How to Overcome Anxiety? 7 Psychologist Approved Ways

How to Overcome Anxiety? 7 Psychologist Approved Ways

Goda Bržozauskaitė
Written by
Goda Bržozauskaitė

Have you ever thought: "Am I the only one worrying like crazy?" Life with anxiety can make you feel isolated, as if you are the only one not knowing the secret for peaceful living. But in fact, it's far from the truth. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in the United States. One in five American adults is feeling anxious on a daily basis. And 40 million people are suffering every year in the United States. 

But there is also some good news: anxiety is highly treatable, meaning that it's much easier to overcome it than other mental health disorders. However, if you are reading this, you are probably struggling to find ways to overcome anxiety. And again, you are not alone – only 36.9% of those suffering from anxiety receive proper care.

However, you shouldn't feel devastated. As these disorders are the most widely experienced mental health struggles, many psychologists and scientists are looking for the most effective ways to overcome anxiety. In this article, you will find 7 of the most approved methods. 

But before we start, you should remember that there are different anxiety disorders, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Alektorophobia (the fear of chickens) and not every tip may be equally effective for your condition.

Lifestyle changes

Even if anxiety can be overwhelming and frightening at times, small changes in your life can make a huge difference. In fact, most anxiety treatment programs include a comprehensive treatment strategy as your mind, body, and environment are tightly connected.   

Here is a list of anxiety overcoming tips strongly supported by science yet easy to adapt.

Exercise

Don't worry – you don't have to become a running champion or yoga guru to manage your worries. A moderate exercise is enough to improve your mental state.

And it's not just about the release of happy hormones (also known as endorphins). When you are active, a lot more happens. Here are some interesting facts:

Having something to do and focus on helps your mind forget the things you were anxious about.

Increased heart rate signals your brain that it's time to release some anti-anxiety hormones.

Moving your muscles helps get rid of tension. It not only makes you more comfortable, but also tricks your brain to think that the impending doom is withdrawing away from you.

When you are active, your frontal brain regions start to take over control of a part in your brain called the amygdala (which is basically the drama queen of the brain).

And if you exercise regularly, all these things and other complicated brain operations make you less prone to jumping into strong negative emotions. 

But let's return to the main question: what does it mean to exercise moderately? It means engaging in all kinds of activities that require a little effort.

  • brisk walking
  • cycling
  • hiking
  • rollerboarding
  • yoga (really effective, as it combines movement and breathing)
  • and even things such as mowing the lawn or vacuuming your floor!

Diet improvements

You know really well how certain foods give you a nice boost of energy when your battery is low. When you are worried, however, this energy can be directed to increase your anxiety. It is for this reason that people suffering from anxiety disorders are advised to limit their daily caffeine intake. Coke and green or black tea also count!

Anxiety also gives you another reason to avoid alcohol and nicotine. These substances may appear to have a calming effect at first, but they can disrupt your mood and contribute to anxiety in the long run.

Meditation

In the age of self-help apps and Netflix series, people are starting to realize that meditation is not just freezing in a strange and uncomfortable pose and trying really hard not to think about anything (a task that may be impossible for people with anxiety). Meditation becomes an act of simply sitting with your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations and giving proper attention to them.

Acknowledging your thoughts and feelings becomes the first step to managing your worries. Paying attention to what you think about during the day helps you slowly change your beliefs and feelings, such as “I’m a complete failure”, to something more helpful. 

You can capture these priceless moments of connecting with yourself even in a subway, while eating a Subway, or anytime you feel like it. This variety gives a lot of freedom for people who can't lie still for 10 minutes. Just browsing the web for 5 minutes allows you to find a bunch of mindful practices such as guided or unguided meditations, sleep or walking meditations so it's very easy to experiment and find what works. A professional therapist may also make their suggestions based on your personality and struggles.

Why is mindfulness meditation the perfect form of relaxation to deal with anxiety disorders? Because it teaches you to look at your worries from the side out, which helps you recognize that they are irrational. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows how a mindfulness program can reduce Generalized Anxiety Disorder symptoms in just 8 weeks. 

Breathing exercises

Why does everyone advise you to breathe when stressed? Because breathing can target your sympathetic nervous system (the one which prepares your body to stress and keeps you vigilant). When you are, or rather, think that you are in danger, your heart rate increases and your breathing becomes uneven and shallow. When you force yourself to breathe deeply and slowly, your heart rhythm also changes, and your brain gets the signal that it's actually time to relax. 

