Handling anxiety.

Discussion in 'Mental Health Disorders' started by aao, Feb 17, 2012.

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  1. aao

    aao Well-Known Member

    Hey all. I just have one question, if you don't mind. Does anyone know of any ways to relieve or handle anxiety a little that don't involve medication? I ask because even though I've lived with anxiety my whole life, in the past months it has gotten quite bad, really, and it has taken a toll on my life and stuff. I sweat a lot, I have trouble breathing, I have gastrointestinal problems, I have chest pains, headaches, all that stuff.

    Any help/suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. total eclipse

    total eclipse SF Friend Staff Alumni

    My therapist has taught me to breath slowly in a box he says in for count4 hold your breath count of 4 then blow it out count of 4 slowing your breathing down like this helps to calm you and has help me several times get through some difficult situations
  3. aao

    aao Well-Known Member


    Thank you very much TC. However, I think I didn't make myself clear. My anxiety is more... "generalized"? It persists for most of the day, every day. It's almost more like a "mood" accompanied by physical symptoms. I also have trouble falling asleep. And, also, it's like I'm really "worried" ALL OF THE TIME. I don't know, I think I don't know how to explain. I feel stupid.
  4. aao

    aao Well-Known Member

    Anyone? Please, I need help.
  5. Mr Stewart

    Mr Stewart Well-Known Member

    hi aao.

    Couple things that have helped me in the past. They're not much, but they were enough to distract my mind a little bit and help get from one hour to the next:

    -hold your hands under warm (not hot) running water from the faucet. Also, fill the sink or a bowl with warm water and soak your hands (or feet too).
    -wear ear plugs. Although warning on this, some people find ear plugs to increase anxiety, not the other way around. Depends on the person.
    -vigorous physical activity. I know when you feel like this the last thing you want to do is go jogging, nevertheless, this is an effective distraction.

    All of those are only very short term bandaids, though. If this persists and you find you can't pull yourself out as you used to be able to do, please don't hesitate to see a doctor. Especially if the chest pain persists. Medication really can help you. Please reconsider.
  6. gloomy

    gloomy Account Closed

    I hate pills-- I actually prefer the anxiety.

    Try learning how to play guitar-- for most of my 20s this was pretty much the way I got rid of all the bottled-up stuff… you don't even have to be good, it's all about just working through whatever it is that's getting to you, and if you're feeling something it will come through in the playing and maybe it will sound good… but for me this only worked for stress/anxiety and not so much when I'm depressed, because then I just think it sounds terrible and I feel like a loser. But still, it's good for a release as long as you don't start taking it super seriously or get obsessed and start damaging your wrists/hands like I did.

    Writing a journal can help too… anything creative can be really satisfying. Exercise is also a good thing-- anything where you really push yourself and don't let up.
  7. diffraction

    diffraction Member

    I get like that too sometimes, but not as bad. I find that listening to music and talking about what is causing the anxiety can help, but it doesn't take it all away. Unfortunately the only way through it for me is just to wait it out.
  8. Severijn

    Severijn Well-Known Member

    Hi aao. I've had a lot of anxiety in the past, especially social anxiety, but also some generalized anxiety in general. Perhaps you have generalized anxiety disorder, or maybe it's not so severe. But anyway I know you can do a lot about anxiety. What works especially well is doing CBT-Therapy or doing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy by yourself by reading self-help and self-improvement books. You general anxiety is mostly caused by an over-active amygdala(a brain part), that is working overtime. With time, you can change and calm this part of your brain.

    Before you start tackling your anxiety it's good to create an overall positive and constructive mindset. What is especially important is that you belief that you can reduce or eliminate your anxiety. CBT therapy has proven in countless cases to be effective, and I belief it can work for almost anyone. Another mindset is that you have to know it takes time, effort, practice, patience, and persistence to overcome a mental disease such as excessive anxiety. There often are no quick-fixes, but medications are known to work in some cases. But since you asked for other ways to fight anxiety I'll tell you a little about what I know that has worked for me.

    The basis for reducing your anxiety is making changes in your Cognition(mind) and your Behavior(habits). This is the core of CBT therapy. A very important concept is Cognitive Distortions, that can also be called False Beliefs or Limiting-Beliefs. When you become aware of your personal False Beliefs, and start changing them, you will make progress in reducing anxiety. I recommend you keep a personal Anti-Anxiety Journal, and write down your personal Cognitive Distortions. Also write in that journal the specific events, people, and situations that trigger your anxiety. Besides that, write anything down in that journal that will think will help you calm and reduce your anxiety. If you ever have new insights or new ideas, write them down.

