Anxiety means different things to different people. To some it is living with a constant state of tension – always jumping at the slightest noise. Some have runaway thoughts in their mind – constant rumination on the bad things that have happened, or that might happen, or that they imagine are happening.
For some, their anxiety manifests itself in physical signs such as IBS, acid reflux, migraines, loss of libido, eczema, excessive sweating, nausea. For others, it appears as behaviour that they don’t seem to be able to control – OCD, nail biting, over-eating, drinking in excess, smoking etc.
Whatever the signs and symptoms that manifest themselves, the sufferer may reach a stage where they decide that they have to do something about it. Everyone has some anxiety in their lives … on occasions. It only becomes a problem when it has a serious negative impact on their lives.
There are three broad ways that you can tackle anxiety: self-help, medication and therapy. Before I look at these in more detail, please note … some of the physical signs and symptoms of anxiety can also be signs or symptoms of physical problems – so make sure you check with your doctor.
Most anxiety sufferers start with self-help and there is a wide variety of websites and articles available that will offer suggestions. Some of the key ideas behind these self-help ideas are:
Use mindfulness techniques to help focus the mind on the here-and-now. This prevents the mind wandering into the realm of negative thinking, and trains the anxiety sufferer to be able to have a calm mind rather than ruminating on potential negative outcomes.
Exercise and diet are extremely important factors in overcoming anxiety. Exercise generates the right chemicals in your brain and body to provide that feel-good factor. The right diet can cultivate the right bacteria in your body that is now known to have a significant impact on mood.
Regulating sleep is a key weapon against over-anxiety. The dreaming part of your sleep is the time when your brain sorts out all the unresolved stress. So good sleep hygiene is very important.
Contact with nature is known to help relieve anxiety – so go for a walk in the woods!
Cultivating a positive outlook on life – positive thoughts, activities leading to a positive outcome, positive interaction with other people – all help the right chemicals flow in the brain that reduce anxiety.
A medical doctor will sometimes prescribe medication for treating anxiety disorders. This will often be a antidepressant such as one of the SSRI group of drugs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor). Although these drugs are called antidepressants, they will also help with anxiety.
There is a chemical in the brain that travels between the neurones called serotonin. A steady flow of serotonin in the brain produces a general feeling of well-being. However, shortly after serotonin is released, it is reabsorbed, so the brain needs a constant supply.
SSRI medication slows down the process of reabsorbing serotonin, so it hangs out in your brain for longer. When you are anxious, you generally feel low, so having serotonin hanging round a bit longer can raise your mood and pull you out of the anxiety a little quicker.
There are a wide varieties of therapies available to help with anxiety.
Hypnotherapy is an effective way to reduce anxiety. Hypnotherapy focuses on allowing the sub-conscious part of the brain to process unresolved anxiety and stress in the background, without the sufferer really being aware that this is going on. As a hypnotherapist, I strongly support this type of therapy, as I have seen so many of my clients turn their lives around. However, I also recognise that it is not for everybody.
CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is widely recommended. In particular, the NHS (UK’s National Health Service) can prescribe CBT therapy as there is scientific study to demonstrate its effectiveness. However, it does not work with everyone.
A wide range of other therapies are available, too many to provide a comprehensive list here. As well as talking therapies such as counselling, there are physical therapies such as Havening, Cuddle therapy and EMDR.
So if you are suffering from anxiety to the point where it seriously impacts your life, I would recommend you do something about it. If you have physical symptoms – check with your doctor first in case there is a physical cause. Self-help is a good start, but if you need additional help you need to look to therapy or medication. Of course, I would always recommend hypnotherapy, but I do recognise that this is not for everyone, and other therapies are available.