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Anxiety is among the most common mental health conditions in North America. Everyone feels anxious sometimes, and this post outlines some tips for dealing with anxiety attacks and the anxiousness that we all feel from time-to-time.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Tips and methods for controlling anxiety

The following techniques can help anyone manage their anxiety symptoms, however severe.

1. Minimize caffeine intake

Caffeine in any amount causes a spike in adrenaline levels, which can keep us awake at night if we drink coffee too late in the day. It can also make some people feel anxious or on edge.

Coffee is one of the most popular sources of caffeine. Even decaffeinated coffee contains around 2–12 milligrams of caffeine, but there are other sources of caffeine too, such as:

  • chocolate; the darker the chocolate, the more caffeine it contains
  • chocolate desserts and breakfast cereals
  • some pain medications contain caffeine as it helps the pain-killing agent reach your pain more quickly.

If there’s a connection between caffeine and anxiety, then it’s wise to try cutting caffeine out of the diet. This should be done slowly though in order to avoid caffeine withdrawal, which, ironically, can cause symptoms similar to anxiety.

2. Exercise

Exercise can calm your anxiety in several ways.

  • It decreases levels of stress hormone within the body.
  • It makes you focus on the exercise, which can distract away from negative thoughts.

recent reviews have concluded that by itself, exercise was less effective than some other anxiety treatments – CBT or medication for instance – but when combined with other techniques, exercise proved much more effective.

3. Yoga

Differentiated from normal exercise, yoga cab be particularly beneficial for anxiety.

Yoga leads to a decrease in depression and anxiety symptoms, and reduces the levels of cytokines in the bloodstream that the immune system releases in response to stress stimuli. Very high cytokine levels can cause inflammation and other negative effects.

Studies have found that yoga decreases heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels within the body – which is a hormone that assists with the fight-or-flight response – too much of which can exacerbate anxiety.

4. Listen to music

Listening to music may activate reward systems in the brain, thus increasing pleasure, and reducing stress and anxiety.

Studies have found that music preference was important in reducing stress, suggesting that listening to favorite songs or genres may be an effective short-term remedy, and may also boost the immune system.

5. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a popular form of meditation that encourages a focus on feelings, thoughts, and sensations that are occurring now. Mindfulness meditation can help distract people from negative thoughts.

6. Visualization

Guided imagery (GI) is another type of meditation that involves mentally visualizing tranquil scenes to bring about a state of relaxation.

Studies have looked into effects of GI and music when combined (GIM), which showed significant improvements in stress management and well-being.

7. Diaphragmatic breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing (DB) is a type of meditational deep breathing technique, found to reduce cortisol levels.

To help relieve anxiety, practice this for 10-15 minutes, twice a day:

  • Lie on your back, knees bent, with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Place one hand on the upper chest and the other below the rib cage on the stomach.
  • Breathe slowly and deeply in through the nose; take the breath downward to the stomach so that your hand rises, making sure the chest hand stays still.
  • Exhale slowly through the lips, pulling your belly button downward, so the stomach hand returns to its starting position, making sure the chest hand again remains still.

8. Don’t Put Things off

Research shows that procrastination-related stress may trigger a whole range of health problems.

Putting off important tasks or projects may temporarily avoid anxiety. but procrastination often results in a last-minute panic to get things done, causing greater stress and anxiety, which could potentially be avoided if tasks are tackled head-on to start with.

Treatments

As mentioned previously, most people experience anxiety from time-to-time, but it’s important to see a doctor if anxiety becomes severe, persistent, or controls daily life.

Anxiety disorders come in various types, and the treatment for each may differ, some of which are listed here:

Talking therapies

Talking therapies involve talking to a mental health professional, either in a one-to-one setting, or as part of group. Some common talking therapies include:

Counseling

Counseling is a talking therapy, typically lasting several weeks, in which the counselor helps sufferers to develop strategies for managing their stress and anxiety.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy aims to help people regulate their emotions and improve their stress management skills. Unlike counseling, however, psychotherapy tends to be more long term and may cover a broader range of mental health issues.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people recognize how-and-when negative thoughts can influence their mood and behaviour.

CBT helps people replace negative thoughts with positive, constructive thoughts, which can lead to reduced anxiety overall.

Medication

Doctors may prescribe anti-anxiety medication for more serious cases, and normally suggest taking the medication alongside talking therapies. Some common medications include:

Buspirone

Many believe that Buspirone works by binding to certain serotonin receptors, thus enhancing this neurotransmitter, boosting a person’s mood, and decrease anxiety.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are sedatives that slow brain and body function, helping to reduce anxiety. They also aid sleep, and promote stress recovery.

Note that using these drugs can lead to physical dependence, and withdrawal can be life threatening. Especially when combined with alcohol or opioids. It is essential to follow the doctor’s instructions when using these drugs.

Beta-blockers

Beta-blockers work by blocking the action of adrenaline, reducing anxiety symptoms such as rapid heart rate.

Summary

Just to reiterate, many people feel the effects of anxiety at one time or another. Using some of these hints and tips can help reduce stress levels, promoting calmness.

If severe or persistent anxiety is experienced, it’s important to seek medical help, from either your doctor or a mental health specialist. Medication may be recommended, and talking therapies, or a combination of these treatments.

For more direct help, please contact us as Journey Into Wellness, and we’ll create a plan to help you manage your symptoms.