Have you ever had thoughts of impending doom, felt very irritated or restless? 3.6% of the whole population in the world feel like you. The newest data shows that 4 in 10 adults in the US experience anxiety or depressive disorder symptoms.
Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated all mental health issues, especially anxiety disorders. As a result, anxiety became a widespread mental illness in the US.
Now you may be wondering what you can do.
While anxiety is common, it’s also a very treatable disorder. You can deal with it by recognizing the signs when anxiety kicks in, learning how to reduce the symptoms and when to seek help.
In a previous article, we have explained the signs of anxiety disorders. This article will focus on the best practices for dealing with anxiety.
What Is Anxiety, and Why Do We Experience It?
Before we dive into practices of reducing anxiety, we need to understand what anxiety is and what causes it. Anxiety is our evolutionary mechanism that deals with threats or dangers. It's your body’s way of responding to stress. So how can you know when anxiety is good or bad for you?
There is a reason why anxiety is a vital part of our survival. It protects us from possible harm.
In ancient times, when humans were more concerned with survival, the ability to perceive dangers and act upon them before they affected us was essential to our survival.
Deciding when to fight or flight was the most crucial aspect of our lives. Imagine sleeping in the wild and hearing something rattling the branches. If you ignore the sound, a predator might attack you, and you can die. You need to act fast if you want to stay alive.
But what happens if you react to every noise you hear? You will still get eaten.
But why? You may think. Well, a constant state of alertness makes your body vulnerable. Imagine waking up on every sound or vigorously analyzing every situation that comes your way. You would be tired and wouldn't react quickly enough to a dangerous situation.
The problem arises when we perceive possible dangers that are not life-threatening, but our thoughts and feelings act upon that possibility. This mechanism that helped us in ancient times now causes problems in our modern life because we don’t have the same issues as before.
How to Calm Down Anxiety
Different therapies and techniques can teach you how to deal with anxiety. Some work on changing the patterns of thought, some are aimed at mindfulness, while others require working on your body. Here are some of the three best approaches.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT therapy helps you reframe and change negative thought patterns and behaviors. One of the core components of cognitive-behavioral therapy is cognitive restructuring. It’s when you and your therapist identify unhelpful thought patterns and replace them with healthier, more accurate ways of thinking.
One of the best psychological treatments for anxiety disorders is exposure therapy. It’s a treatment where the client is exposed to the feared object or situation.
For example, if you have social anxiety, your exposures’ list might look like this:
- Start a conversation with the clerk in the grocery store by being accompanied by your therapist.
- Start hanging out with one or two friends.
- Hang out with more than two friends.
- Introduce yourself to new people while being accompanied by your therapist.
- Do the fourth step alone.
- Go to a party and interact with several people you don’t know.
Gestalt therapy sees anxiety as a bump in the road, a distortion of the present. To overcome it, you need to focus on your immediate thoughts and feelings. In short, gestalt therapy focuses on the present.
The most used gestalt technique is the 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique. This technique is also known as the 5 senses technique and is the most common grounding exercise for anxiety attacks. Its main aim is to help you focus on the current moment instead of thinking about the future.
Whit this coping tool, you can identify:
- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can feel
- 3 sounds you can hear
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste
There are various meditation and relaxation techniques. They all work on getting us in touch with our bodies and present experiences. When we are stressed, we are often detached from our surroundings and focused on the future.
Here are some of the most common ones:
- Guided meditations
- Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)
- Deep breathing
A growing number of studies indicate that deep breathing exercises relieve stress and anxiety. The best technique for anxiety that turns into a panic attack is deep breathing.
Deep breathing (diaphragmatic breathing) is an exercise that increases the oxygen amount in the lungs, which reduces blood pressure, slows the heart, and releases tension.
