What exactly can you do about anxiety when it’s rearing its ugly head and taking control of the reigns?
Anxiety can be incredibly scary, and crippling but it’s also very common – step one is knowing you’re not alone, and that you can get back to feeling better.
We spoke to Dr Kieran Kennedy, for some tips. He says focusing on your general health and wellbeing can have a big impact on anxiety, and moving toward understanding it better can help immensely.
Being aware of what anxiety is and when it’s there is the first (and often biggest) step in shifting the reigns back to your control.
Learn what your anxiety looks and feels like for you or your ‘anxiety tells’ so that you can hone in on when it’s starting to spark up – the snowball effect is incredibly common with anxiety, so catching it early is key.
Practice picking up when your anxiety tells are first presenting – feeling brain fogged/overwhelmed, a racing heart or sweaty are key examples. With mild cases especially, it’s surprising how much just picking up on the symptoms and reminding ourselves of what they are (“it’s just anxiety”) can do to help things settle.
For moderate to severe anxiety, medication can be helpful to treat symptoms and bring things back under control.
Research shows in a lot of ways a more psychological approach to tackling anxiety can be just as effective as medication. Psychological techniques and therapy are used to help us key into our anxiety tells and learn ways to manage it.
When anxiety starts to become abnormally severe or frequent, it’s usually because our thoughts and beliefs about it are actually making things worse.
Seeing a therapist or meditation specialist about your anxiety can help you develop techniques to manage the symptoms and sooth your anxiety. Trying simple breathing exercises and distraction can all help quell the beast and take control.
Another technique such as meditation, focusing on the breath, body scanning or concentrating on something in your surroundings are common tools. Apps such as Headspace or Calm are also great ways to practice and learn more about these. With time these techniques will strengthen and can actually help reduce anxiety coming on in the first place.
For most anxiety, psychological and lifestyle changes can make a huge difference, although some people may need medication. It’s vital to discuss this with a doctor. As always, medications come with potential side effects and so the decision to use these should always be a joint decision with your doctor.
It is important to first see a health professional or your GP to talk about the symptoms you’re experiencing and the when, why and what around them.
Certain physical health conditions can overlap with anxiety, or cause similar symptoms so a physical health check is vital when anxiety becomes significant.
It has been found that having overall good health can be important when it comes to anxiety.
Focus on prioritising sleep (aim for 7-8 hours a night), maintain a balanced diet, ensure you are exercising regularly and using social time to unwind.
Excess intake of alcohol and drugs are also common worsening factors in anxiety so make sure the motto is moderation over these coming summer months. Many people are surprised by just how much better their anxiety becomes even when getting these health basics in order.
See your GP, or give your local mental health service a call if you’re really worried. Some great information is available at www.beyondblue.com.au too, so log on and check them out for some awesome resources.
By Dr Kieran Kennedy
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