How do we treat anxiety? The latest statistics say that anxiety affects 40 million adults in the United States. Whoa! Some anxiety is a normal part of life-a byproduct of living in an often-chaotic world. But when anxiety becomes a struggle that interferes with your life, it’s time to act before it snowballs. Below are seven ideas to start on the path of creating a personalized action plan:
When it comes to treating anxiety, I think of it in the following four categories:
- Non-medication treatment for prevention
Non-medication treatment for in-the-moment
Medication treatment for prevention
Medication treatment for in-the-moment.
When your anxiety reaches a certain degree, all four categories are a must. And even when it's not “bad” all four categories are still best. There are a lot of good resources online but some things to explore…
1. Calm the Mind
Allocate some time daily to calm the mind. This could be prayer, meditation, yoga, whatever!
2. Keep a Journal
Writing down what you are grateful for daily by keeping a journal, in general, is a great way to calm your mind and "purge" anxiety-provoking thoughts or events of the day before bedtime. It also helps turn your focus away from what’s wrong onto what right!
3. Sleep Enough
Have a set bedtime and wake up time and create a 2-3 step bedtime routine to help yourself ease into falling asleep.
Try a daily magnesium supplement and epsom salt baths, plus a daily high-quality fish oil supplement (2-3 grams) goes a long way.
5. Drop the Caffeine
Sorry (!) but caffeine stimulates your "fight or flight" response, and studies show that this can make anxiety worse and can even trigger an anxiety attack.
6. Reduce Non-Essential Stimuli
Notice how much stimuli you are exposed to and cut out as much as your can to reduce overwhelm. Turn off non-essential notifications on your phone, ditch TV or radio in the background (or use calming music or comedy to your advantage), lower the lights, and use calming scents like lavender.
7. Take a Break
Take a breather from friends, social media, or any other influences that are not positive and helpful in your life.
Start Policing Your Mind
When you start layering all this stuff it makes a difference (no one thing is meant to cure the world!) Start being what I usually call the "police woman (or man!) of your mind" which is to say notice those background thoughts and reroute them to something calming before the worry train gets too far out of the station.
This is particularly useful as you have more practice at slowing down your mind and catching those thoughts. I know it sounds like a lot which is why the layering approach is best. Start by picking one or two things to focus on, and then add more and more as you go along.
The Biggest Bang for Your Buck
As well as creating a plan using the above seven ideas, in the moment of feeling anxious, a lot of the above things are also helpful. Most people get the biggest “bang for their buck” by focusing on breathing and thoughts. Literally try to stop (go the restroom if you need to and remove yourself from an environment) and count your breaths--in for five, out for five, in for five, out for five.
Many people find it helpful to have a “mantra” of sorts that gives them comfort...All is well, I am fine, Peace - whatever you connect with. Even if you feel silly, it works. You can do this and check your blood pressure and pulse a few minutes later, and it’s amazing how much calmer your body is...physically and emotionally.
From a medication perspective, there are safe and non-habit forming medications that can help both prevent and help handle anxiety in the moment if we need as well. Of course, the power is not totally in the pill, but medication adjustments can especially be helpful to help give you a leg up to start adding some of the above stuff.
No one thing is meant to erase anxiety--if only life were that easy! But we can do things to help make it feel smaller and more manageable. And if you want to give me a call or send me an email, together we can create a plan to start to control your anxiety so it doesn’t control you.
To Your Best Health,
Dr. Paige Gutheil is a board-certified osteopathic family medicine physician and advocate for a Whole Health approach to your wellness. She is on a mission to help people thrive by looking at all the influences on health...body, mind, and spirit. Dr. Paige is the founder of an innovative team-based direct primary care practice, Signature Primary Care and Wellness in Hilliard, Ohio. She and her colleagues provide comprehensive primary care, counseling, coaching, nutrition education and yoga to help people all over central Ohio and beyond make fun, achievable changes towards their healthiest and happiest life possible!