5 Strategies to Calm Your Anxiety Quickly

When you live with an anxiety disorder, any moment can become one that creates a slow-rising panic within you. Life is normal one second and the next, you feel your chest tighten and your heart begin to race. You may begin to hyperfocus on future events and find yourself getting lost in “what-ifs.”

To make matters worse, you may then begin to berate yourself for allowing the panic to get the best of you and begin to believe that all of those what-ifs are indisputable facts.

Luckily there are many powerful tools and techniques you can use to manage your anxiety effectively.

Breathe Deeply

The minute you feel a panic attack coming on, the first thing to do is stop and gain control of your breath. Deep, slow breathing sends a signal to our brains that everything is safe in our environment. Controlled breathing is one of the most powerful ways to activate your body’s relaxation response. It will take your mind and body out of “fight or flight” mode and put it instantly into a calm and relaxed state.

Accept That You are Anxious

It’s important to always remember that anxiety is “just a feeling.” And like all feelings, it can go as quickly as it came. You are having an emotional reaction to a string of thoughts. Accept your anxiety because trying to pretend it’s not happening will only make matters worse.

Let’s be clear – by accepting your anxiety, you are not resigning yourself to a life of eternal misery. You are not throwing in the towel and trying to suddenly like your anxiety. Nope. You are simply living a more mindful existence, being in the moment, and accepting whatever is in that moment with you.

Your Emotions Cannot Kill You

One of the most frightening things about a panic attack is the feeling that you are having a heart attack. But you aren’t. Your brain can and will play tricks on you, trying to get you to believe that you are in physical danger. But the truth is, you are not in physical danger. You are having an episode based on emotions and it will pass. Remind yourself of that as many times as you need to.

Question Your Thoughts

When your panic attack begins, your mind begins to throw out all sorts of outlandish ideas at you, hoping some of them stick. These thoughts are intended to keep the panic attack going.

Before you take any of these thoughts as reality and truth, question them. For instance, if your mind throws things out like, “No one here likes me. I am for sure going to screw this up. I probably left the stove on. And I’ll no doubt get stuck in bad traffic on the way home and maybe even get a flat so I will then be stranded, and on and on and on…”

Questions these ideas. Are you TRULY not liked by everyone around you? Most likely not. Are you really going to screw up? Probably not. Traffic? Well, maybe but a flat tire? Chances are no.

Always question your thoughts. You will usually find the majority aren’t very realistic or probable.

Visualize

Picture somewhere serene that brings you peace and calm. Maybe this is your grandparents’ old house or a lake you’ve visited before. Maybe it’s that fantastic beachfront condo from your last vacation. Just picture it in your mind’s eye and really put yourself there. See it, smell it, feel it. Feel how calm it feels to be in this space that is perfectly comforting and safe.

Use these techniques the next time you experience an anxiety attack. They should help you feel much calmer much sooner.

If you would like to explore treatment options for your anxiety, please get in touch with me. I’d would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES:

 

5 Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep with Anxiety

Affecting nearly 40 million adults in the United States, anxiety is one of the country’s most common mental health disorders. Sleep disturbances such as insomnia are highly prevalent amongst those who suffer from anxiety disorder. If you have trouble falling asleep, it may heighten or trigger your anxiety, and vice versa. While it can be difficult for an anxiety sufferer to fall asleep, it’s not impossible; read on for five ways to get a better night’s sleep.

1. Exercise

Physical activity is an important component for overall health. Exercise will produce chemicals in your brain that will help elevate your mood and decrease your stress or tension, which will provide some relief for your anxiety. Exercise will also help you sleep. Not only will the physical exertion improve the quality of your sleep, it will help insure you’re able to sleep without interruption.

2. Daylight

Daylight helps set sleep patterns, so try to spend at least 30 minutes outdoors during the day time. Daylight sun exposure is critical if you have trouble falling asleep, because it helps to regulate the body’s circadian clock.

3. Healthy Habits

Studies have shown that people who make unhealthy food choices are more likely to suffer from sleep disturbances. Healthy balanced meals will keep your energy stable which will help you manage your mood and improve your sleep habits.

It’s also important to avoid big meals or alcohol for several hours before bedtime. Smoking is another bad habit that can cause many health problems, which will negatively affect your sleep in a number of ways.

4. Night Time Routine

Create a routine that you execute nightly, an hour or two before bedtime. Minimizing screen time will help calm your mind and prepare you for sleep. Change into your pajamas and do some light reading, or find other ways to charge down and get ready to sleep. Make sure you go to bed around the same time every night too, including weekends.

5. A Comfortable Bedroom

Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet, without distractions. Have a window open to keep the room cool and the air smelling fresh. A clean room and clean linens will make your bedroom more inviting. Make sure you have a good quality mattress and pillow to maximize your comfort.

