These days have been pretty anxious. The pandemic, the economy, politics - there’s no shortage of issues to worry about in the last few years. It’s enough to affect anyone’s mental health, but for some people this anxiety can be more than just a natural reaction to the day’s woes.
When the overactivity of our anxiety response impedes our daily lives, it has turned into anxiety disorder. Sufferers have reactions of fear and dread towards things that aren’t really threats.
In severe cases it can go far beyond average nervousness. Someone suffering from anxiety disorder has trouble functioning well, and sometimes can’t control responses to certain situations.
Anxiety itself exists to protect humans in our original wild habitat, or from exceptional dangerous situations that may arise even today. But there is an appropriate level of anxiety for certain tasks. If it kicks in too much there can be nausea, heart racing, sweating, and the mind blanks.
When the disorder impairs someone’s ability to function and tweaks behavioral choices, maybe it's time to seek professional help. Treatment often includes specific therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy or exposure/response therapy. In these, the thoughts surrounding the anxiety are re-patterned so they don’t affect sufferers in the same way.
Sometimes this approach is used in tandem with medication management with anti-anxiety medicines as well as anti-depression medicines. This is because often, depression and anxiety are comorbid with each other. Every case of anxiety should therefore be evaluated by a mental health professional so the correct treatment can be administered.
But there are ways you can keep anxiety in check for yourself in non-severe cases. Here are some tools that have helped patients in the past.
First there’s the “333 Rule.” It’s used for refocusing our three main senses.
Name 3 things you see around you and pay attention to them for a moment.
Repeat the first step but with hearing instead: can you hear the fridge, tv, A/C, etc?
Now, engage your perception of touch by feeling three different parts of your body or surrounding objects.
Focus on the sense perceptions. The “333 Rule” is an exercise in the art of distraction, redirecting thoughts to somewhere more calm - the here and now.
Another helpful tool to battle anxiety is deep breathing. People can practice with apps like Calm, Waking Up, and others that teach breathing exercises and meditation/mindfulness.
Other common self care techniques make a difference in anxiety levels. Stretches, walking, exercise, using calming scents or music - all of these things can reduce our anxiety. Plan fun activities to look forward to and make life itself as pleasant and positive a setting as possible.
One important aspect is to try and be proactive before things spiral out of control. In a sense, we can “change the channel” of our minds to a certain extent when we know anxiety is imminent.
When these tips don’t work it's time to seek professional help. Anxiety responds to treatment, and with a mental health professional you can be on your road to recovery before you know it.
To learn more about the subject of anxiety and glean insights from experienced mental health professionals, take a listen to our latest podcast “The Breakdown with Dr. B” with special guests Dr. Joel Platter, PhD and Dr. Cathy Allsman.
Bregman Medical Group has decades of experience treating anxiety, depression, and a variety of other mental health issues. We offer convenient online psychiatry and therapy right to your device! Simple schedule online at www.bregmanmd.com or call us at 305-740-3340.