There are no easy solutions, outside of a magic pill or a magic wand. This dirty little devil is called "anxiety" and it is fierce. With all the emotional upheaval, media input and dealing with our own body chemistry and hormones, it's most certainly a war on our own and sometimes shattered world. We can't really point to what anxiety is--we just need to accept that it remains a mystery. News from the University of Chicago Medical Center offered some solace. "By testing the controversial role of a gene called Glo1 in anxiety, scientists uncovered a new inhibitory factor in the brain: the metabolic by-product methylglyoxal. The system offers a tantalizing new target for drugs designed to treat conditions such as anxiety disorder." In the meantime, until there are further breakthroughs with Glo1, we can crack the mystery of anxiety by taking action to put back together our lives. Here are 8 suggestions for coping with the condition.
Learn acceptance.You know the painting "The Scream" by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch? The modern art painting from 1893 shows a person with both hands on their face in a panic with darkness surrounding the figure. This is what anxiety is like for most people, where they just want to scream due to the anxiety that they are feeling within their bodies. If this is you, know that the symptoms that you are dealing with don't reflect you as a person. We need to accept we are still human and mental illness does not discriminate. We can find acceptance that we are all flawed. In this, we find our truth and even hope.
Lower your expectations.If you are more prone to anxiety and even depression, you don't need to add ridiculous expectations on yourself. If there are high expectations, it puts you more at risk for disappointment if you fail to meet then. What happens is that people become perfectionists. “Unrealistic expectations are potentially damaging because they set us and others up for failure,” said Selena C. Snow, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Maryland. When we or someone else naturally falls short, we draw false conclusions, feel negative feelings and act in negative ways. You should take risks in life to attain goals and to grow. But the point here is to not add pressures that don't need to be there.
Change your mindset.We need to trap those "what-ifs" in order to remain calm and to deal with anxiety better. Author Karen Young explained we need to catch those thoughts when they come as they spark anxiety in people. She recommended remaining in the present. "Stay with what is actually happening, rather than what might happen. If this feels uncomfortable, put a time limit on it, let’s say, 2 minutes to start with." In order for this to work, you need to practice this for a month to help retrain the brain. If you need more time, so be it.
Distract yourself.Distract yourself when you are feeling off center. Listen to music, download audiobooks, podcasts, or a guided meditation. Read a magazine, go walking, take a bike ride or anything that will take you out of the uneasiness. Linda Andrews, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston said that anxiety can start to take on a life of its own. "Everything becomes a potential crisis. The unthinkable has happened. So around every corner, there's the next possible disaster." Change your focus by getting out of your head and staying in the present. Reminiscing on what worked and what did not work, will not bring you joy.
Avoid stress.If you’re constantly stressed out, take a step back and remove yourself from toxic situations and consider making changes if you are drawn to drama. You can't avoid traffic, rude people or the bad weather. But you can avoid toxic people, situations and an overloaded schedule that feed your anxious thoughts.
Release your tension through writing.Writing will help release the tension that is felt through the body during and after a bout with anxiety. "Expressive writing promotes healing and can help us to better control our emotions, to stop ruminating or obsessing about a traumatic event and instead derive meaning from what happened," author Lynda Monk shared. Writing helps frame up the events of the day and allows you to have a sense of control.
Find treatment.Anxiety disorders are highly treatable and medication could help you. Additionally, you could benefit from therapy to help you develop a plan. Therapy in itself can't cure you because you need to do the work, Psychologist Ryan Howes, Ph.D. explained to Buzzfeed. “It’s pretty disappointing for clients when they think that’s the way it works,” he said. “They want the therapist to ask them a bunch of questions and it’s like a treasure hunt.” Therapists won’t have all the answers, but they are there as a guide.
Watch what you eat and drink.For people dealing with anxiety, limiting caffeine is a good option. Getting the jitters after drinking caffeine will make the condition worse. Processed foods especially tend to perpetuate a "Vicious cycle of guilt, anxiety, cravings and overeating, making it hard to stop eating them once you start," Prevention reported. Avoid coffee, sugar, artificial creamers, beef jerky and alcohol.
As scientists unravel the mystery of anxiety, we can do what is needed to cope with the aftermath by being proactive and diligent in our efforts. We don’t know where you're at this moment. It may be in the kitchen, the office at work or maybe you're reading this at a coffee shop. No matter where you are, you don't have to live in the darkness solely. Reach out to a medical practitioner today.