Are you struggling with falling or staying asleep, and need help maintaining healthy sleep habits? A licensed professional can help. Call my office today and let’s schedule an appointment to talk.

4 Subtle Exercises to Calm Anxiety in Public

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults over the age of 18 suffer from an anxiety disorder. If you are one of them, you know how difficult your life can feel most days.

When anxiety strikes, the world around us can become a sort of funhouse, only not that much fun. It’s important to be able to self-soothe in these instances. But how can you calm an anxiety attack subtly when you’re out in public?

 

Breath Work

As soon as you feel the anxiety coming on, focus intently on your breathing and nothing else. Begin to take slow… deep breaths. Inhale for a slow count of three… hold for a count of three… and exhale for a count of three. Slow deep breaths send a signal to our body that we are not under attack and everything is okay.

 

Talk to Yourself

In your mind, remind yourself that you are having an experience but that you are NOT that experience. While you feel that something is wrong, remind yourself that you are actually safe and all is well.

 

Visualize

Think of something that calms you. This may be your childhood bedroom or your grandparent’s home. It could be your favorite beach or your own bathtub. Simply put yourself IN that space. Use your full imagination to feel yourself there and allow the calm to settle over you.

 

Practice Listening Meditation

If you’ve never tried listening meditation, I highly recommend it for everyone. But it can be especially beneficial when you are feeling anxious, and here’s why. Listening requires you to stop thinking. Try it now. Stop reading and instead listen to all of the ambient sounds there in the room with you, outside the door and window.

What do you hear?

Let your sense of hearing grow and grow, picking up more subtle sounds. The buzz of the lights overhead… the noise of the ice maker… a bee at the window… your dog’s collar down the hall…

It’s actually a very fun exercise to do. And in order to REALLY GIVE SOUND YOUR FULL ATTENTION, you can’t think while listening. It’s a bit like trying to juggle while standing on your hands, it simply cannot be done.

Much of our anxiety comes from our anxious thoughts. It’s our reptilian brain trying to keep us alive by alerting us to all of the dangers around us. But when we meditate, this mind chatter goes away.

 

When an anxiety attack comes on, life can feel unbearable. The next time this happens to you in public, try one or more of these techniques.

And if you’d like to speak with someone about your anxiety, please get in touch. I’d be happy to explore treatment options.

Do You Have C-PTSD?

You have most likely heard the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – also known as PTSD. It is used to describe the mental and emotional anguish suffered by those who have experienced sudden trauma. PTSD is often experienced by soldiers as well as those who have been victims of rape and other crimes, and even victims of house fires and car accidents.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) describes a condition that very much presents like PTSD, the difference being the sufferer experienced prolonged periods of abuse or neglect. This could happen as a result of childhood neglect or the abuse suffered at the hands of a narcissistic partner.

Diagnosing C-PTSD

Diagnosing C-PTSD is tricky because the symptoms are usually not very unique. That is to say, someone who is suffering from C-PTSD may be experiencing anxiety and lethargy, but these symptoms match other mental health issues.

But it is very important to accurately diagnose C-PTSD because of the necessary treatment measures. The main difference between C-PTSD and other mental health issues  say, bipolar disorder  is that C-PTSD is a result of things that were done TO an individual, and not an intrinsic problem. In other words, someone suffers from C-PTSD because of abuse and neglect at the hands of another and not because of genetically determined brain chemistry.

To help correctly identify C-PTSD, a therapist must uncover an accurate history to understand if:

  • The individual has experienced multiple prolonged traumas that have lasted for months (or even years)
  • The traumas were caused by someone the individual had a deep interpersonal relationship with and/or someone who was part of their primary care network (most commonly a parent or caregiver)
  • These traumas were experienced as permanent features of life, with the individual unable to see any end in sight
  • The individual had no control or power over the person traumatizing them

Symptoms of C-PTSD

As I just mentioned, the outward symptoms of C-PTSD may match other mental health disorders. Those symptoms include:

  • Flashbacks and nightmares in which the trauma is relived.
  • Avoiding people, places, and situations that remind them of the trauma.
  • Dizziness or nausea when remembering the trauma.
  • Hyperarousal. This is a state of high alert and one they often lived in.
  • A belief that the world is a dangerous place.
  • A loss of trust in self or others.
  • Difficulty sleeping and concentrating.
  • Being startled by loud noises.

Treatment for C-PTSD

There are a few different treatment options for people suffering from C-PTSD:

Psychotherapy

Therapy can take place on a one-to-one basis or in a group setting. The focus will be on addressing feelings, improving connections with others, and dealing with anxiety and flashbacks. Many therapists have had success using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helping people cope with the symptoms of C-PTSD.

