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Reducing Anxiety

QUESTION: What are some steps for reducing anxiety?


Reducing anxiety in our daily lives is not hard to do once we know how. In our fast paced and stress filled world, anxiety has become a normal part of life. In small amounts, anxiety keeps us alert and out of danger, sparks us to action, and helps us to live a long and more fruitful life. When anxiety becomes so severe that it limits our functions and cripples us from living a normal life, we need to start thinking about reducing anxiety.

If you find yourself at a point where you need help in reducing anxiety then you have two options: seek professional help if you feel you cannot do it on your own or use some practical methods to help reduce your everyday stress.

I am a sufferer of chronic anxiety. In the past I sought out professional help, but now use many practical methods on my own to reduce anxiety. The main objective is remembering what you are capable of doing.

One method professional counselors use to help reduce anxiety is to get the person to limit the amount of "stressors" in their daily life. Psychologists call this avoidance learning. The main idea of avoidance learning is when you know there is something causing stress and anxiety in your life, you need to make an extra effort to avoid the situation or object.

An example of a stressor would be if something traumatic happened like being embarrassed when giving a speech or presentation. In the future, you're going to make every effort to avoid giving another presentation thereby limiting your anxiety.

The problem with the use of avoidance learning as the only method for reducing anxiety is that avoidance learning does not take into account the mental aspects of anxiety. The cause of an anxiety disorder does not have to be physical; mental images and thoughts can cause heightened anxiety. Any plan for reducing anxiety must include gaining control of damaging thoughts and mental images.

One way to change thought patterns is by limiting time spent thinking. Find a hobby or a distraction that you enjoy, preferably one that has a high degree of mental concentration. Painting and drawing are good examples. With both these activities, your mind is on the task at hand so you have very little time to picture or think about what causes you stress. The main point is to find something you enjoy that can be done for a long period of time.

Relaxation exercises are also good for occupying mental capacity. Relaxation exercises are techniques to relax muscles and relieve tension by using controlled breathing and muscle flexing. They usually involve sitting down in a comfortable chair, closing your eyes and systematically tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in your body, usually starting with the legs and feet.

As you slow down your breathing and work your muscles, you are supposed to mentally put yourself in what you would consider a relaxing situation. The best thing about relaxation exercises is that they can be done almost anywhere and at anytime. Remember to use a sitting position when doing the exercises rather than lying down since you do not want to fall asleep.

Another method of reducing anxiety is desensitization, which involves using relaxation exercises in combination with mentally imagining and dealing with those things that cause you the most anxiety. One common form of this exercise is when you are told to imagine yourself speaking before an audience who is attired only in their underwear. The image of the people in their underwear helps to desensitize your fears and allows you to give you presentation. Another form of desensitization deals with real life situations. In this method, you are put in a situation that causes you stress and then taught how to overcome the anxiety.

In addition to the clinical methods for reducing stress there are at least seven practical methods that can be used to reduce anxiety; I have had problems with anxiety in the past and have used not only the clinical methods described above, but also the following practical ideas to help in reducing anxiety in my life.

  • Exercise. take a walk, play a game of basketball, or ride a bike. The point is to exercise because when you do, your body will release endorphins, which contribute to feeling good.

  • Call a friend when feelings of anxiousness or fear arise. A friend is not a replacement for professional help when needed, but a friend can be there to listen when you are having a bad day. Sometimes letting off a little steam can help relive tension and anxiety.

  • Reduce your caffeine intake. As you probably already know, caffeine is a stimulant. The last thing a person suffering from an anxiety disorder needs is a stimulant.

  • Share a laugh. Nothing breaks the tension like laughing. If you walk around feeling miserable, you will be miserable, but if you laugh life seems better. So if you are down, watch a funny movie or TV show to laugh.

  • Take ten minutes and relax. Do something that you find relaxing: a hot bath, a video game, a book, anything to make you forget for a few moments about your anxious>
  • Get a massage. A good massage will take away some anxiety and tension.

  • Know your personal limits. One of the chief causes of anxiety is when a person takes on more than he can handle. Know your limits as to what you can do and how much you can do. It will go a long way in reducing anxiety in life.
  • Reducing anxiety is not hard to do once a person knows how to it. The one principle to keep in mind is if you have any doubts about reducing anxiety on your own, seek professional help.

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