What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is actually a family of diagnoses that include Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Phobias, and Panic Attacks, to name a few. All of these diagnoses include a fear, worry, or nervousness about something (or about lots of things). Most of them include some or all of these symptoms:
- excessive anxiety and worry
- difficulty concentrating
- sleep disturbance
- muscle tension
What can be done for Anxiety?
Chances are, you've felt like other people didn't "get" why you were so worried. And maybe you couldn't explain it either. You KNOW you will be fine, but you just can't shut your mind off! If you choose Soul Grit Counseling, you can rest assured that your therapist will be a safe person to unload all your anxiety. In fact, in the past, intake coordinators sought out Ann specifically for anxiety clients because of her calm, laid-back nature.
Therapy for Anxiety
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has been very well-researched and is considered one of the top evidence-based treatment methods for work with anxiety and mood disorders. CBT helps patients understand the link between what they are thinking and how they are feeling and behaving. Then patients learn to change negative thought patterns to create a healthier thought life and improve their moods and their functioning in daily life. Before you are able to complete the work of CBT, you may have to learn how to relax. Sounds simple, but if it were, you'd be doing it already! Your therapist will teach you proven methods to make relaxation a regular part of your day.
Aside from CBT and relaxation, your therapist will help you take a look at intergenerational patterns and possible problems that stemmed from your family of origin (FOO, because it's fun to say). Your therapist will take a strengths based approach, helping you excel in the areas you are already doing well and coaching you to be your own advocate. She will also be interested to know about your perspective on your own spirituality and how your spiritual practices (or lack of) may help support your healing from anxiety.
Medication for Anxiety
Soul Grit does not offer psychiatric consultation at this time, but your therapist is versed in the various medications that may be prescribed by a physician or psychiatrist to help overcome symptoms of anxiety. A common class of medications designated to treat anxiety are called SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), which work by helping your brain utilize the serotonin (natural brain chemical that makes you feel happy) that it already produces. It would be unwise to offer advice about medications in this forum; however, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Medications for anxiety often take 2-4 weeks to reach their full effect. Don't give up if you don't feel better after the first few days. (Certain medications are prescribed "as needed"--make sure you talk with your doctor so you understand which type of medication you are getting!)
- There are hundreds of possibilities that your doctor can prescribe for you. If one doesn't work or has side effects, keep trying!
- Your therapist will advise you to have a full physical so your doctor can rule out any medical/biological causes for your anxiety.
- Are there side effects? Yes, sometimes. But often the side effects are much less bothersome than being anxious all the time.
- Medication isn't for everyone. But it does a world of good for those who truly need it!
Nobody said overcoming anxiety would be easy. But here are some things you can do on your own to help.
Eat clean. Research is now showing that the SAD (standard American diet) is in fact making us SAD! Pay attention to what goes into your food and get the bulk of your nutrition for whole, unprocessed foods. Increase your vegetables and decrease your sugar. Not only will you live longer, your mood will improve so you'll be living a longer, happier life.
Sleep hygiene. It's a funny phrase that means pay attention to when you go to bed and when you wake up. Sleep more and reduce screen time, caffeine, and distractions. Of course, sleep disturbance may be one of the toughest symptoms of anxiety, so just make sure you're doing the external things to support what's going on internally.
Exercise. Walking and moderate exercise are great, but rigorous exercise that gets your heartrate up has been shown to increase the flow of brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine that make you feel better. Ever heard of a "runner's high"?
Mindfulness. There is a growing body of research that shows that mindfulness improves health and mood and reduces stress. Learn to breath, be present in the moment, and let go of unhelpful thoughts and feelings.
Prayer and spiritual practices. Doctors and scientists can't explain it, but spiritual people know it's true. When you pray you get better. Search out other practices like fasting, service, and worship and find out how believers have coped with life challenges through the ages.
Build a support system. It may be your family, co-workers, or neighbors. Whoever it is, seek them out and don't be afraid to let someone know what you are going through. Chances are, they've experienced it, too. Check your church or local community for support groups if your natural circle doesn't include those who can support you.