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How To Overcome Anxiety

How To Overcome Anxiety

There are millions of people in the world who experience anxiety every day, and it’s important to know how to manage it.

It’s normal to feel a little anxious once in a while. However, when you feel anxiety throughout the day or anxiety that lasts for days, weeks, or even months—and feels uncontrollable or overwhelming—and interferes with your day-to-day activities, you may have an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions in the U.S., affecting 40 million Americans, and they are highly treatable.

Here’s what you need to know, including some guidance on how to find help from mental health services like Brightside Health so you can start feeling like yourself again.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. It’s a fear response selected over time that helps you deal with the unknown and protect you from danger.

Sometimes our bodies create these same symptoms of anxiety when we encounter stressful events or when we worry a lot about various things in our lives like our health, our job performance, relationships, interactions, and more.

About 31.1% of American adults will experience an anxiety disorder during their life. Depending on the type of anxiety that you are diagnosed with, there are different treatments and techniques available for coping.

Anxiety disorders are complex mental health conditions that affect people in many different ways. Sometimes, it can feel like panic or underlying worry. For others, it looks like restlessness and fatigue.

Anxiety disorders occur when your feelings of anxiety are intense, prolonged, and affect your daily activities like work performance, ability to achieve goals, communication with others, and so on.

Signs of anxiety

If you aren’t sure if you or a family member is struggling with an anxiety disorder, here are some of the most common anxiety symptoms:

  • Excessive worry about many issues
  • Difficulty controlling worry
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches
  • Feelings of panic or dread
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Heart palpitations
  • Intrusive thoughts

The particular constellation of symptoms that you experience could be completely different from someone else’s. This is why it’s crucial to know that anxiety presents itself in many different ways.

If you’ve felt one or more of these symptoms, you could be dealing with an anxiety disorder. The best way to treat anxiety symptoms is to seek help from a mental health professional.

Forms of anxiety

Anxiety manifests itself in many forms. When you are able to understand the type of anxiety that you are experiencing, it can help you seek out the best treatment to overcome anxiety.

Common forms of anxiety are:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Specific phobia
  • Panic disorder

A licensed mental health professional, such as a therapist or psychiatric provider, can help with a diagnosis and treatment plan that may include therapy, medication, or both.

Connection between depression and anxiety

Often, anxiety and depression go hand-in-hand, creating a cycle of mental illness. About 60% of people with anxiety also experience depression. They share some common physical symptoms including trouble sleeping, restlessness, and fatigue.

When you get anxious, you may worry about a problem and feel bad about it, which can increase rumination about that problem. The chance of developing depression is much higher when you already have an anxiety disorder. Depression is caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. It can happen at any age but is most common in adults.

Anxiety is partially mediated by the amygdala, the fight, flight, or freeze center in a person’s brain. This happens even when there is not an actual threat in the present situation. The person experiencing anxiety feels like they are in constant danger even when they are not. This means we need to learn how to manage the symptoms.

What are some of the signs that someone might have anxiety and depression?

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Trouble remembering
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Often tired or cranky
  • Panic attacks

How therapy can help

Decades of research have shown that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective tool for treating anxiety.

During therapy, you talk to a licensed therapist who is trained to help you learn adaptive skills that can help you cope better with the symptoms of your anxiety. CBT teaches you various strategies to understand the thoughts you have when you are anxious, and the behaviors you engage in.

The Unified Protocol (UP) is derived from CBT principles and is commonly used for individuals diagnosed with emotional disorders like anxiety and depression. The UP aims to help individuals learn new ways to cope with, manage, and respond to uncomfortable emotions, which can help reduce symptoms. Some of the strategies used in UP involve increasing the person’s emotional awareness and helping them build a tolerance to overcome uncomfortable emotions and situations.

How medication can help

Medication is another treatment option that can work both alone and alongside therapy. 

Antidepressants are often used to treat anxiety and work to balance your brain chemistry—anxiety and depression can be caused by an imbalance in serotonin and/or norepinephrine, two chemicals in your brain that heavily contribute to your mood, how you feel in your day to day, and even how you respond to everyday scenarios. 

Some of the most common types of antidepressant medications for anxiety are SSRIs and SNRIs.

