You’ve identified your anxiety disorder and maybe even sought treatment. What if treatment hasn’t taken hold yet, and your anxiety still interferes with daily life?
The answer is self-care. Self-care is your super-hero if anxiety is your foe. It’s anxiety’s Kryptonite.
Carrying a heavy burden
Imagine walking around with a 40-pound backpack as you go through your daily activities. You head to work, walk the dog and pick up groceries, all while carrying a heavy backpack.
By evening, probably earlier, your muscles are tense and you feel drained from the exertion. So, you allow yourself to set the pack down for a few minutes, maybe just five minutes. You’d notice the weight lifted, right?
When you get back up, your body may not feel totally recovered, but you’ll probably feel better than you did a few minutes before the break. The break is noticeable.
This is what Abigail Powers Lott, Phd., wants sufferers of anxiety disorders to remember on days when chronic anxiety seems to have the upper hand. Taking a short break, even five minutes, will bring some relief.
Lott is an assistant professor at Emory University’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in Atlanta. She is also the clinical and education director of Emory’s Grady Trauma Project and member of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).
“It's really important to think about what's important to you, and what you value,” added Lott. “Work to engage in those activities as fully as you’re able, despite the anxiety. Having some “wins” in your day is important with offsetting the tough stuff,” she continued.
Grip on Gotham
Let’s consider anxiety’s grip on the public. According to Anxiety.org (link: https://www.anxiety.org/what-is-anxiety#what-is-anxiety), more than 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders with only one-third of adults seeking treatment. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States and come at a cost of $42 billion dollars annually.
So, you’re far from alone.
“Anxiety causes so much distress and makes it hard to function and cope,” said Lott. “One of the most important things you can do for yourself is engage in self-care and treat yourself with self-compassion,” Lott continued. Eating a balanced diet, getting good sleep and avoiding mood-altering substances are just a few simple ways to help with the stress of an anxiety disorder, especially if you are waiting for treatment to take hold.
Fighting back with self-care
Lott suggested progressive muscle relaxation when you lay down. “It can help both distract from the anxious thoughts in your head and get your body into a deeper state of relaxation.”
Work out the anxiety. While exercising may be the last thing you feel like doing, even a short burst of activity, like a 10-minute walk, can relieve some symptoms of anxiety. According to the ADAA’s article “Exercise for Stress and Anxiety,” (link: https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/managing-anxiety/exercise-stress-and-anxiety) the stress you feel in your brain extends to the rest of your body. And, while the brain impacts how the body feels, the reverse is true as well. Get your body moving and feeling a little better to send some endorphins to the brain.
Practice daily mindfulness exercises. According to Lott, the goal of mindfulness is to experience the present moment in a non-judgmental way. “When we're anxious, we spend a lot of time in our minds thinking of the what-ifs” explained Lott. She suggests learning simple breathing and grounding exercises to bring yourself into the present. Engaging in daily activities like walking or stretching mindfully is also helpful, said Lott, by giving your body a break from the tension.
Living with chronic anxiety requires a hero’s strength. Don’t discount the toll anxiety disorders take on daily life, relationships, career choices and more. Ask for help from a professional trained in treating anxiety.
Resources: The Therapists at Path to Hope Counseling can help! Reach out today at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Need more intensive services for anxiety? Triangle Springs offers Inpatient, Intensive outpatient and Partial Hospitalization programs. Check them out https://trianglesprings.com/what-we-treat/mental-health/anxiety/
Looking for a Group to help with anxiety? Check out https://adaa.org/supportgroups.