If you suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, by all means seek help. Treatments and counseling are better now than ever. But even if you don’t have GAD, you may still be concerned about the amount of worry and anxiety you are feeling. Here are some tips from the American Academy of Family Physicians on coping with anxiety:
Control your worry. Pick a place and time to do your worrying. Make it the same time and same place every day. Spend 30 minutes thinking about your concerns and what you can do about them. Try not to dwell on what “might” happen. Focus more on what’s really happening.
You can learn ways to help you relax. These may include muscle relaxation, yoga, biofeedback, and deep breathing. Muscle relaxation is easy. Start by choosing a muscle and holding it tight for a few seconds. Then relax the muscle. Do this with all of your muscles. Try starting with your feet and working your way up your body.
Confront the things that have made you anxious in the past. Start by just picturing yourself confronting these things. After you begin to feel more comfortable envisioning that, you can begin to actually face them.
In the process, you might find it helpful to make a list of things that cause you to feel anxious. Start with the thing that causes you the least anxiety and work your way up. If you feel yourself getting anxious, practice one of your relaxation techniques or focus on a simple task such as counting backward.
Label the level of your fear from zero to 10 and watch it go up and down. Notice that it doesn’t stay at a very high level for more than a few seconds. When the fear comes, accept it. Wait and give it time to pass without running away from it.
Exercise regularly. People who have anxiety often quit exercising, but exercise can give you a sense of well-being and help decrease your stress.
Get plenty of sleep. Don’t rely on alcohol or drugs. It may seem that alcohol or drugs relax you, but in the long run, they worsen anxiety and depression.
Avoid caffeine, a stimulant found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate. Caffeine may increase your sense of anxiety. Also avoid over-the-counter diet pills and supplements that contain ephedra (Ma huang) and other stimulants.
If you are still feeling crippling anxiety, discuss your feelings with your physician. He or she may prescribe medicine to help reduce anxiety while you learn new ways to respond to the things that cause it.
Talk about your anxiety with your doctor. This is important so your doctor can make sure your plan is working. You may also need to see a counselor. Counseling can help you learn to express your needs and cope with your feelings. Support groups can also be helpful, both during counseling and to bolster your sense of security afterwards.
Remember that although feelings of anxiety are scary, they won’t hurt you. The most important thing is to take action. Any action you take will help, because it will give you a sense of control over your anxiety.
American Academy of Family Physicians. Anxiety and Panic–Gaining Control Over Your Feelings. http://www.aafp.org/afp/20000301/1533ph.html