It is easy to say “face your fears” but difficulty to do. One of my patient was fearful of flying and his family lived in the eastern Canada. He could not get himself on an aeroplane to go and see them even for special occasions like Xmas, his mothers birthday, christening of his nephew etc. He would feel sad, beat himself over his inability and call himself a coward. He never shared his fear with anyone until one day he come to see me for vague symptoms. It was during my conversation with him he shared his secret with me. Happily after his brave effort of facing his fear he was able to fly over and see his family. He now sees them regularly.
With the help of his psychologist the above patient used Systematic (or Imagery) Desensitization method to mentally face his fear of flying. This is commonly used method to overcome phobias when real life exposure is not practical. Exposure Therapy is a real life desensitization to a phobia.
Regular exercise is another great way to reduce anxiety and enhance sense of well-being. It has so many other benefits and yet this mode of healing is severely under utilized. It is easier to take a vitamin pill or baby aspirin then to do exercise. However the benefits of the exercise is way more than taking supplements or pills. I know it can be difficulty to find time in our busy live to do it on regular basis. I can find so many excuses not do it myself and sometimes these excuses have won out and I ended up not doing the regular exercise; but the consequences are always the same, my feeling of well-being disappears, I get less done, my concentration is not as good, I don,t sleep well, and I feel sense of tension in my body; so I have to be careful and watch out that my efforts to do exercise doesn’t get undermined by my excuses.
There are many types of exercises, I like the ones where you don’t need or need very little special equipment or facilities. That’s why I like running, walking , cycling or swimming. I like walking the best because you can do this all year round , in any weather, doesn’t require any special equipment, it cost nothing and doesn’t cause any injuries. The walk has to be brisk , steady for at least thirty minutes, and the heart rate should go up depending on your fitness level, age and medical conditions. Of course what ever form of exercise you choose it should be fun and brings you joy otherwise you are unlikely to continue it for any length of time. You may want to do different exercises on different days; you may want to rotate cycling , walking, running and swimming on different days of the week. What ever works for you is the best. That way you are likely to do it on regular basis and will bring you happiness, joy , sense of well being and reduced anxiety.
Eating right to stay calm is also important. Common offender for making anxiety worse is caffeine; I love the smell of good coffee and it is so easily available very where that I tend to drink it without even thinking about it until I start to get palpitations. Luckily it doesn’t affect my sleep even if I have it just before going to bed. There are a lot of people who are very sensitive and even one cup a day can induce anxiety or a panic attack. It increases neurotransmitters norepinephrine in the brain which stimulates the sympathetic nervous system in the same way as stress does by releasing adrenaline, which leaves one feeling alert and awake. However , too much caffeine can leave you chronically tense and aroused with a tendency to be anxiety and palpitation prone. It also robs you of Vitamin B1 which is supposed to be good for coping with stress.How much is too much caffeine depends on how each person metabolizes it, some can only tolerate very little others can consume more. Overall it better to reduce the caffeine intake as much as possible.
Low Blood Sugar or hypoglycemia can precipitate anxiety. It is more likely to occurs when the diet has high proportion of simple carbohydrates; they raise the blood sugar soon after eating ; the body respond by secreting insulin from the panaceas; the insulin plummet the sugar down again causing hypoglycemia, usually about three hours after eating meal with high simple carbohydrate. hypoglycemia may cause symptoms similar to anxiety – light headedness, nervousness, trembling , feeling of unsteadiness or weakness, irritability and palpitation. If one is prone to anxiety the hypoglycemia will just make it worse. hypoglycemia can also occur with acute or chronic stress. The dietary hypoglycemia can be eliminated by increasing the proportion of protein in the diet, eliminate simple carbohydrate , replace them with complex carbohydrate.
Herbs are commonly used to treat anxiety, but they should be regarded as less potent medication. They can interact with other medication, so always check with your doctor before taking them. Commonly used herbs for anxiety are:- Kava ( in some people can cause liver damage), Valerian, passion-flower and Gotu Kola.
It is important to self nourish ourselves. It should be regarded as a necessity and not as a luxury. In order to function well in the day we must have enough sleep, recreation and rest time. Taking the time to self nourish give you sense of well-being, energy , stamina, presence of mind and calmer, more serene outlook which is important to reduce anxiety. It is especially important with increasing use of technology in our lives, where we have to respond to phone calls , emails, faxes and catch up with paper work. On top of all that you have to talk to your clients in calm , professional manner and when you get home your relationship with your loved ones fall short of expectation. It seems one is always racing in the day time to catch up, which for some can be very anxiety provoking. So take downtime for rest, recreation and relationship; get past the workaholism; be willing to do less, exercise; get good night sleep regularly; pace yourself and take mini breaks; nurture yourself on a daily basis. I made some of these changes in my life few months ago and find I am more productive and happier. However , obligations have a tendency to encroach on the nurturing time ; but we have to remind ourselves we can’t help others without looking after ourselves.
Reduce stress and anxiety by simplifying your life. Down size your living situation, let go of the things you don’t need , do what you want for living, reduce your commute , reduce exposure to TV, live close to nature, tame the telephone, delegate menial chores and learn to say no.
Reduce anxiety by turning of the worry by exercise; by talking to someone; by doing twenty minutes of deep relaxation; listen to evocative music; experience something immediately pleasurable; use visual distraction; express your creativity; find alternative positive obsession; repeat a positive affirmation in a quite place etc
Have plan to cope with anxiety on the spot before it happens, by distractions, affirmations, abdominal breathing , by accepting your anxiety and knowing that you will get through this episode as well etc.
If you suffer from anxiety and decided to make even some of the changes suggested in these series of posts; and practice them on daily basis then I am sure you will be able to cope with anxiety much more effectively and maybe even reduce the amount of medication currently required to control your anxiety.
Coping with Anxiety
Edmund Bourne and Lorna Garano
- I’m terrified of flying and Ive never been on a plane (theglobeandmail.com)
- Facing a Fear! (bloomanyway.wordpress.com)