Anxiety can be a good thing even though it’s related to fear. It can help us be aware of dangerous situations (e.g. look both ways before crossing the street), motivate us to complete projects that are due, or face up to dealing with difficult challenges. Unfortunately for people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, this is the mechanism that often contributes to viewing many situations as dangerous which actually are not. Which results in a variety of physical signs and symptoms and may cause a variety of ailments.
Are you wondering if you’ll ever be able to reach that calm haven without feeling restless, tense, or having that sense of impending doom or panic? How can you relax if you just know something awful might happen?! Forget about sleeping well–that’s not going to happen because you have trouble just going to sleep! Does this sound like you?
So many times, people spend a lifetime of feeling anxious or worrying about how much they worry that they despair of ever feeling that sense of peace they used to have. They might even forget what that peace felt like. The constant worry prevents us from enjoying things they used to do. They might even begin to worry too much about different things (health, education, relationships, money, family, work) to the point of worrying if they have nothing to worry about! It is excessive, persistent, and totally unreasonable to the point it begins to affect our daily life. They get easily annoyed or irritable and take it out on loved ones or others around them without meaning to. Sometimes, worrying so much moves into the body and they experience aches, pains, or constant restlessness which leads to feeling tired all the time but having difficulty relaxing. Does this sound like you? If so, you have may Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
The good news is there is hope to control all of these symptoms. Having someone tell you “it’ll be alright” doesn’t do much to control all those worries either. Instead, try these:
- Be aware of unhealthy coping strategies like drug or alcohol use, overeating, or self-harm. These might seem like a quick fix but in the end, you’ll have even more to worry about which is probably not the goal!
- Practice deep breathing. You may be saying “I know how to breathe!” …but do you know how to breathe in a way that will help ease your anxiety? As you do this exercise, use positive thinking such as “I can handle this” or “I’m going to be okay”. This will engage the natural relaxation response in your body so TAKE 5:
- Get comfortable. Sit in a comfortable chair, lie down on the bed, lean against a wall…whatever works for you at the moment.
- Breathe in through your nose (with your mouth closed) to the count of 4. Let your belly fill with air as if you’re blowing a balloon up in your stomach.
- Hold for the count of 1.
- Breathe out through your mouth like you’re blowing through a straw to the count of 6. Our bodies can build up excess carbon dioxide when we become too anxious and not breathing correctly. By breathing out longer, you are expelling extra carbon dioxide that may have built up in your system. Too much carbon dioxide in the body causes symptoms such as dizziness, drowsiness, excessive fatigue, headaches, feeling disoriented, flushing of the skin, and shortness of breath.
- Repeat four more times.
- Increase physical activity even if you don’t feel like it. Those natural endorphins or “feel-good” chemicals are a natural happiness booster and can go a long way towards coping with stress and worry. Exercise also releases some of that pent-up energy which helps your body relax even more.
- Focus on what you can change. Many times anxiety stems from fearing things that haven’t even happened and may never occur. This doesn’t help you. It only destroys today’s happiness.
- Make (and keep) an appointment with a counselor. An empathetic counselor can teach you some other coping skills such as talking about your problems, learning about relaxation techniques, and learning some problem-solving techniques to help eliminate or at least control the anxiety will help put you on the path to enjoying your life again.
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