Mental Health and Mental Illness in the Movies
Depressive Realism

How to Reduce Anxiety

I'm finding that many, many people experience anxiety symptoms, but only know to turn to pharmaceutical interventions for relief.  However, there are other ways to bring anxiety down that you can use instead of or in addition to medication. 

In order to reduce anxiety, it's important to under the following concept:  

Mind, Emotions and Body Are One System

Your thoughts, your feelings and your body all belong to the same system.  Your brain controls and/or generates your thoughts and emotions.  Your brain also interacts with and is affected by your body.  This is important to understand.  If you change what you are thinking, it changes your body.  If you concentrate on the idea of your favorite food, your mouth will begin to water.  Likewise, if you change your body you can change what you are thinking or feeling.  How can you change your body to change your feelings of anxiety?

When a person is anxious, their heart rate rises, their skin temperature rises, their blood pressure rises and their breathing becomes rapid and shallow.  The emotion in your brain is anxiety.  How can you take control of your body and change the emotion in your brain?  Breathe.  It's difficult to control heart rate, blood pressure or skin temperature.  But controlling the rate and depth at which your inhale and exhale is very concrete and very easy.  Focus on your lungs and breathe deeply and slowly.  Try to inflate your lungs all the way down to your navel.  Then slowly exhale.  Continue to do this.  This communicates to your brain that your body is not panicked and will help to bring down your anxiety. 

Just like changing your body can affect your emotions, changing your thoughts can affect your body.  A panic attack is a very physical sensation.  Only with the panic in your brain, your body is reacting as well to the adrenaline surging through it.  Many times when experiencing a panic attack people escalate the terror with their thoughts.  Thinking things like,

"I can't take this."
"I'm going to die."
"I'm having a heart attack."
"I'm going to go crazy."

only escalates the panic.  Take control of your thoughts and your body will follow.  Change the thoughts above to something like this:

"I can take this.  I've done it before.  It's a panic attack.  They usually last about 10 minutes.  I just have to wait 10 minutes and it will all be over.  I'm not having a heart attack.  I will not die.  I will not go crazy.  I feel terrible, but I will survive and it will soon be over."

With these thoughts at least you won't exacerbate what is already happening in your body and you may even bring it down a notch or two.  Taking control of your breathing can further assist your body in calming itself down.

Remembering that mind, body and emotions are all running on the same system can help you develop your own methods for calming yourself.  Practicing yoga, drinking a calming tea, taking a warm bath, and listening to calming music use your body to calm your emotions.  Doing a visualization of a safe, calm or beautiful place, meditating, and controlling your the thoughts rushing through your mind empowers you to use your thoughts to calm your emotions.  Now put them together for an especially powerful "override".  Hold a calming yoga position (body) while meditiating or doing a visualization (mind) to lower anxiety (emotions).  Take a warm bath (body) while visualizing yourself on a beautiful beach (mind). 


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I am just now working with a therapist instead of a psychiatrist because I feel that there should be non medicinal ways for me to deal with anxiety,I do not want to just put it aside I want to deal with it..



Good for you! I respect your courage and determination to face the dragon rather than just medicate yourself into oblivion.

The comments to this entry are closed.