5 Ways to Effectively Manage Anxiety

If you suffer from anxiety, you know that awful feeling when heart races, you start to sweat, and you feel like you just want to run. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness in the United States, affecting roughly 40 million adults. While anxiety can feel debilitating, there are ways you can manage it.

Slow Your Breathing

When we feel anxious, our breathing becomes quicker and shallower. This way of breathing, in turn, makes us feel even more anxious. It’s a vicious cycle.

When you feel the anxiety start to come on, start to focus on your breath and begin to slow it down. Breathe in slowly and deeply for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, then exhale slowly for a count of 4. Repeat this cycle three to five times until you feel yourself begin to calm.

Limit Caffeine 

Drinking or eating anything with caffeine in it can exacerbate your anxiety. Studies have even shown that caffeine can trigger an anxiety attack, so try and avoid or greatly limit consumption.

Exercise

Studies have shown that just 20 minutes of exercise can reduce symptoms of anxiety. Not only does exercising make you feel good about yourself, it actually floods your body with feel-good endorphins, which can totally turn your mood around.

Make a List

One of the worst parts of feeling anxiety is the feeling that you are out of control. One simple exercise to turn this around is to make a to-do list of small, easy-to-manage tasks. Crossing these tasks off your list will actually empower you and make you feel in control again.

Remind Yourself of Reality

When the plane of a nervous flyer hits turbulence, that nervous flyer must remind themselves that the plane is okay, and it is just a normal occurrence to hit turbulence. People who experience anxiety may also have to remind themselves that they are actually okay when an anxiety attack comes on. Simply tell yourself that you are experiencing anxiety but that you are, basically, okay, you are not going to die.

It can also be very beneficial to talk to someone about your anxiety issues. A therapist will be able to offer more tools and advice on how to cope and manage your anxiety.

If you or someone you love suffers from anxiety and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

How to Talk to a Loved One About Getting Treatment for Their Mental Health

Just about every family has a “black sheep”; someone who’s always causing trouble, or maybe is more of a free spirit. Sometimes however, the “black sheep” of the family is someone with a serious mental health issue. If you have a loved one who you believe may need mental health treatment, there are things you can do to try and convince them to seek help.

Family and Friends are First Responders

You should see yourself as a type of “first responder” for your loved one. Teachers, employers and even medical professionals that interact with your loved one aren’t likely to do anything to intervene if it appears they need mental health treatment. As their friend or family member, you are their first line for help.

The Importance of Early Intervention

Early intervention is key to improving your loved one’s quality of life. The longer a mental illness goes untreated, the shorter the intervals between the troubling episodes and behavior that’s drawn your concern. As the intervals shorten, the relapses increase in severity; and as their mental illness becomes more severe, the more resistant it will be to treatment. Intervening as early as possible will change the course of your loved one’s life, putting them on a positive trajectory.

Talking to Your Loved One

Prepare your loved one for this conversation by letting them know that you want to have a talk. Let them know it’s because you love them, and that the topic is very important. Make sure they know it’s nothing negative or scary. Set a date and time, and choose a neutral location where they will be most comfortable.

Keep the conversation in the context of your relationship with this person. Make sure they know you’re not rejecting or judging them, but that you love them and are concerned. Don’t attempt a diagnosis, such as “I think you’re bipolar”; leave diagnoses to the professionals. Talk about your feelings and be specific when you’re describing concerning behavior. Instead of vague statements like “you need help”, or “you’re acting strange” give specific examples. “It frightened me when you were yelling the other day,” or “You missed work four times in the last two weeks.”

The Goal of the Talk

Your goal in talking to your loved one should be for them to get a one-time evaluation. Offer to make the appointment, to pay for it, and/or to drive them.

Talking to someone you love about seeking mental health treatment is difficult and awkward, but it is important. Be prepared for them to have an angry response, and if they do, maintain your composure and stick to the theme of your love and concern. It may take multiple attempts to get your loved one to seek help. Don’t be nagging or harassing, but do be persistent.

If you or a loved one are in need of mental health treatment or a comprehensive evaluation, a licensed mental health professional can help. Call my office today, and let’s schedule a time to talk.

How to Practice Self-Compassion

Most of us from a young age are taught how to be kind, considerate and compassionate toward others. But rarely are we told to show the same consideration to ourselves. As they say, we’re our harshest critic. But what if it self-compassion could change that?

What is it?

Self-compassion refers to how we can relate to the self with kindness. This is NOT to be confused with arrogance or selfishness. In actuality, arrogance and selfishness stem from the absence of self-love.

But what does it really mean to be kind with ourselves?

It means that on a day-to-day basis we are mindful of being courteous, supportive and compassionate with ourselves. Too many individuals beat themselves with harsh judgement instead of compassion. Essentially it means be nice to yourself.

Why is this important?

When we engage with practice this, it helps us recognize our unconditional worth and value. It allows us to recognize though we my sometimes make bad decisions, we’re not bad people.

Research, over the past decade, has shown the parallel between self care and psychological wellbeing. Those who recognize the value of being nice to self also tend to have better connections with others, are reportedly happier with their own lives, and have a higher satisfaction with life overall. Being kind to yourself also correlates with less shame, anxiety and depression.

So you know the what and why, now let’s look at the how.

How to Practice Self-Compassion

Treat Yourself as You Would a Small Child

Would you harshly judge or belittle a small child the way you do yourself? Probably not. You would only want to help and love that child. You would want to be nice to that child and have fun with them. You would give them the benefit of the doubt. You would allow them to make mistakes without penalty. When you begin to treat yourself this way, you begin to show yourself the same love, gentleness and kindness you would a small kid.

Practice Mindfulness

Every minute your mind is handling millions of bits of information, though you consciously are only aware of a few of them. Many of us have scripts or a stream of messages running in our minds 24/7. These messages have a tendency to run our lives. They insist we do certain things and make certain decisions.

Some of these scripts are the ones that tell us how “bad” or “unlovable” we are. They’ve been running since we were kids. The way to quiet these scripts is to pay attention to what we are telling ourselves.

Here’s some easy steps to incorporate mindfulness:

First, be mindful of the thoughts we have by paying attention to them. Then, we have to identify the negative statements and messages. Next, evaluate if they are true or not.  Many times negative thoughts we have about ourselves are not true. We believe they are true but when we look for evidence of them we find they’re actually not true. Finally, we need to replace them with positive true thoughts.

Good Will vs Good Feelings

Self-compassion is a deliberate act of kindness we show ourselves; it’s not a way to alleviate emotional pain. Life happens, and it sucks. We can’t always avoid negative or sad feelings. Never mistake self-compassion as a tool to ignore your deep and rich emotional life.

These are just a few ways you can begin to cultivate self-compassion. If you’d like to explore more options or talk to someone about your feelings of self-rejection and judgement, click here. W’d be happy to discuss how cognitive therapy may help.