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Anxiety. How to Treat it on Your Own, and When to Seek Help

Anxiety. How to Treat it on Your Own, and When to Seek Help

Anxiety can often be effectively managed with lifestyle behaviors, including exercise, nutrition, and journaling. However, it’s vital to know when professional treatment for anxiety is needed to reduce the risk of serious complications, including depression.

Everyone deals with anxiety from time to time, but sometimes it can be overwhelming and difficult to handle. When you suffer from anxiety for a long time without addressing it, it can lead to more serious problems like digestive problems and substance misuse.

It is possible to treat anxiety on your own and to achieve a sense of calm during difficult times. However, there may be instances where you need extra help or professional treatment to relieve your anxiety and avoid its complications.

Here are tips that can help you manage anxiety on your own and signs it’s time to seek help from a counselor or medical specialist.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and stressful situations. It can cause you to feel nervous, restless, and panicky. It can cause you to tremble, breathe rapidly, and sweat excessively. In some instances, it may even cause you to suffer from nausea, indigestion, and diarrhea.

It is normal to experience anxiety from time to time for a short period. However, anxiety that lasts for several weeks or months could indicate the presence of an anxiety disorder.

Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is the most common anxiety disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, GAD involves a persistent feeling of anxiety or dread that can interfere with your daily life. It can go on for months or years.

Other types of anxiety disorders are panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and those related to specific phobias. For example, arachnophobia is the fear of spiders. Separation anxiety disorder is the fear of being parted, or separated, from someone to whom you are attached. All these types of “phobias” are classified as anxiety disorders.

How Common Is Anxiety?

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults or 19.1% of the population. The ADAA adds that anxiety disorders are highly treatable, but only 36.9% of people with these disorders receive treatment.

Tips for Managing Anxiety on Your Own

Learning how to effectively manage anxiety on your own can help you stay happy and healthy. It can reduce your risk for many complications of anxiety, including serious ones like depression, social isolation, and suicide. Here are steps you can take to help yourself.

Identify and Manage Your Triggers

Think about the things in your life that cause you anxiety. Knowing what these “triggers” are can help you avoid them in the future. You can also map out ways to manage your triggers, so they don’t cause as much anxiety.

For example, if you have an old friend who you feel is toxic and stresses you out, you can start spending less time with that person. Or, if too much caffeine is causing you to feel anxious, you could cut back on coffee or switch to a lower caffeine source, such as tea.

Identifying your triggers isn’t always easy, especially if they are not obvious. A therapist or counselor can often help you identify triggers so you can start working on avoiding them, eliminating them, or managing them.

Keep a Journal

Writing down your thoughts and worries can sometimes make them go away or seem less bothersome. Some people find that journaling is calming and serves as an effective outlet. It can also help you prioritize your problems and concerns.

Try writing at least one journal entry a day to help relieve your anxiety. Other benefits of keeping a journal are being able to track your symptoms, identify your triggers, and find new ways to cope with your problems.

Be Social

Spending time with friends and family can help you relax and feel better about yourself. It can help reduce feelings of stress and isolation. It can make you laugh and strengthen the bonds you have with others.

Make plans to be social in some capacity during times of anxiety and stress. When you can’t spend time with friends or relatives, head to your favorite store or somewhere you can socialize with like-minded people. Go to the gym, attend a support group, or volunteer your time.

Exercise More Often

Exercise is an ideal way to reduce stress and anxiety. It increases your blood flow and circulation to help you relax. It stimulates the release of endorphins that naturally reduce pain. It also helps correct imbalances in hormones and brain chemicals like dopamine to lift your mood. If you’re feeling down, exercise can boost your confidence and self-esteem.

Try to be physically active every day, even if it’s only for 10 or 15 minutes. Exercise can help you blow off steam and give you the mental and physical strength you need to cope with difficult situations.

Eat Healthier Foods

Vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients—such as complex carbohydrates—can increase feel-good chemicals in your brain, like serotonin. They can also keep your brain in a healthy state and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Limit or avoid alcohol, caffeine, and processed foods that are high in salt, sugar, and fat. Aim to eat more fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and fish. Eating foods in their original forms can help you avoid additives and preservatives that offer no nutritional value. Eating whole, healthy foods like these can also give you far more energy.

Get Better Sleep

Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep increases your body’s production and release of cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone. Chronically high levels of cortisol can cause a wide range of health problems, including anxiety.

Address any sleep problems you have—whether it’s insomnia, sleep apnea, or discomfort due to your sleeping environment. Go to bed earlier and stop exposing yourself to blue light from TV or devices before bedtime. Avoid late-night snacking and do relaxing activities before you sleep, like listening to jazz or reading a book. Invest in a comfortable mattress or bed sheets to sleep more comfortably.

When to Get Help for Anxiety

If you find that you are unable to reduce anxiety on your own, it may be time to see a doctor. A doctor can talk to you about your symptoms, review your medical history, and talk to you about available treatments. Your doctor may even refer you to a counselor or therapist who can work with you to reduce your anxiety.

Here are signs it’s time to get help for anxiety:

  • You feel like you are worrying too much. Your excessive worry may be starting to affect your career, relationships, and overall livelihood.
  • You are unable to control or reduce feelings of anxiety, fear, and worry.
  • Your anxiety has gradually worsened, and you feel depressed.
  • You have started misusing drugs and alcohol to cope with your anxiety.
  • You cannot sleep through the night due to anxiety.
  • You think your anxiety may be caused by a physical health problem.
  • You are starting to experience physical health problems due to anxiety. Chronic pain, heart palpitations, and chronic diarrhea are examples of physical health problems that may be caused by anxiety.
  • You have started to spend less time with your loved ones. You may be spending more time in isolation.
  • You are having suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

Seek emergency treatment right away if you are having suicidal thoughts. Call 988—which is the national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline—or call your doctor immediately.

What Are Treatments For Anxiety?

Anxiety disorders can be effectively treated with talk therapy, medications, or a combination of both. Your doctor can talk to you in greater detail about how these treatments can benefit you.

Talk therapy is also known as psychotherapy. It involves working with a therapist or counselor who can get to the root cause of your anxiety and help you reduce your symptoms. Your therapist can teach you new ways to handle anxiety and change your thinking patterns and behaviors, so you have less anxiety. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most common forms of talk therapy for anxiety disorders.

Medications for anxiety work in different ways to reduce your symptoms. Anti-anxiety medications act on certain brain chemicals to help you relax and feel less anxious. Antidepressants and benzodiazepines are some of the top medications used to treat anxiety disorders.

If you choose to take medications, understand that not everyone responds to medications in the same way and that some medications may work better for others than for you. It’s normal to need to try several medications before you find one that works best at reducing your symptoms.

Counseling Services At Lompoc Valley Medical Center

If you think you may have an anxiety disorder, our doctors at Lompoc Valley Medical Center can work with you to identify the root cause of your anxiety and help you find the right treatment. We offer counseling services for a wide range of mood disorders, including PTSD and anxiety disorders. Contact us today at (805) 875-8850 to request an appointment, and to learn more about our many other healthcare services and departments.