This technique can help with short-term panic attacks, but it also requires long-term practicing to be more effective. If you feel anxious, the way you can use this technique is by following these 4 steps:
- Inhaling slow deep breaths for 5 seconds
- Holding the air for 5 seconds
- Exhaling slowly for 5 seconds
- Repeating steps from 1 to 3 – 5 times
Leading a healthy lifestyle
If you want to have a healthy mind, first, you need to take care of your body. If you don’t feed it with proper nutrients, don’t exercise, and nurture it, it will affect your mind. New studies show that what we eat affects our brain on a micro-level.
Other studies show that regular exercise regulates anxiety levels and increases stress tolerance. So, leading a healthy lifestyle is important because a life filled with physical activity, a balanced diet, and enough sleeping will reduce your anxiety.
What Will Work Best for You?
With all the therapies and techniques we have listed, you may be wondering, what is the best anxiety treatment for you?
Some techniques, like deep breathing, are easy to use. But these kinds of tools have limitations. They are short-term solutions and don’t tackle the root of the problem. They also don’t work for everyone. If you don’t know how to deal with anxiety independently, you are not alone.
People with anxiety disorders tend to experience negative thoughts and unpleasant feelings more significantly than most. That can be the reason why it's not enough to treat anxiety on your own. In most cases, people require help from a trained professional.
What Is the Most Effective Anxiety Treatment?
There are many different anxiety disorders, and although they share similar patterns, therapy should be tailored to a particular diagnosis. However, the most evidence-based anxiety therapies used by psychiatrists and psychologists are the CBT therapies, including mindfulness-based CBT, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), among others.
Why Should You Try Online Therapy for Anxiety?
There are many benefits to online therapy, and this is a new trend very suited for anxiety problems because:
- It reduces stress for people with anxiety, especially social anxiety.
- It’s easier for people who feel the stigma of going on therapy.
- You can talk with a therapist daily, which will help deal with the anxiety you experience every day.
- There is no need to schedule a specific time in the day.
- Sessions are more comfortable for both the client and the psychologist.
- It’s more affordable than in-person therapy and is accessible for more people.
If you are an anxious person or someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder, anxiety treatment online is a better fit than regular in-person therapy. You can engage in therapy from the comfort of your home.
You may also feel less pressure because you are not physically in the therapist’s office. It’s a bit less personal than a regular therapy session, and that works well for anxious people.
Some clients dealing with anxiety cancel reservations. As the date comes closer, they change their minds and don’t come to the appointment. With online therapy, this is less likely to happen.
The same works for support groups: if you are nervous about being in a group of people, online anxiety support groups can be a great option. It can be a source of education and inspiration and help you connect with people experiencing similar struggles.
If you think that a video call is too much, you can always chat or have an audio call session.
Regular counseling also requires physical traveling to a therapist’s office. Online therapy doesn't require that, so you save time and money on trips with it.
When Will You Get Better?
There is no quick fix when it comes to mental health conditions like anxiety disorders. In most cases, therapy is the most efficient way to treat it and often takes just several months. Online counseling CBT therapies usually last between 5 and 20 weekly sessions.
When to Consider Medication?
Medication as a short-term treatment is recommended for any anxiety condition that significantly interferes with your daily life. If you have severe anxiety or panic attacks, medication can help reduce the symptoms, and later you might be able to manage them with therapy. However, therapy with medications is considered the most effective treatment for severe anxiety disorders.
Xanax or Valium are very effective during a panic attack because they can bring relief for 30 minutes. However, they are not considered a long-term treatment solution. If you are considering medication, you can talk with your doctor. You can also search for an online anxiety doctor or psychiatrist.
Anxiety sometimes is more than just a feeling of worry or stress – it can be a perpetual emotional state. Constant anxious feelings are tiring, exhausting, and can negatively affect our lives. So knowing how to calm anxiety can be the only way to enjoy life again.
There are many exercises you can try on your own. However, in many cases, the help of a specialist who knows how to treat anxiety is needed. If you would like to try online therapy, we at DoMental can connect you to a qualified anxiety therapist.