    Now about the Cognitive Distortions or False Beliefs. Often these false beliefs are unconscious. Usually you have taken them with you for so long a time you don't even notice anymore that they influence how you feel, think, what you expect, and how you behave. These false beliefs are a major reason why you feel excessive anxiety in your life, and you must make it a major goal to change these beliefs over time. So write in your journal: Goal 1: Change and Improve my False Beliefs. (The other major goal is: Changing Your Behaviors; more on that later). The first step is becoming aware of your Limiting-Beliefs/Mental Distortions. Write them down in your journal. You become aware of them by reading about them (or hearing about them from a therapist). Here are some major examples. I've added some comments behind them that challenge these false/negative beliefs. You also should think about challenging your personal False Beliefs, and write it down in your own language. Really take quite some time for this. It may be confronting at first, but in the long-run you'll have benefits.

    - All-or-Nothing Thinking. "I have to do things perfectly, because anything less than perfect is a failure." -- The truth is, reaching perfection is impossible. Hoping for something perfect is constantly setting you up for failure. Learn to imagine and think more in realistic scenarios. When your perfect ideals and expectations in your mind constantly crash with reality, you will feel anxious, unhappy, and disappointed.
    - Disqualifying the Positives. "Life feels like one disappointment after another." -- When you feel bad, you start to focus on all the negatives in your life. But surely there are also many positives, you just have to keep looking for them.
    - Negative Self-Labeling. "I feel like a failure. I'm flawed. If people knew the real me, they wouldn't like me." -- If you feel like a failure, doesn't mean that you are a failure. It's only a temporary feeling. All people have flaws, so that's human.
    - Catastrophizing. "If something is going to happen, it'll probably be the worst case scenario." -- This can make you really anxious throughout the day. You expect and imagine future events always to go really bad, and that it will ruin your life. But the truth is, things usually go alright, sometimes a little bad, and only occasionally something goes very wrong. But even that is not the end of the world. If you keep avoiding activities and social events because you fear bad things will happen, you will live a life of avoidance. And because of the avoidance of reality, this false belief can only grow stronger, because you will not find and contrary evidence in the world anymore. This also makes you think more and more in perfectionist ways. Because you start to belief that to do anything in the future right, you will have to be perfect, which is an other false/negative belief. Facing and mastering your fears over time is very important. By constantly avoiding anxiety-provoking situations and not challenging your negative thoughts, your anxiety will only grow stronger or stay the same.

    - Mind Reading. "I can tell people don't like me because of the way they behave." -- The truth is, sometimes people just have a bad day and mood, and react negatively. This has nothing to do with you. Negative behavior of other people is often not your fault.
    - Should Statements. "People should be fair. If I'm nice to them, they should be nice back." -- Thinking in to many should terms will set you up for frustration. You cannot change the entire world or change people's personalities. Instead of thinking about how the world should be, try more to look at how the world really is, with the positives and negatives. If you are annoyed by someone's behavior, just avoid him and make contact with other positive people. Having positive kind people in your life that you agree with goes a long way to making yourself content and happy.
    - Excessive Need for Approval. "I can only be happy if people like me. If someone is upset, it's probably my fault." -- This probably comes from low self-esteem and need for acceptance and fear of rejection. The reality is, is that people are constantly disagreeing with each other. Even the president only gets about 50% of the votes; the other 50% doesn't like or agree with him. You'll never find kindness and acceptance from all people. If you can find 1 or 2 people that are your friends you can count yourself lucky. Wanting approval constantly can make you quite nervous, constantly fearing rejection. Constant need for approval stems also from a belief that you have to be perfect.
    - Disqualifying the Present. "I'll relax later. But first I have to rush to finish this." -- Not living in the here and now and constantly procrastinating does nothing to heal your anxiety. Trying to escape from the present just breeds anxiety. A major goal of overcoming anxiety is starting to feel comfortable and relaxed in the present and here and now. Again facing your fears is important, while also changing your negative thinking.
    - Dwelling on Pain. “If I dwell on why I’m unhappy and think about what went wrong, maybe I’ll feel better.” Alternately, “If I worry enough about my problem, maybe I will feel better.” -- This almost never works. Dwelling on pain just makes things worse. You have to try to force yourself to give yourself hope, and look for positives. A good way to feel hopeful and not focus on your problems is by taking action, such as using CBT-Therapy, knowing that one day your anxiety will be less or go away.
    - Pessimism. “Life is a struggle. I don’t think we are meant to be happy. I don’t trust people who are happy. If something good happens in my life, I usually have to pay for it with something bad.” -- This is a difficult thought to overcome. Often only positive experiences in life can change your outlook from pessimistic to optimistic.

    These are quite some examples of Cognitive Distortions. They can give you an overall daily feeling of discontent, anxiety, and unhappiness. It's a good idea to Google for "cognitive distortions" and find as many lists as you can. Then write down the ones you personally have in your journal. Then think about them rationally for a while; challenge them and try to change them. Write out more realistic alternatives in your journal.

