“When I was about seven, I was convinced the house was burning down. I could sense it. Not a hallucination, just a tightening in my chest, feeling I couldn’t breathe, like the world was going to end. There were some flare-ups like that, but my anxiety was constant.”
Shortly before winning the best actress Oscar for her memorable performance in “La La Land”, Emma Stone opened up about the panic attacks and anxiety she experienced as a young girl. She spoke about a “green monster” and how it grew bigger each time she listened to it. Stone realized that if she turned her head away and continued doing what she was occupied with, the monster would shrink and fade away. She also controlled it by immersing herself in improvisational and sketch comedy at a youth theater. “You have to be present in improv, and that’s the antithesis of anxiety,” said Stone.
Although anxiety disorders affect 40 million American adults aged 18 years or older (18.1 percent of the age group) and can be easily treated, only a little over a third (36.9 percent) of the affected adult population receives treatment. Moreover, 80 percent children with a diagnosable anxiety disorder do not receive treatment. While there is no substitute for treatment, affected individuals can adopt some simple and proven techniques to prevent anxiety from consuming their lives. Untreated anxiety negatively impacts physical health and increases the risk of depression, suicide and substance abuse.
Inducing the brain to stop worrying
Excessive worrying is probably the worst symptom of anxiety. One of the ways to overcome this is to induce the brain into getting rid of this habit. Here are some simple and proven techniques which can make this possible:
- Embracing anxiety: It may seem easier said than done, but a reliable way of reducing anxiety is by embracing it. Individuals can gradually expose themselves to the dreaded situations, thereby increasing their engagement and familiarity with it. Due to the fear of an imminent uncomfortable situation or upcoming event, anxiety starts building up early. Approaching such difficult situations with a positive mindset will help control anxiety.
- Exercising: Although physical activity is one of the best remedies for anxiety and depression, anxious people are reluctant to work up a sweat. Moreover, individuals with social anxiety may dread going to a gym full of people. Yoga offers solutions to both problems – it is less strenuous than other forms of physical activity and can be done in the privacy of the home.
- Regulating social media usage: Visiting Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites increases anxiety instead of reducing it. Being constantly connected exposes individuals to news, some of which may trigger anxiety. It also leads to comparisons with the seemingly perfect lives of other users, which in turn can aggravate anxiety. Although it is difficult to give up social media completely, regulating its use can mitigate anxious feelings to a large extent.
- Avoiding procrastination: Much anxiety is induced due to the dread of future events and deferring them is a common response from individuals with anxiety. Even though avoidance may seem like an easy escape, it is recommended to finish doing things right away instead of putting them off. For situations beyond someone’s control, being prepared for them in the best way possible can help in easing anxiety.
- Developing healthy habits: Even if individuals are making attempts to take care of themselves, a single bout of intense anxiety can jeopardize a healthy schedule. Focusing on specific activities and setting small, easily achievable goals is a definite way for individuals with anxiety to gradually develop a healthy regimen. A disciplined lifestyle will provide greater control in managing stressful situations.
- Controlling emotional responses: Individuals with anxiety tend to blame themselves for their condition. People who are constantly worrying are often ridiculed by others (and even by the affected individuals themselves). Instead of focusing on uncertainties, individuals should redirect their worries into positive thoughts. This will help them control their emotional responses and break the unending cycle of anxiety.
- Breathing and meditation: Research shows that mindfulness meditation is beneficial in easing psychologically stressful conditions like anxiety, depression and pain. Using this approach, the brain is trained to focus on the present instead of worrying about future events. Mindfulness meditation focuses on breathing. Sometimes, even taking a few deep breaths reduces anxiety, but it needs to be done at regular intervals.
- Rehearsing upcoming events: Role-playing or rehearsing an upcoming event, such as a presentation or speech, can reduce current anxiety levels and increase confidence. Talking out loud before a stressful event is also helpful. The goal of these exercises is to simulate the actual stress-inducing situation, either alone or with the help of a friend/loved one.
Treatment for anxiety disorders
If simple approaches to control anxiety are not effective and the condition becomes overwhelming, it is important to seek professional help. A trained therapist can diagnose the underlying processes and offer effective ways to cope with emotions.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective form of psychotherapy for treating anxiety disorders. Through CBT, therapists help patients in identifying and managing the factors that give rise to their anxiety. Although medications may be effective in treating anxiety disorders, the most effective treatment for anxiety disorders is psychotherapy, either alone or in combination with medication.
Sovereign Health incorporates the latest research on behavioral health to offer evidence-based anxiety disorder treatment. Our state-of-the-art centers at California provide comprehensive treatment for mental health disorders like anxiety, along with treatment for addiction and co-occurring conditions. To learn more about our anxiety treatment centers, contact our 24/7 helpline number or chat online with one of our experts.