support. Whenever possible, I suggest that you use whatever resources you have to get the support that you need. It might help you to know that there are over 43 million people in the U.S. suffering from anxiety (that’s 1 in 5 adults!!!). Unfortunately for many people, there is a stigma associated with seeking support for mental health, which prevents them from getting the support they need. Many also wait until things get worse, which makes it more challenging to treat. Seeking and finding the right therapist near you to help with your anxiety issues can also be anxiety-provoking, but it doesn’t have to be. Prior to finding the right therapist, you can educate yourself and find out the best treatment for anxiety. There are also self-help books that you can read to help you better understand what you are experiencing.

Are you wondering, “Is it time to find a therapist for depression and anxiety near me?” Then why not talk to someone? Why not make your life less anxious? Hold yourself accountable for asking for help. Especially in today’s fast-paced world, it’s entirely normal to feel stressed, worried, and anxious, but we don’t have to live this way.

Search for a therapist near you who treats anxiety, ask friends and family for a recommendation, and if you have any questions, please feel free to call us for a free consultation!  At LW Wellness, we help match you with the right therapist who fits your needs and provides you with the care and attention that you deserve.

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