Anxiety is a modern mental health epidemic, with up to 1 in 5 Americans reportedly suffering from some sort of anxiety disorder. As with most mental illnesses, our understanding of anxiety disorders is limited. We do know that certain factors make it more likely that a person will develop a problem, but we don’t know why this is. For example, it’s clear that high stress levels or a traumatic event can lead to a persistent anxiety problem. However, sometimes there is no obvious external reason for an individual’s condition.
Although the medical profession is sometimes able to treat anxiety with a range of medications, we don’t actually know why these pills work. The most successful treatment programs revolve around Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and the teaching of techniques which aim to minimize the impact of stressful situations. Even if you don’t currently have a problem with anxiety, it is always beneficial to make sure that you can deal with the stresses of everyday life. Read on for a few tips.
Every article that you read about anxiety will mention exercise, and there’s a reason for this. Physical activity is one of the most effective outlets for stress that we have available to us, and its becoming clear that those who fail to take part are more likely to suffer. Exercise relieves stress in two ways. Firstly, in a very straightforward way, it allows us to channel our energy. When we’re wound up, it feels good to ‘let it all out’ by running fast, lifting heavy weights, or even just squeezing a stress ball. In this way, exercise can be seen as therapeutic.
The other way in which exercise helps us to beat stress is with the chemicals it releases. Endorphins, which cause the famous “runner’s high”, have been proven to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. A regular program of physical activity is one of the most effective ways to treat anxiety.
Human beings are social animals. Talking to people is a very simple and yet very effective way to boost your mood and reduce stress levels. Unfortunately, given the fact that anxiety is often found alongside depression, it is often the case that sufferers are isolated and rarely speak to others.
If you’re feeling stressed, it can be very therapeutic to “vent” your worries to a friend or partner, but this isn’t the only way in which talking can help your anxiety. The act of sharing a conversation with another person can have profoundly positive effects on our mental and even physical health, whatever the subject of discussion might be. Recent studies have shown that older people who live in isolation are much more likely to die earlier, regardless of whether or not they feel lonely.
If you have nobody to talk to face-to-face, the Internet is a great resource. There are numerous forums and chat rooms designed for those with mental health issues, and these can be very helpful for those who lack other outlets.
Telling somebody who’s under a lot of stress to “just relax” isn’t very helpful. For many people, it is difficult or impossible to completely switch off and empty their mind. Active relaxation simply means to deliberately force relaxation using one of a range of techniques. These are often activities that we neglect in favor of the modern world, where we are always connected to a blend of information and entertainment.
For example, when was the last time you lay down on your bed and just listened to your favorite album? Do you ever head outside to read a book, leaving your phone in the house? When your partner is stressed, do you ever give them a back rub (and vice versa)?
Aside from these more traditional activities, you could also try a technique known as “body scanning”. Simply sit down, close your eyes, and concentrate on how your body feels. Start with your toes and move upwards, actively relaxing each body part as you go. By the time you’ve reached your head, you’ll feel much better.
Author bio: Thomas James writes for www.naturesbest.co.uk, a leading UK provider of health products.