Dealing With Anxiety The How
Here are some ways to manage anxiety by strengthening the structure and function of your brain in ways that protect it against anxiety. Remember though, the brain is like any other muscle in your body it will get stronger with practice. I wish I could tell you that it would get stronger with pizza and tacos but that would be a dirty big lie and very unhelpful. Delicious maybe, but unhelpful. What isnt a lie is that the following strategies have been proven by tons of very high-brow research to be very powerful in helping to reduce anxiety.
Mindfulness. But first to show you why.
A mountain of studies have shown that mindfulness can be a little bit magic in strengthening the brain against anxiety. In a massive analysis of a number of different mindfulness/anxiety studies, mindfulness was found to be associated with robust and substantial reductions in symptoms of anxiety.
Mindfulness changes the brain the way exercise changes our body but without the sweating and panting. Two of the ways mindfulness changes the brain are:
Okay then. What else can mindfulness do?
Plenty. Mindfulness can improve concentration, academic performance, the ability to focus, and it can help with stress and depression. It also increases gray matter, which is the part of the brain that contains the neurons. Neurons are brain cells, so we want plenty of them and plenty of gray matter for them to hang out in.
So mindfulness hey? What is it exactly?
Is there an app for that?
Find Ways To Serve And Take Care Of Your Loved One
Your friend or parent or spouse or sibling might be spiraling into anxiety because of being overcommitted or stressed with chaos and demands of life. If its helpful, find ways to gently and quietly take responsibility and stress off their plate. Help with housework. Run to the grocery store for them. Fill their car with gas. Take the kids out for a walking adventure.
Just make sure youre not enabling that person to stay frozen in their anxiety. The point here isnt to remove their responsibility to take ownership of their lives, but to show love, support and compassion when youre needed.
Supporting Someone With Anxiety Or Depression
There are ways that you can help someone with anxiety or depression. It may be helpful to:
- let them know if youve noticed a change in their behaviour
- spend time talking about their experiences and let them know youre there to listen without being judgmental
- help them to get information from a website, library or community health centre
- suggest they go to a doctor or health professional, and help them to make an appointment
- offer to go with them to their appointment and follow up with them afterwards
- encourage them to get enough sleep, to exercise and to eat well
- encourage family and friends to invite them out and keep in touch, but dont pressure them to participate in activities
- contact a doctor or hospital if they become a threat to themselves or others.
It is unhelpful to:
- put pressure on them by telling them to snap out of it or get their act together
- stay away or avoid them
- tell them they just need to stay busy or get out more
- pressure them to party more or wipe out how theyre feeling with drugs and alcohol
- assume the problem will just go away.
If you or someone you know needs support, talk to a doctor or other health professional about getting appropriate treatment.
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Do Listen To How They Want To Be Supported
When you ask the person how you can support them, listen carefully to their preferences. After all, you want to know how to help people with anxiety and support them. They may want help breaking down a task they are anxious about, they may want you to distract them from their anxious thoughts or they may just want someone to talk to.
Instead Say: Ive Noticed Youve Been Anxious A Lot Lately And Im Concerned
If you notice your friend getting more and more anxious and you know they havent sought any kind of professional help, its OK to express your concern if it comes from the heart. Focus on how youve seen the anxiety change them: maybe they arent going to concerts anymore even though they used to love live music, or they havent been socializing as much and youre worried about them being lonely. If theyre open to getting help but feel overwhelmed, offer to do some research on good therapists or to wait for them in the lobby during their first appointment. Remind them that anxiety is treatable, even without medication, and that this isnt something they have to fight alone.
If someone confides in you that theyre feeling anxious or having a panic attack, the most important thing to remember is that the feelingsand telling you about themare a big deal. It takes trust to show that kind of vulnerability. Listen and respond in a way that doesnt minimize their experience.
There are definitely times when I havent been heard, when my anxiety has been dismissed or questioned. Ive been subjected to jokes about how me and my fellow Millennials are the Xanax generation or how Im only anxious because U.S. culture is in an age of anxiety, as though everyone feels exactly as I do so I should just suck it up.
You Really Need To Pull Yourself Together
A colleague said this to me when she found me crying in the staff toilets at an event. She thought the tough love approach would help me snap out of it. However, not only did it not help, it made me feel more embarrassed and exposed. It confirmed that I was a freak and therefore needed to hide my condition.
When faced with anxiety, the natural response from observers seems to be to encourage the person to calm down. Ironically, this only makes it worse. The sufferer is desperate to calm down, but is unable to do so.
Other Sites That Can Help
www.atareira.org.nz – Support, education and information for family and whnau.Carers New Zealand – Information and support for people in caregiver roles.Mental Health Foundation – Information about mental health covering a range of topics.Small Steps – A range of simple tools you can use to manage your stress, anxiety and low mood.
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Helping Someone With Ptsd Tip : Provide Social Support
Its common for people with PTSD to withdraw from family and friends. They may feel ashamed, not want to burden others, or believe that other people wont understand what theyre going through. While its important to respect your loved ones boundaries, your comfort and support can help them overcome feelings of helplessness, grief, and despair. In fact, trauma experts believe that face-to-face support from others is the most important factor in PTSD recovery.
Knowing how to best demonstrate your love and support for someone with PTSD isnt always easy. You cant force your loved one to get better, but you can play a major role in the healing process by simply spending time together.
Dont pressure your loved one into talking. It can be very difficult for people with PTSD to talk about their traumatic experiences. For some, it can even make them feel worse. Instead, let them know youre willing to listen when they want to talk, or just hang out when they dont. Comfort for someone with PTSD comes from feeling engaged and accepted by you, not necessarily from talking.