Antidepressants aren’t a quick fix—they take time to work, which may leave you wondering if it is possible to overcome your anxiety. Try to give them time. When used appropriately, they can significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety so you can start feeling like yourself again. Within 12 weeks, 86% of Brightside members experience significant improvement and 71% achieve remission of their symptoms altogether.

Your Brightside provider will analyze over 100 unique data points to match you with the medication most likely to work for your individual needs. From there, they will monitor your treatment and make adjustments until it is just right for you.

A combination of medication and therapy

If you choose to start therapy and medication, it could be the best treatment option for your health. While both of these treatments are effective on their own, they work best in conjunction with one another.

Getting Help With Brightside

Finding quality care in your area can be daunting and difficult at times. That’s why we created Brightside, an online option with appointments available in as little as 48 hours and medication delivered to your doorstep.

You can work with a psychiatric provider as well as a therapist to help treat your anxiety from two different avenues that have been proven to be effective, especially in conjunction with one another. Together, therapy and psychiatry can result in up to a 60% better chance of recovery than one treatment alone. Brightside has affordable plans that give you the opportunity to have regular video consultations and unlimited messaging with your psychiatric provider and unlimited messaging plus weekly video sessions with your therapist.

You can get started by taking our free assessment online.

Lifestyle changes to help with anxiety

While medication and therapy work well to improve anxiety, there are other practices you can do on a day-to-day basis to manage your anxiety symptoms.

  1. Practice mindfulness, which is all about being aware and conscious of your thoughts and feelings. One key antidote to anxiety is to practice staying in the present, acknowledging your anxiety symptoms as they pass through your conscious awareness, then focusing back on the present moment. Here are a few mindfulness techniques:
    • Use your five senses. Focus on where you are, as well as what you feel, hear, taste, and see to engage yourself in the present moment. 
    • Try the 3-3-3 rule for anxiety. Start by finding 3 things you see. Then locate 3 things you hear. Then pick 3 parts of your body and move them while appreciating the sensation of motion that this creates.
    • Practice deep breathing exercises. Breathe in for a count of four seconds, hold for a count of four, then exhale for a count of six.
  2. Decrease your caffeine intake. While most of us look forward to that hot cup of coffee or chai latte first thing in the morning, consuming high amounts of caffeine can mimic symptoms of anxiety such as feeling jittery and restless. Try lowering your caffeine intake where you can, such as switching to half-caff coffee or opting for herbal teas over espresso.
  3. Exercise to release endorphins, which allows you to feel happy and relaxed. Getting outside for at least 30 minutes a day will significantly reduce your chance of getting diabetes or high blood pressure too.
  4. Journal to help you acknowledge and release your worries instead of bottling them up and ruminating about them over and over. Write down a list of the top ten things that are bothering you and work on letting them go.
  5. Eat a balanced diet and drink enough water to set your body up for success. Sometimes a nutrient imbalance and dehydration can worsen feelings of anxiousness— make sure you eat a nutrient-rich diet to support your health.
  6. Get involved in a volunteer activity or hobby to keep your mind occupied. Too much time alone can impact your well-being and doing some good in the world can help you feel more positive.
  7. Practice sleep hygiene. This includes spending time winding down each night before going to sleep. Avoid screens and phones for at least 30 minutes before bed. Do relaxing activities like reading an enjoyable book, listening to relaxing music, or just taking some time to sit and chat with your partner, family members, or roommates. This will help your mind unwind and detach from the stressors of the day.

In summary

Everyone feels a little anxious sometimes, but when that anxiousness lasts and starts to disrupt your daily life, you may have an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are fairly common in the United States and are highly treatable with medication, therapy, or a combination of both.

In addition to that, there are coping strategies and lifestyle changes that you can work on alongside your personalized treatment plan to help you better manage symptoms. These strategies include practicing mindfulness, following proper sleep hygiene, and getting enough exercise.

However helpful these strategies may be, professional help is often needed so your anxiety doesn’t get worse. To get started with guidance and feel like yourself again, talk to a Brightside mental health professional from home. 

 

Sources:

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/anxiety-medication.htm 

https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ajp.2020.20030305 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/depression-and-anxiety/faq-20057989

https://www.acpsych.org/content/documents/frank_up.pdf

Dr Erin O Callaghan profile photo

Medically reviewed by:
Erin O'Callaghan, PhD
Director of Therapy

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