    If you cannot change your Negative Beliefs by only thinking about them, you should take action. This is called Behavioral Activation in CBT and a major part is Exposure Therapy. Exposure Therapy is a sort of goal-setting with the purpose of facing your fears and anxieties. I know aao that you have a general feeling of anxiety throughout the day, but this is probably caused by different False Beliefs about the world, and probably also because of Avoidance of things that make you anxious. This in effect, weakens your emotional resilience and makes you worry throughout the day, which only perpetuates your general feeling of anxiety. What you should do is make a list in your journal of all the things, events, people, and situations that make you anxious. Then rate them from least anxiety-provoking to the most anxiety-provoking. Then make it a goal to Expose yourself step by step to the things you fear and feel anxiety about. Begin with the little fears and anxieties, and then slowly move up to bigger worries. By constantly exposing yourself to the things you fear, your anxiety will diminish in strength. Your brain's connection will re-wire and become stronger; you will un-learn your amygdala to respond with excessive anxiety to situations. Also very important is to take rest in between reaching goals so you can recover from the strenuous practice. This is much like resting after doing physical exercise: to get better endurance or strength you need time to recover. The brain is like a sort of muscle, that you can strengthen with exercise.

    Three other techniques that can help you out are: Visualization Exercises, Changing your Self-Talk, and a Body and Mind Relaxation Technique.

    1. Visualization exercises can be quite powerful in you use them in the long-run. If you can make it habit to see yourself doing future events calmly, successfully, and without anxiety, you have a bigger chance of becoming calm in future events. This works especially well if you have a vivid imagination and can make clear images in your mind. But with practice you can improve this mental skill. Basically in your imagination, see yourself doing future events calmly without anxiety, and doing them successful (but not perfect!). You don't have to strife for perfection when visualizing the future: just make things you imagine sufficient and satisfactory. Try to move away from perfectionist thinking and more to realistic thinking. If you keep doing this exercise for many weeks, you can really change the structure of your brain. The imagination is that powerful. This technique is used by many athletes to prepare and ready themselves for future sporting-events. But also artists and any dreamers use this technique really. It's basically making your own imagination working for you instead of against you.

    2. Changing your Self-Talk is also a good way to reduce anxiety. (Self-Talk can also be called Stream-of-Consciousness, Inner-Dialogue, or Mentalese, the language of the mind). It's also a good idea to combine Self-Talk with overcoming your Cognitive Distortions/False Beliefs. This first thing to do is become more aware of the inner-dialogue in your mind. Then challenge your thoughts and make them more positive and realistic. If you can make it a habit to talk positively and realistically to yourself throughout the day, you'll make progress in overcoming anxiety, and you'll improve your self-image and self-esteem. For example, if you ever think "I cannot overcome this anxiety; this is just the way I am; I will never change," it's better to think "I feel some anxiety now; but I will become calmer in the future; I will overcome my over-active amygdala!". Overall, the things we say and imagine in our mind throughout the day, tend to become real. If you want to learn more about this, visit some bookstore and look for the self-help section. There are a lot of books about self-talk out there.

    3. Lastly, a good Relaxation Technique can help a lot in the face of anxiety. Sit down somewhere and sit straight up and keep your shoulders relaxed and your hands calm on your lap. Then start taking deep, slow breaths. Move away from quick shallow breaths that maintain and increase feelings of anxiety. Also tell yourself in your mind, "In time I will overcome my anxiety; this is only temporary; I can do this.'' Try not to focus inward on your anxiety, but focus your attention outwards on other people and situations, and see if you can see anything interesting, new, funny, or remarkable around you. Overall, it's always a good idea when having anxiety to focus more outwards then inwards. Focusing on anxiety only increases it, so try to become more observant of life around you, shifting your attention outwards.

    Lastly, it's good to know that your brain is plastic. It's called Neuroplasticity. You have about a 120 billion braincells, and these don't change. But the *connections* between them constantly change throughout your life. The belief that people cannot change is mostly false because the brain can change a lot, even if you were born with a tendency for anxiety. By using CBT, you are changing your Thoughts and your Behaviors, which both will re-wire your brain's connections. By doing this you will become more emotionally tolerant and stronger on the inside, and will be plagued less by anxiety. This is some major stuff that has helped me overcome social anxiety and also some general anxiety. I also think it's a good idea to buy some self-help books about overcoming anxiety. They can help a lot. Online bookstores like amazon.com are good places to buy self-improvement books.

    Well take care and good luck with conquering your anxiety.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 28, 2012
  9. morning rush

    morning rush Well-Known Member

    I'm diagnosed with severe anxiety and take meds which helps A LOT!!!! Last year I decided I didn't need those meds and stopped taken them, my anxiety sky rocketed and I was crying everyday I was in so much pain. So now I keep taking my meds. But also what helps is doing exercises, go for a walk. Music helps too. Bring some music along your walk or put some music and dance to it. Cleaning and putting things in order helps. Doing something creative or like a puzzle, painting, clay helps a lot too. Drinking herbal tea like chamomille or something hot calms the stomachs. I like peppermint tea. The heat of the water tends to calm me. Take a bath. That also helps me a lot. I just put bath salts and soak in there while music is playing.

    you can always pm me if you need to...
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