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Anxiety & Specific Phobias

Stress is a fairly normal part of life for most people. What is abnormal, is anxiety or phobias which make daily living unmanageable. Here's a quick checklist to help determine if you need to see a counselor:

- Over the past 3 months, have you felt excessively worried more days than not?

- Has the worry you felt often seemed “irrational,” or out of proportion with the situation, but beyond your control to “reason away?”

- Have there been times you couldn’t identify what exactly was causing your anxiety?

- Have you had trouble falling or staying asleep?

- Have you had more difficulty concentrating on work or school than usual?

- When you’ve felt worried over the past three months, have you experienced tightness in your chest, shortness of breath, a pounding heart, or a feeling of choking? 

- Have you found yourself avoiding situations that you think may cause more anxiety?

- Over the last year, has your use of drugs or alcohol negatively impacted your home or work life, yet persisted regardless? 

- Have you been unusually irritable? 

- Do you find it difficult to "shut off" or disengage from worry, (even at times when the worry seems initially warranted)? 

If you answered "yes" to the majority of these questions, it might be time to schedule a visit with a licensed professional. There is hope for reducing your anxiety!

Woman laying on bed

Try These Hacks for Reducing Anxiety

By Joel Daugherty, LPC

If you've ever suffered from anxiety, you understand how debilitating it can be. About 5 years ago, I had my first and only panic attack, which I'll never forget. I literally thought I was dying and almost drove myself to a hospital. A panic attack is a sudden, overwhelming surge of anxiety and fear that mimics a heart attack. Panic attacks are induced by stress. That made sense. It was one of the most stressful periods of my life.

Anxiety is a serious issue that many people face everyday. A study by Dr. Michael Freeman, a clinical professor at University of California, San Francisco, found that nearly half of 242 people surveyed reported having one or more lifetime mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults, a whopping 18 percent of the population.

If your anxiety is getting out of control, you can reduce it with these helpful hacks.

1. Convince your brain that you're safe

Deep breathing is a commonly suggested way to manage anxiety. By using diaphragmatic breathing (deep breathing), you send a message to your nervous system (via your body) to calm down. A person in danger is not going to breath calmly. Deep breathing for a few minutes sends the brain a message that you're not actually in any danger. This puts your body into relaxation mode instead of fight-or-flight mode. If any part of your brain is sending signals that you're under threat (and in reality, you're not), beat the fear by gently talking yourself out of it. Through deep breathing, you can convince that part of your brain sending you into fight-or-flight mode that you are okay.

2. Practice positive thinking

Easier said than done, right? But if you're feeling anxious, try to remunerate your blessings and the good things going on in your life right now. Start a list of things you are thankful for. Go outside and get some fresh air. Put on your earbuds and start listening to your favorite relaxing music while going for a brisk walk. Try to take your mind away from what's bothering you. Focus as you walk on positive thoughts that will make you feel safe, accepted, loved, and honored. Think about the family and friends you love, and those family and friends who love you. 

3. Journal to release your emotions

Journaling about your fears and anxieties helps process how you really feel, which can facilitate the healing process. Using a notebook, write these headings at the top of a page: 1) Situation; 2) Thoughts (what am I telling myself?); 3) How anxious do I feel? Write down a short sentence about the situation and the date so you can monitor your progress. Most importantly, write down any thoughts you're having, either in anticipation of, or during a situation, that causes anxiety and stress. What negative thoughts are you telling yourself? Are the thoughts true, or do they come from an irrational fear? In the third column, rate how you feel on a scale of one to 10, and write a few words to describe how you feel. Once you get clarity on what's happening in your emotions, you can look at needed actions to move forward.

4. Accept that you can't control everything

Often, worry is the direct result of trying to control people, things, or certain situations that are actually well beyond your control. Understanding that you can't and shouldn't control everything and releasing your worry will help you manage your emotions in a more productive way. Focus on the things that are in your control, slow down, and take one thing at a time. Now, refocus on what's immediately in front of you, one day at a time, one step at a time. Releasing your attempt to control people and situations will help ease some of the discomfort you're experiencing from your anxiety.

5. Expose yourself to fear

Though it might seem counterproductive, exposing yourself your greatest fears is a great way to overcome them. No matter what you you fear, by facing it for a long-enough period of time, the illusion of fear will eventually fade. When you figure out the thing that you fear, it's usually the most important thing you need to make yourself more successful in life's journey.

6. Try mindfulness

A growing body of research in neuroscience suggests that mindfulness is one of the best-kept secrets for helping people deal with anxiety. You can practice mindfulness by intentionally focusing on your emotions and accepting in a nonjudgmental way whatever thoughts and sensations you're experiencing in the moment. Matt Tenney, author of The Mindfulness Edge, summarizes it like this: "We train our awareness so that we become less distracted by our own thinking, which allows us to enjoy our lives more, to be more present with people, and to see our world, both inner and outer, with greater clarity."

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