Learning to cope with anxiety can be hard journey. From straddling day-to-day tasks to managing relationships, life’s daily requirements can be a challenge.
Part of learning to cope with your anxiety stems from understanding the root of the disorder. That means the fundamentals like what anxiety is and how it affects the brain.
We’ve unpacked all of this, and more, within this blog post. Learn more about this disorder and a range of techniques that can help you begin to approach and deal with your anxiety.
Anxiety vs. Anxiety Disorders
According to its clinical definition, anxiety is a state that consists of both physical and psychological symptoms brought on from apprehension of a perceived threat. Now, anyone can experience moments of anxiety. We’ve all had those moments of utter fear and panic. Many of us have even experienced a full-blown anxiety attack when the symptoms get bad.
Anxiety disorders are something different. These include:
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety
- Separation anxiety
- Certain phobias
The most common is general anxiety disorder. It’s a mental illness associated with constant feelings of anxiety. It’s characterized by excessive worry (especially about things that don’t require any worry).
Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with GAD or one of the other disorders listed above, your moments of anxiety are still just as real. Those with GAD just have those moments much more frequently.
What Anxiety Does to Our Brains
You might be thinking that anxiety seems a lot like stress. On the surface level, you’re right. They look a lot alike to the untrained eye. Anxiety is actually a result of stress, however.
Stress is caused by outside triggers. Anxiety, on the other hand, doesn’t always have a real source. It’s an internal response, which can make it harder to understand.
So, do we even know what happens in our brains when we’re experiencing anxiety? We do!
The main culprits are the amygdala and the hippocampus. The amygdala serves as a kind of communications hub deep in your brain that receives sensory signals and passes them along to the part of your brain that processes them. There are a lot of emotional memories stored in the amygdala that can get in the way of this communications process. When you experience anxiety, some of those negative memories can get mixed into the signals and cause the uncomfortable feelings.
The hippocampus, on the other hand, is responsible for storing threats into your memory. Studies have shown that those with anxiety or PTSD have smaller hippocampuses. However, we’re still trying to figure out what causes this shrinkage and how it plays into anxiety symptoms.
Coping With Anxiety
No one is immune to moments of anxiety. It’s part of what makes us human. Our flight or fight response dates back to the beginning of life on earth. Cave men and women needed instinct to respond quickly to threats. If there was a dangerous predator nearby, their sympathetic nervous system kicked in and told them to fight or flight.
In this case, panic is helpful. There are modern cases where it’s helpful, too. For instance, your quick reaction to a potential car crash could save your life.
Most moments of anxiety aren’t that helpful, though. We freak out about something that’s not a big deal.
Here are a few things to try next time you enter panic mode:
1. Natural Supplements:
These are short-term solutions that can help people to relax in the moment and bring them back to planet earth. Some of the most-loved natural remedies include 5-HTP, Magnesium, and GABA. Make sure to do your own research and talk to your doctor before taking these supplements. They can help, but only when they’re consumed mindfully.
Breathing techniques can be incredibly powerful during a panic attack. An easy one to use is called “square breathing.”
- Simply close your eyes and picture a square.
- Then, trace the square in your mind with your breath.
- Begin with the top side of the square and breathe out for four seconds.
- Then, move clockwise to the right side of the square.
- Breathe in for four seconds.
- Repeat these steps with the bottom and left sides of the square.
- Keep going if you need to! You can employ this technique at any moment, any where, without any supplies needed.
There are a few great pressure points to turn on when you’re feeling stressed. A few of them are just below the clavicle, on either side of your eyebrows, and crease of the wrist. Simply holding a bit of pressure on these spots with your fingers and breathing for a few seconds can provide instant relief. Even if it doesn’t, it’s a distracting ritual that might take away from your panic for a few moments.
Many medical professionals tout mindfulness meditation as one of the best strategies to cope with anxiety. Meditation is another remedy that can be done anywhere. You don’t have to follow any fancy meditation practice. Simply bring awareness to where you are, what you’re doing, and how you’re feeling. Start by going through the 5 senses and identifying what you’re experiencing from each.
5. Professional Help:
When nothing else works, medication can be a saving grace. It’s great when you can find non-medication coping mechanisms, but those doesn’t always do the trick. Anxiety is indicative of a chemical imbalance in the brain. With special medications, that imbalance can be reset.
We believe that seeking professional treatment when suffering with mental health problems can be the best treatment method. Our experts at Clear Recovery Center can offer solutions to teens and young adults with anxiety to help them feel a little less alone in their struggle. Call us today if you think your child might be struggling with anxiety.