Category Archives: Anxiety Tips

Anxiety Tip #7: Stress

Stressor: Physical, psychological, or social force that puts real or perceived demands on the body, emotions, mind, or spirit of an individual.” (From BusinessDictionary.com)

Stress is a “a negative reaction to environmental stressors” (Resick, 2001). Stress is a very unusual animal. Too much of it is bad. And too little of it is also bad. There’s actual research that shows that victims of a traumatic event seem to do better if they have some experience of stress prior to the trauma. However, the key here is “some stress”. Victims who have had extreme high stress or very low stress don’t do as well in comparison. Trauma is an extreme form of stress involving something that threatens a person’s life or self (identity, beliefs, etc.) or the life or self of a person close to them (family, friend, co-worker, classmate, etc.). Usually, we don’t experience trauma everyday. However, we do experience stress more often. And this everyday stress, if not monitored, can really hurt you. Prolonged stress can cause your immune system to become compromised, and you tend to get sick more easily. Your body becomes so busy in an effort to deal with the stress you are placing on it that it uses up the energy it needs to construct elements it needs to fortify your immune system. On the flip side, without any stress at all you don’t have an opportunity to see your potential or to strengthen your abilities. For example, when you don’t exercise for several days, weeks, or maybe longer, and then decide to exercise a lot you end up in pain. However, if you exercise everyday and train your body to become use to the stress of exercising daily, it doesn’t feel as painful. The same goes for the bridge below. If the steel that composes the structure of the bridge is never tested prior to building, there is a risk that simply cars and trucks driving over the bridge can cause the bridge to collapse. In the case of someone with an anxiety disorder, stress becomes more complicated. Someone with an anxiety disorder is stressed by situations or things that may not be stressful to someone without an anxiety disorder. For instance, several years ago it was very difficult for me to be in a crowd of people. And I often avoided crowded places. But how could I ever learn how to get over the anxiety, or stress that I felt, if I never put myself in the situation and see for myself that I could be okay there. But how I’ve learned, and am still learning, how to feel okay around other people is a topic for another post. My point here is that stress is a necessary part of life. But you have to measure for yourself how much you can handle. And often you can handle more than you thought you could. However, it’s necessary to keep track of what stresses you and know when you need to stop and take a break. In the same way you eat to be able to function or take a shower everyday to prevent yourself from smelling bad, you have to give yourself daily doses of recovery time. So, don’t avoid the stress. It will most likely make its way into your life in some form or another. Train yourself to live your life and be yourself despite the stress. It helps me to give myself rest in the form of recreation, sleep, prayer, reflection, and relaxation to allow my body, mind, and soul to recover from one bout of stress and be able to withstand the bouts of stress to come. And sometimes it’s necessary to cut out certain activities to lower the stress. I often overwhelm myself with stressors in the form of different tasks I have to do or worries I have in my different roles of mother, wife, student, and worker. And too frequently, I forget to take care of myself. In a way, I’m writing this post not only to inform readers, but also to remind myself to stop and recover.

20120505-215352.jpgFred Hartman Bridge in Baytown, Texas. (Picture taken by Claudia 2012)

References:
Stress and Trauma by Patricia A. Resick (2001)
Related Post:
Anxiety Tip #5: Sleep
Anxiety Tip #3: Music
Anxiety Tip #1: Relaxation

A is for Anxiety


Anxiety Tip #6: Keep it Simple

“My thoughts before a big race are usually pretty simple. I tell myself: ‘Get out of the blocks, run your race, stay relaxed. If you run your race, you’ll win… channel your energy. Focus.'” – Carl Lewis

I chose that quote by the champion runner, Carl Lewis, because it clearly illustrates the idea of keeping things simple to manage anxiety. Looking back at the many times I have had a panic reaction or attack, I’ve noticed each time I feel confused from complicating the situation or task and it feels impossible to get anything done. And when I retreat, relax, and rethink the situation as a task that can be accomplished in simple small steps, the situation doesn’t seem as scary and becomes possible. If I have been very anxious, writing the steps helps. Of course it is not always easy, but repeating the exercise of creating simple steps creates a good habit which becomes a good tool for managing future anxiety reactions or attacks.


Anxiety Tip #5: Sleep

The topic of sleep reminds me of the moon. The photo shows the surface of the moon captured by placing the lens of a disposable camera against a telescope at George Observatory near Houston, TX.

For me, sleep is very important to effectively manage my anxiety. When I don’t get enough sleep, I become easily tired during the day and do not think as clearly as I do when I have slept enough. And dealing with anxiety symptoms is no fun when I can’t think straight because I am tired. And my anxiety symptoms become worse if I have lots of caffeine like coffee to wake up. So the best route is just for me to get enough sleep. Seven hours is enough for me. For my husband he needs around ten hours. My son around eight to nine hours. According to sleep researchers, there is not a set number of hours that you should sleep. The number of hours varies from one person to another. Some people need fewer hours, and some need more. I think the important thing is to find the number of hours of sleep that give you enough rest to feel rested and clear headed in the morning. I know this situation is the ideal. If you factor in stress, worries, physical ailments, and any other factors that can effect your sleep, you encounter some other issues. In this case, I think it is a good idea to resolve as best as you can any factors that you see are affecting your sleep. Finding an activity that relaxes you such as reading, listening to music, or drinking warm milk or tea are good ways to help you prepare yourself to go to sleep. Some activities are not recommended close to bedtime, since they wake you up and may keep you from sleeping. These activities include drinking caffinated drinks, excercising, or staring at a computer screen or phone. In the end, the main thing to remember is sleep is important and everyone needs it.


Anxiety Tip #4: Time

20120130-232658.jpg Something that has made a big difference for me in managing my anxiety symptoms is time. When I have plenty of time to get something done, I am pleasantly calm. But if I feel rushed, no matter how much my anxiety symptoms have diminished, I will still feel some anxiety. So, if I have control over it, I frequently have to remind myself to prioritize and keep distractions to a minimum. In other words, managing time helps manage anxiety.


Anxiety Tip #3: Music

Another thing that has helped me with my anxiety is music. Classical music tends to help the most. When I listen to a relaxing piece such as Canon in D Major, my scalp feels like it is being massaged. The video below is a slide show of pictures set to the piece Canon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel. The video was arranged and posted on Youtube by Kanal tilhørende diemauerdk.

I enjoy many different types of music. I’m hoping to share other favorites in the future. Especially, the relaxing favorites. Maybe I can start a new series of posts on relaxing music for anxiety or other pieces of music for various moods.


Anxiety Tip #2: Support

Support is something else that has helped me manage my anxiety. This support can come from obvious sources such as family and friends. Or the support can be created through interaction with a community or through visiting a psychotherapist, counselor, or psychiatrist. A community can be a church group, support group, special interest group, hobby club, sports club, school organization, or online community. It’s also a good idea to have more than one source of support in case one source is not available. If you have social anxiety, you may want to start with one small group or person. If your anxiety gets too high, don’t give up trying to join a group or talking with someone. Retreat if you have to until your anxiety goes down and try again. Ask for help from a psychotherapist or counselor if it is difficult for you. They can help you set up a schedule to slowly approach the social situation. If the anxiety is still too high, you may need medication from a psychiatrist. Remember quiet alone time is good, but when you isolate yourself too much you risk losing perspective and seeing your world as being worse than it really is.


Anxiety Tip: Relaxation

Practicing a relaxation technique once or twice daily can make managing anxiety easier. Free scripts and MP3 downloads can be found online. A site that I have used is Inner Health Studio. There are other sites online. Explore and find a technique that works for you. Give yourself time to learn and gradually you can feel calmer.


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