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Anxiety: Symptoms and Treatment

Suddenly you’re overcome with an intense fear or sense of gloom. You feel as though you want to run, but don’t know why. You’re restless, unable to sit still. Your sleep may be interrupted, or you may suddenly startle during sleep. Your heart may race and pound, you may perspire, and you may feel faint. You find yourself worrying constantly over one or several matters. You may experience headaches, trembling, and breathlessness. You may be able to go to work or go about your daily tasks, but you are almost in a constant state of worry and tension. All of these symptoms and more can be symptoms of anxiety.

Anxiety is a state of almost constant or continuous worry and/or tension that can cause many of the above physical symptoms. Anxiety can make you feel very uncomfortable and can interfere with your life. It can stop you from enjoying simple pleasures because of the symptoms that may accompany it.

Anxiety creates a “flight or fight” response in your body, causing adrenaline to flow. It can come on suddenly and leave the sufferer feeling helpless and perhaps as if they may lose control. You may feel like you are losing your mind, or viewing the world from a distance.

Anxiety can be caused by stress, certain medical disorders such as hyperthyroidism, heredity, individual personality traits, and anything that causes great concern or worry.

The aforementioned symptoms can accompany other illnesses and disorders and it is always advised to seek medical consultation to rule out any possible medical disorder.

Working toward healing

1. Try to identify what may be triggering your anxiety-work, home, personal situations, etc. If possible develop a plan to make changes in your life to help decrease the anxiety.
2. Eliminate or at least cut down on stimulants-caffeine and nicotine are two of the most prominent stimulants.
3. Exercise-give your body something to do. Exercise stimulates your entire body by utilizing energy to perform. It also provides you with something else to concentrate and focus on.
4. Read and learn about anxiety and apply what you have learned to your own life.
5. Try to let past offenses or bad thoughts go. Try not to dwell on things you cannot change or that happened in the past. Focus on today and the future.
6. Eat nutritionally based well-balanced meals. Sound nutritional health will give you the energy and strength to deal with day-to-day issues.
7. Change your immediate actions-when you feel anxious, turn and take a walk, work on a puzzle, clean the fridge, anything to focus your attention away from the anxiety.
8. Talk with someone-whether it be an understanding and compassionate friend, family member or a counselor. You need to have a supportive person, not someone who will tell you to “just forget about it.” You may be surprised to learn about other’s experience with anxiety.

Developing a plan of action

  • Consider and create some activities that you can focus on and/or participate in, especially when you sense the anxiety is coming on.
  • Be prepared to work through your anxiety in a variety of settings. Having a plan will help you quickly resort to something that will help you through the attack.
  • Having consulted with a medical professional and realizing that there is nothing physically wrong with you, remind yourself of this fact. Repeat to your self, “I am fine. There is nothing wrong with me. The anxiety will pass in a few minutes.”
  • Read materials about anxiety and seek possible aides that you feel will assist you in healing.
  • Talk with a professional about your anxiety; they can often guide you to healing as well.
  • If needed, there are medications that can help control the anxiety. While they are not a cure, they can assist in squelching some of the anxiety, which will enable you to seek other healing methods.

Be prepared

  • Utilize positive self talk-Remind yourself that there is nothing medically wrong, and that the anxiety will pass. You are not losing your mind or control. You can get through it. You are okay.

1. Visualization/meditation can play a role in helping to manage anxiety. By practicing meditation/visualization you learn to “quiet” your body and mind, and focus on something positive. There are many programs/concepts for both of these techniques on the internet and in book stores. Below are some basic examples to help get you started.
2. Visualization: Picture in your mind, a place you have been or one in which you would like to go. It needs to be place where you are comfortable and one that you find attractive. As you concentrate on taking slow deep breaths, close your eyes and picture this place in your mind. Concentrate on breathing slowly, in and out. Create the picture in your mind, and begin your journey. See yourself in your visualization. Notice the scenery, smell the fragrances, see yourself calm and relaxed enjoying all that is before you. Stay in this place for several minutes. When you notice your body has become totally relaxed, you can gradually leave your visualization, and return your sight to your present surroundings. The more you practice this technique, the easier it will be for you to go there when anxiety is overcoming you.
3. a. Another variation of visualization is to see yourself calmly participating in an activity or scene, one in which you previously may have experienced anxiety. See yourself in the activity. You are calm, enjoying yourself, and enjoying all that surrounds you. You see yourself as in control and feeling fine.
4. Meditation: Choose a focus word or phrase, perhaps a spiritual one, if that suits your nature. Begin by sitting or lying comfortably in a room without distractions. Begin breathing slowly, in and out. Focus on relaxing your body as you continue to breathe slowly and deeply. As you feel your body begin to relax, bring your focus word or phrase to mind. Concentrate on actually seeing the word or words, spell them silently to yourself, and repeat them over and over. Allow the word or phrase to be the center of your focus. Concentrate on its meaning. Feel yourself relaxing and breathing as your phrase keeps you focused. After a short time, gently open your eyes, and lie still for a few seconds. Take a few slow deep breaths, and continue on with your day. By practicing any form of meditation on a consistent basis, you will be well prepared to call on this skill when needed.
5. Breathing. Rapid shallow breathing can often accompany anxiety. This can compound the feelings of lightheadedness and dizziness. Practicing controlled breathing can help calm some of those symptoms, and help alleviate some of the feelings of anxiety.
6. a. An example of a breathing exercise: Begin by sitting or lyingcomfortably. Place your hand on your stomach, and feel your stomach move up and down as you breathe. Now close your eyes, and begin inhaling slowly while counting. Breathe in 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, hold for a second or two, and then slowly exhale 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. Concentrate on your breathing, and make sure you perform this exercise slowly. After a few minutes of controlled breathing your body should feel somewhat relaxed. You can utilize this exercise whenever you feel anxious.
7. Journaling. Purchase a notebook or a commercial journal. Write your experiences, symptoms, actions, reactions, possible triggers, and feelings. This will help you to not only focus your attention, but may also help you to identify possible triggers for your anxiety, and help to keep track of techniques that may help you.
8. Meditative exercises-Yoga, Tai Chi. There are many resources available for both on the internet and in books store. Each of these exercises can be performed informally in your home, or you may find a class near by. The basic focus of these exercise forms are slow, controlled movements, and involve moving through various positions. Both activities increase flexibility, strength, and blood flow through throughout your body. They also increase and improve concentration.
9. Get creative. Channel your energies on the creative mode. Writing, drawing, painting, singing, sculpting with clay, are all activities that can stimulate your mind and body, and can channel your energy and concentration into something more positive. Pounding clay can be a great stress relief!
10. Exercise. Any form of physical or mental exercise will do. Walking, jogging, playing a sport, bicycling, whatever you feel you can do comfortably. Work to increase your exercise time.
11. Mental exercise is important as well. There are quite a few mind games on the market today, that provide for a variety of mental stimulation. Crossword
12. puzzles, words searches, Sudoku are all mentally challenging and keep the creative juices focused and stimulated. It helps to concentrate on other activities when experiencing anxiety.

Anxiety can impact work, your interpersonal relationships, hobbies, and prevent you from enjoying life to the fullest. You do not have to suffer in silence. There are steps you can take to help yourself heal. An abundance of resources exist to help you understand anxiety and assist you in seeking treatment. Remember to seek assistance from a professional who can help guide your healing, but most of all, remember you can feel better.

Here at the Rock Landing Psychological Group, we have therapists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists who have specialized training in helping people overcome their anxiety.

Anne Aja, Ed.D.

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