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Anxiety

“The presence of anxiety, of a depressive mood or of a conflict within the mind, does not stamp any individual as having a psychological problem because, as a matter of fact, these qualities are indigenous to the species.” Charles Goodstein, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University Langone Medical Center

Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worry. Anxiety affects how we feel and how we behave. Anxiety can also negatively affect our biology.

Is Anxiety Justified?

For most of us it is completely natural to experience anxiety and worry during stressful situations. The world in which we live has evolved at such a rapid pace that the feeling of stress, worry, and anxiety has become one of the predominant feelings our species experiences throughout the day. While many studies suggest that a “little stress” is healthy and justified for educational and vocational achievement (such as a test, examination, recital, or interview), creating ANY amount of anxiety (no matter how short lived) has mental and physical side effects. Anxiety and worry are emergency chemicals released into your neurosystem to help you in times of immediate danger. Unfortunately, your mind can perceive danger hours, weeks, months, even years in advance. If these feelings last throughout the day, then it is no different than leaving a faucet on. These “emergency chemicals” flood your biological system causing:

  • Difficulty concentrating, distractive thoughts, and feeling as if the mind is going "blank"
  • Body fatigue and feeling easily tired
  • Irritability
  • Sleep issues (trouble falling, staying asleep, or having sleep that is not restful)
  • Muscle tension and trauma
  • Heart disease
  • Skin breakouts
  • Digestive Issues (IBS)
  • Restlessness or feeling edgy (becoming startled very easily)
  • And too many other issues to list here (you get the point)

Is Anxiety Necessary For Our Survival?

Unfortunately, anxiety has become an accepted state of mind. This is why many of our species spend the weekend recovering from the week. The creators of the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (our society’s attempt at defining, generalizing, and diagnosing dysfunctional states of mind) believes that “anxiety” is not “dysfunctional” until you feel tense and anxious day after day for six months or longer. Well, it dose not take six months for anxiety to affect you negatively. It can take a month, a week, or just an hour for anxiety to negatively affect your life. But, because people think it is “just a part of life” they do not realize that “anxiety” is often an unnecessary and misused emotion.

For example: “Test anxiety” mentally cripples millions of people each day, preventing them from successfully using their mind. If someone has failed a test in the past, and becomes afraid of failing in the future, then their mind becomes filled with a de-habilitating neurological chemical that can prevent him/her from thinking, which creates a self-fulfilling prophesy as it causes him/her to fail his/her next test. But, many studies suggest that a little anxiety is good for the test taker because a fear of failing can motivate someone to study. Fear is a great motivator, but it is not the best motivator. Fear has mental and physical side effects. Life goals can (and should) be accomplished without fear, without anxiety, and without worry.

Anxiety Disorders:

When does Anxiety become a “disorder”? If anxiety lasts for over six months one can be defined as having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Social Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), or Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Each anxiety disorder has different symptoms, but all the symptoms cluster around excessive, irrational fear and dread. Even when they are defined with a disorder, and become aware that their worries or fears are stronger than needed, they often still have difficulty controlling them. About 40 million American adults age 18 years and older (about 18%) have been defined with an anxiety disorder according to one of many studies on the subject. Those are just the people that have been diagnosed, many others haven’t thought of seeking diagnoses. Whether diagnosed with a disorder or not, anyone experiencing anxiety can learn how to reduce the cause and/or symptoms so that they can lead a happier and healthier life.

Dealing With Anxiety

Counseling and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, calming exercises, physical exercise, and pranayama breathing practices (yoga breath work) can all help in alleviating your anxiety.  Also avoid caffeine, hard street drugs, and cold medicines that act like amphetamines. Try to get enough rest and eat healthy foods. Try relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation. Be sure to exercise; there's evidence that moderate physical activity can have a calming effect body and mind. Amy Weintraub, in her book Yoga Sills For Therapists, shows how sound can also help alleviate anxiety as it “alters cellular functions and biological systems, through entrainment, to function more homeostatically”.

With time you can learn how to life a life with less anxiety and less worry. You body become healthier and your mind will become a more pleasant place in which to live.

For more information on therapy for anxiety please contact me by phone or email.

 
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