EMDR

EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. This is a process that uses eye movement to help a person desensitize their reactions to a specific traumatic event. The result is the person can eventually recall the memory but have no emotional reaction to it.

Medication

Some individuals may need to be on medications for a while to reduce their anxiety. A therapist can work with you to determine if this is the best course of action.

 

If you believe you are suffering from C-PTSD and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

10 Signs You Might Be a “Highly Sensitive Person”

Are you a highly sensitive person (HSP)? If so, you’re not alone. It is estimated that roughly 15 to 20 percent of the population is highly sensitive. In fact, scientists now believe there is a gene behind this trait.

But what does it mean to be highly sensitive? The HSP is generally defined as someone with “acute physical, mental, and emotional responses to external (social, environmental) or internal (intra-personal) stimuli.”

The bad news is, being highly sensitive can make many “normal” life situations feel awkward and downright uncomfortable. But fear not, there are some benefits to being highly sensitive, and I’ll share those a little later in this post.

Signs You May Be a Highly Sensitive Person

If you are curious whether you may be part of the population that is highly sensitive, here are 10 signs to look for:

  1. You are quick to feel negative emotions such as sadness and anxiety.
  2. You may feel physical symptoms in relation to these emotions, such as headaches and muscle tension.
  3. You become overwhelmed with physical stimuli such as sound, light and smells.
  4. You have never felt comfortable around crowds. The energy of the crowd easily overwhelms you.
  5. You become very emotional over the injustices of the world. (you cry or become angry at the thought of children or animals being harmed, as an example)
  6. You often worry what others think of you.
  7. You take things personally.
  8. You have a hard time letting things go and receiving critical feedback.
  9. You avoid most social situations and prefer to stay home alone.
  10. You startle easily to loud noises.

Benefits of Being a Highly Sensitive Person

As I mentioned earlier, while being a HSP can cause you to feel awkward or overwhelmed at times, there are some definite perks to being highly sensitive. For starters, you are someone who can enjoy subtle sensory detail that a majority of the population misses. You get pleasure from noticing the end of day light play. You’ll notice subtle shades of color and texture and feel immense pleasure at the complexities of Indian cuisine.

You’re also someone others like being around because you are aware of others’ feelings, needs and emotions. Because of this natural empathy, HSPs make great teachers, managers and leaders.

HSPs are also incredibly creative. Many artists, musicians and famous actors are highly sensitive people who have gifted the world with their talent and insight into what it means to be human.

As you can see, if you can manage the negative aspects of being a highly sensitive person, you can reap some pretty great rewards.

If you or someone you love suspects they are a HSP and would like to explore treatment options to manage those negative aspects, please get in touch with me. I’d love to discuss how I may be able to help.

4 Healthy Ways to Distract Yourself from Anxiety

Anxiety is a natural dialogue between our mind and body. It’s a red flag that something might be going on in our surroundings that requires our attention.

For most of us, anxiety is an uncomfortable but fleeting feeling that pops up on occasion during particularly stressful times. For some, anxiety may be more present and color more of their daily life. And for still others, anxiety is a constant torture; a nightmare they can’t awaken from.

Depending on your level of anxiety, there are some healthy coping strategies you can use to manage it. Here are 4 I recommend:

Mind Your Mind

How often are you aware of your own thoughts? Our thoughts tend to bubble up from our subconscious without much control from our conscious mind. For those experiencing anxiety, many of these thoughts will be negative and frightening, although the majority will not be based in reality.

Start to pay attention to the thoughts behind the feelings. Instead of thinking the worst will happen, challenge the thought. What is the realistic likelihood the worst will happen on a scale of 1 – 10?

The more you do this, the more you will retrain your mind to process life differently.

Remind Yourself What Anxiety Is

Beyond frightful emotions, anxiety often comes with physical sensations like tightness in the chest, rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath. In other words, it can feel like you are dying.

But you’re not.

You are having a physical response to an irrational fear or thought. Remind yourself of that ancient dialogue your mind and body are having and know that, in reality, you are okay.

Learn Your Triggers

Once you learn to pay attention to your thoughts and remain calm knowing you are having a natural reaction to what you perceive as a threat, find the threat. Observe your surroundings to find the potential trigger that activated your reaction. If there are other people in the room, notice their reaction to your trigger. Do they seem uneasy or concerned in the least? Chances are they don’t because the threat is not real. Store this information away so eventually your subconscious mind will stop thinking of the trigger as a threat.

Breathe

Slow, deep breaths have been shown to instantly calm a person. Your heart rate will slow, your muscles will relax, your entire body will return to a normal state of being. Don’t underestimate the power of just taking a moment to breathe.

If you find you need a bit more help controlling your anxiety, please get in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss treatment options with you.