How to treat anxiety is a question clients often ask; Everyone experiences some type of anxiety. Anxiety is feeling of being worried, apprehensive, feeling fear or panic in situations which seem overwhelming, threatening, or uncomfortable. Anxiety may be part of intense worry before a final exam, feeling nervous before a presentation, or feeling that you are in danger. Anxiety is a natural reaction; your body’s way of alerting you that action is needed in the face of a situation.
So anxiety can be useful or adaptive whenever it prompts you to take appropriate action in response to an anxiety-provoking situation. Anxiety may be problematic if you avoid studying for a major exam that worries you, or if you cope with worry about your relationship by getting unnecessarily suspicious, etc.
Because the feeling of anxiety is intense and distressing, we often want to avoid or eliminate these feelings. However, this is not necessarily the best approach to anxiety, it is important to listen to the anxiety and take action when it is appropriate.
Since anxiety is a basic human emotion, like sadness, how do you know if anxiety is a problem? If you are unsure about the cause of your anxiety, ask yourself some of these questions;
- Do I feel anxious more often than not throughout my day?
- Am I intensely fearful of specific situations or things?
- Have I restricted my activities as a way of coping with anxiety?
- Is my anxiety related to a specific, traumatic event?
- Do I experience panic or panic-like symptoms in certain predictable situations?
- Do I experience acute anxiety in social situations?
- Have I developed patterned rituals or thought-processes to manage anxiety?
If you are concerned that your answers include several “yes” responses, or if anxiety is intense in the absence of stressors, it is important to see a physician to rule out medical causes. If there are no medical causes, and strong anxiety in the absence of strong stressors persists, consider an assessment by a mental health professional. Take action, get started regarding how to treat anxiety.
Progressive muscle relaxation helps you learn how to treat anxiety. Before practicing progressive muscle relaxation, consult with your doctor if you have a history of conditions that may be aggravated by tensing muscles.
Progressive muscle relaxation usually begins at the feet and work your way up to the face. Our goal is to reduce and manage anxiety.
- Wear loose clothes, no shoes, and get comfortable.
- Take a few minutes to relax, breathing in and out in slow, deep breaths.
- When you’re relaxed and ready to start, shift your attention to your right foot. Take a moment to focus on the way it feels.
- Slowly tense the muscles in your right foot, squeezing as tightly as you can. Hold for a count of 10.
- Relax your right foot. Focus on the tension flowing away and the way your foot feels as it becomes limp and loose.
- Stay in this relaxed state for a moment, breathing deeply and slowly.
- When you’re ready, shift your attention to your left foot. Follow the same sequence of muscle tension and release.
- Move slowly up through your body, contracting and relaxing the muscle groups as you go.
- It may take some practice at first, but try not to tense muscles other than those intended.
We get better when we practice, whether at work or in sports or games. This is true with muscle relaxation, the more you practice the more you will reduce and manage your anxiety.
How to treat anxiety? In treating anxiety the goal of deep breathing is to breathe deeply from the abdomen, getting as much fresh air as possible in your lungs, slowing respiration and reducing anxiety. When you take deep breaths from the abdomen, rather than shallow breaths from your upper chest, you inhale more oxygen. The more oxygen you get, the less tense, short of breath, and anxious you feel, you are managing your anxiety.
- Sit comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.
- Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
- Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale.
If you find it difficult breathing from your abdomen while sitting up, try lying on the floor. Put a small book on your stomach, and try to breathe so that the book rises as you inhale and falls as you exhale. Breathing techniques can be practiced almost anywhere and can be combined with other relaxation exercises to prevent and reduce anxiety. All you really need is a few minutes and a place to stretch out.
Call to learn how to treat anxiety; Marta Hatter, LCSW 949-697-4332
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