If you don't know where to start, some techniques worth trying are deep breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, and 4-7-8 breathing. However, the technique is much less important than the process of slowing down the breath and focusing on it.

However, you should keep in mind that this might not help in every situation. If you are in the middle of a panic attack, focusing on something may be too hard. 

If you can't control your breathing during a panic attack, there are some other options. Try forcing yourself to yawn or fake coughing. This will help you put the heart rate back into a normal rhythm.

Medication

Severe anxiety disorders can be treated with a variety of antidepressants. Prepare yourself for some difficult words. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors increase serotonin levels in your brain and help to regulate your mood and anxiety. Some other medications can also be used if your doctor will think that you will benefit from them more. However, all these medications can have undesirable side effects. If you wish to stop using them, consider consulting your doctor about other highly effective alternatives, such as therapy.

Therapy

A professional by your side, guiding you out of your worries and helping you out when life struggles ruin the progress that you have to build is a powerful way to overcome any kind of anxiety disorder. If you have social anxiety, drinking one coffee less may not help you act less awkward around others, but a therapist will help you find another perspective which you never knew existed. Every anxiety disorder can be treated with therapy, each person just needs to find something that works for them. 

Here are several types of therapies proven to be the most effective in overcoming anxiety.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)  

This therapy aims to help you look at the situation, understand it differently, and change your behavior accordingly. After you have modified the way you look at things, the way you feel about them should also change. It targets every problem a person with anxiety may encounter: overthinking, avoiding situations and making nonobjective conclusions out of failures, and your agitated mood.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

It's a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that aims to teach you how to live a life worth living. DBT focuses on 3 core principles that say:

all things are connected to one another

Things are constantly changing

two opposite things can actually be put together (for example, your emotional and rational thinking)

DBT teaches people about their emotional reactions to everyday situations, and how to deal with them. DBT is all about helping you change your situation while accepting it at the same time. 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

This therapy is effective for people struggling with traumas, post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, or panic attacks. It is based on the premise that brains can be rewired from the outside: by doing repetitive eye movements or experiencing repetitive stimulus. EMDR is guided by the therapist, who will ask the person to imagine situations that raise their anxiety and then use techniques to tame their negative emotions. As strange as it might seem from the beginning, this therapy has proven to work wonders. 

Exposure Therapy

If you would like to meet new friends but try to avoid socializing as much as possible, exposure therapy might be just what you need. It helps people become what they wish to be by endangering them in activities related to their fears and phobias. It may sound scary at first, but you shouldn't worry. The therapist controls all your environment and also the progress and makes sure you are not too frightened to continue. Little by little, you will be able to see that your phobia has lost its emotional ground and you are able to enjoy your life to the fullest.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

When you feel stuck and unable to solve the situation in your favor, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy comes with very simple advice: ACT. The therapist will help you identify your values and sort out what you can do to match your behavior with them. ACT teaches people how to realize that their feelings and thoughts are just a part of what is happening, and what to do when you are feeling anxious.

As mentioned before, therapy doesn't have any physical side effects. As fast as you find the right therapist, you can start feeling incredible improvements.

"But what about the price?" you ask. Therapy is for sure not the cheapest option available. At least, this is how it has been up until now. If you are struggling with finance, live face-to-face sessions may not be the best option for you. But when therapy started adopting other means of communication, it also found a way to lower the cost. Messaging therapy, for example, can cost you as much as two cups of Starbucks coffee a day (remembering that you should cut caffeine intake, right?)

With the freedom provided by modern communication, these therapies gained other advantages, such as the ability to tie a stronger connection between the therapist and their client, as messaging allows you to text your therapist anytime you like, even in the middle of the night. It expands therapy from A session once every week or two, to daily conversations, which is extremely important for people with anxiety disorders, as they need supportive talks and attention to emotional problems.  And there is not a better way to address them than at the moment they are happening. You may not describe the circumstances of your panic attack you had last week so well today as you could have done so the very same afternoon. 

Help is out there

Panic attacks or anxiety from meeting your neighbor in the stairwell can sometimes make you feel desperate, as if there is nothing that can be done. It affects your everyday life, appears unexpectedly, and finds you completely unprepared, or it can slowly drain your energy. But even if you feel that you are out of control and your mental wellness is an unreachable dream, the solution is out there. 

If you are struggling with overcoming anxiety alone, consider Domental online therapy. A licensed mental health professional will listen to your personal experience and anxiety history, and will take into account your unique personality to find a solution that will work for you.

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