We all feel anxious and stressed from time to time. We stress out about big work meetings or other significant events. We worry about whether or not we remembered to turn off the stove or if we left the heat on. These little stressors and anxieties are normal and, for most of us, are easy to resolve.
For some, these stressors and anxieties fester in a way that can become problematic. What starts as a small worry about whether or not we remembered to turn off the stove grows into our breaking down because we’ve become convinced that we burned down our homes.
It is important, if this happens to you, to get help and to get help soon. Mental health disorders like anxiety and depression have a way of feeding themselves and can take over your life.
“There are a lot of ways to treat anxiety disorders,” writes Katrine Martell, for Therapy Tribe–a site that matches patients to therapists who specialize in depression, anxiety counseling, and other mental health issues. The two that have been the most successful, says Martell, are cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnotherapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a type of therapy teaches the patient to use evidence and pattern recognition to help alleviate the stress and anxiety in its early stages so that it will stop being a debilitating force in a patient’s life. It takes several months to complete a course of CBT but many patients have reported great success with it.
Hypnotherapy is still slightly controversial but has still helped many patients overcome a variety of anxiety disorders. Hypnotherapy is usually conducted over 3-5 sessions so it is quicker, but it hasn’t had the sustained success that CBT has shown.
In addition to long term therapy (and potentially medication, it is up to you and your therapist to decide what will work best for you), it is important to learn coping skills for dealing with stress and anxiety in the moment so that you can prevent anxiety attacks before they start. Here are some tips to help you deal with that.
Adjust your diet. If you are eating a diet laden with sugar, caffeine, fat and other junk, it is time for a change. Don’t try to overhaul everything at once, though! That could actually increase your stress! Instead, make small and healthy changes over time. For example, when you run out of your favorite chips, buy a supply of granola or health mix to snack on instead. Wean yourself off of coffee or soda and onto water a little bit every day. Switch your dinner proportions so that the salad makes up the main part of your meal and your protein source is more of a side dish.
Exercise! Yes, for a lot of us, working out is terrible. Even so, get up and move around a little bit every day. Even going for a walk around your block at lunch time can do wonders for your mood. Exercise has been proven to produce hormones that help regulate our emotions. Plus, it’s good for you physically as well.
Get Plenty of Sleep. For the anxious, this can feel a little bit like being pointed and laughed at. If sleeping were so easy, you would definitely be doing it more, right? If you have trouble falling asleep at night, there are lots of natural remedies that you can try. If none of these work, talk to your doctor. He or she might be able to prescribe something that will help you get a good night’s sleep. You will be amazed at how much a solid night’s sleep can help you with your mental health.
Finally, learn a few techniques for coping with anxiety and panic in the moment. For example, when you feel the spiral starting (or notice that you’ve been spiraling for a while) try looking around for a simple task to do. If you are at work, you might file a few things or take your coffee cup to the break room and rinse it out. If you are at home, you can straighten a bookshelf, wash a dish, etc. Finding something small over which you have total control can help break the cycle of helplessness that you feel when you start to have an anxiety or panic attack. It distracts your brain and helps you regain control over the situation.
Work with your counselor to develop both long term and “in the moment” techniques for dealing with stress and anxiety. The earlier you develop these tools and habits, the better chance you have of living a normal and productive life.