Do normal things with your loved one, things that have nothing to do with PTSD or the traumatic experience. Encourage your loved one to seek out friends, pursue hobbies that bring them pleasure, and participate in rhythmic exercise such as walking, running, swimming, or rock climbing. Take a fitness class together, go dancing, or set a regular lunch date with friends and family.
Tip : Practice Mindfulness
Worrying is usually focused on the futureon what might happen and what youll do about itor on the past, rehashing the things youve said or done. The centuries-old practice of mindfulness can help you break free of your worries by bringing your attention back to the present. This strategy is based on observing your worries and then letting them go, helping you identify where your thinking is causing problems and getting in touch with your emotions.
Acknowledge and observe your worries. Dont try to ignore, fight, or control them like you usually would. Instead, simply observe them as if from an outsiders perspective, without reacting or judging.
Let your worries go. Notice that when you dont try to control the anxious thoughts that pop up, they soon pass, like clouds moving across the sky. Its only when you engage your worries that you get stuck.
Stay focused on the present. Pay attention to the way your body feels, the rhythm of your breathing, your ever-changing emotions, and the thoughts that drift across your mind. If you find yourself getting stuck on a particular thought, bring your attention back to the present moment.
Basic mindfulness meditation
Click here for a free mindful breathing meditation.
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Tip : Distinguish Between Solvable And Unsolvable Worries
Research shows that while youre worrying, you temporarily feel less anxious. Running over the problem in your head distracts you from your emotions and makes you feel like youre getting something accomplished. But worrying and problem solving are two very different things.
Problem solving involves evaluating a situation, coming up with concrete steps for dealing with it, and then putting the plan into action. Worrying, on the other hand, rarely leads to solutions. No matter how much time you spend dwelling on worst-case scenarios, youre no more prepared to deal with them should they actually happen.
Tip : Talk About Your Worries
It may seem like a simplistic solution, but talking face to face with a trusted friend or family membersomeone who will listen to you without judging, criticizing, or continually being distractedis one of the most effective ways to calm your nervous system and diffuse anxiety. When your worries start spiraling, talking them over can make them seem far less threatening.
Keeping worries to yourself only causes them to build up until they seem overwhelming. But saying them out loud can often help you to make sense of what youre feeling and put things in perspective. If your fears are unwarranted, verbalizing them can expose them for what they areneedless worries. And if your fears are justified, sharing them with someone else can produce solutions that you may not have thought of alone.
Build a strong support system. Human beings are social creatures. Were not meant to live in isolation. But a strong support system doesnt necessarily mean a vast network of friends. Dont underestimate the benefit of a few people you can trust and count on to be there for you. And if you dont feel that you have anyone to confide in, its never too late to build new friendships.
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Stop Treating Your Loved One Like A Machine
If you see someone struggling and spinning out of control, hurting and afraid, your first impulse might be to try and fix the situation with advice and rational thinking. This comes from a good place. We just want our loved one to be better, and we dont want them to hurt!
But theres a dangerous side to this impulse. Without realizing it, we begin to treat the people in our lives as machines that need to be fixed or puzzles that need to be solved. When they feel anxious or panicked, we want to jump in and fix them. Hear me on this: Your loved one is not a broken machine. Anxiety is a signal that theyre feeling unsafe and disconnected. Instead of trying to fix them, lean in and listen. Provide a safe, supportive space for connection.
Instead of focusing on solving the problem, offering advice, or muscling your way to a solution , just ask yourself how you can simply be with your loved one. Offer support. Offer love. Offer a listening ear. Offer your presence. Clean the kitchen or fill their car with gas. Move toward with your heart and not at with your advice.
Focus On What You Can Change
Many times anxiety stems from fearing things that havent even happened and may never occur. For example, even though everything is okay, you may still worry about potential issues, such as losing your job, becoming ill, or the safety of your loved ones.
Life can be unpredictable and no matter how hard you try, you cant always control what happens. However, you can decide how you are going to deal with the unknown. You can turn your anxiety into a source of strength by letting go of fear and focusing on gratitude.
Replace your fears by changing your attitude about them. For example, stop fearing to lose your job and instead focus on how grateful you are to have a job. Come to work determined to do your best. Instead of fearing your loved one’s safety, spend time with them, or express your appreciation of them. With a little practice, you can learn to dump your anxiety and pick up a more positive outlook.
At times, your anxiety may actually be caused by a real circumstance in your life. Perhaps youre in a situation where it is realistic to be worried about losing your job due to high company layoffs or talks of downsizing.
When anxiety is identified as being caused by a current problem, then taking action may be the answer to reducing your anxiety. For example, you may need to start job searching or scheduling interviews after work.
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Encourage Your Loved One To Talk To Someone Who Can Help
Even if you deserve the husband of the year award, your expertise can only go so far. Ive been doing this for years, and I still find myself in over my head when working with someone through a challenging situation. Anxiety can be rooted in years of trauma and neglect and the toxic values we absorb about ourselves. Those ugly beliefs will impact how we relate to people down the road. Its quite possible that your loved one might need support and guidance from a professional. That could be a pastor at church or finding a good therapist .
Often, folks who feel trapped by anxiety need reassurance that theyre worth the time and money investment of professional help. It takes a lot of courage to choose vulnerability and to do the hard work of facing your anxiety. So, be your friends biggest cheerleader. And if its your spouse who needs counseling, you can offer to go together so you can learn tools to support them along their journey.