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Anxiety? I Can Help.

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Anxiety? I Can Help.

“Self-care is how you take your power back.” — Lalah Delia

Anxiety? I Can Help.
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Tara Dufour

2/25/22

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Take Your Power Back


I personally know anxiety and how it can affect a person’s ability to work, study and participate in life. Anxiety ranges from general anxiety to various anxiety disorders and at times it’s hard to know which level of anxiety we are personally dealing with. My life as a Mental Health Advocate and a Virtual Transformational Coach diagnosed with her own mental health condition, I hear the word Anxiety a lot. Now anxiety is not my core problem but for me and my clients it’s like a ride along, ghost passenger ready to haunt us when our mental health is weakened. I tell my clients anxiety symptoms are like a warning system. One that tells me, I need to pay more immediate attention to my personal selfcare and routine pronto. If I don’t the anxiety is just the precursor to a much larger problem.


It used to be hard for me to talk about my mental health condition but now it’s easy because I want others to know possible recovery from severe forms of anxiety and good management is achievable with many other types of disorders with appropriate care and treatment.


Now you might be thinking… I don’t have a mental health problem; this isn’t an article for me. Years ago, I thought the same but since then I have come to realize we all have mental health like physical health. If we ignore our physical well-being it can eventually cause illness or other health concerns. Your emotional and mental health is the same. We should care and love our emotional and mental selves to also prevent any temporary or long-term complications.


One out of every three Americans will suffer a mental health crisis at least once in their life. Most are brought on by trauma, grief, stress, and this articles culprit prolonged, untreated anxiety.


Before we go any further, a quick disclaimer this article is written to enlighten and educate individuals about anxiety. It is not medical advice, nor is it written by a medical professional. If you are suffering from anxiety symptoms, believe you have or are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Please discuss or contact a medical professional before acting on any generalized information or suggestion made by this article.


Anxiety symptoms can be distressing and debilitating for anyone. Anxiety disorders take it a step further and may contribute to the loss of educational pursuits and employment opportunities and may produce difficulties in family and social relationships. There are different types of anxiety disorders. This article will not focus on these, but I want to make a quick mention of them just in case you have been diagnosed with or relate to one. I appreciate your interest and if you struggle, I celebrate your courage to learn more and put your knowledge into action.


Some types of anxiety disorders:

  • obsessive compulsive disorder

  • panic disorder (and panic disorder with agoraphobia)

  • social anxiety disorder

  • specific phobias

  • post-traumatic stress disorder

  • generalized anxiety disorder

  • body-focused repetitive behaviors

  • hoarding.

My focus is on the non-clinical anxiety we all experience and the daily management of it. The kind of garden variety anxiety that can over grow and take over our whole garden if we don’t intervene. 


There are many anxiety management techniques that we all can benefit from daily. Now, I am aware you can learn numerous strategies yourself (using books or taking courses, for example) or you can consult with a trained professional, if your anxiety seems out of your control and is causing serious impairment.


But what about the high functioning individuals with hectic lifestyles, high pressure careers, or those who just feel over stimulated by their lives they just need a few quick tips to alleviate the overwhelm before it produces a full-blown panic attack.


I have compiled a list of the tools that have served me well for over a decade. Most work for more than just relief of anxiety symptoms, they are wonderful daily tools to help optimize my emotional and mental wellbeing.

Daily Emotional & Mental Wellness Tools


Some of the options for anxiety include:

  • learning about anxiety

  • mindfulness/journaling

  • relaxation techniques

  • correct breathing techniques

  • dietary adjustments

  • consistent sleep schedule

  • 20-60 mins of daily exercise

  • learning to be assertive

  • building self-esteem

  • structured problem solving

  • seeking a therapist

  • working with a healthcare provider

  • medication

  • support groups

Learning about emotional and mental wellbeing

The adage ‘knowledge is power’ applies here – learning is central to maintaining good emotional and mental wellbeing and to aid in recovery from an emotional or mental condition or crisis. For example, education includes examining the physiology of the ‘flight-or-fight’ response, which is the body’s way to deal with impending danger. For people with anxiety disorders, this response is inappropriately triggered by situations that are generally harmless. Education is an important way to promote control over symptoms.


Mindfulness & Journaling


When feeling anxious, a person can spend a significant amount of time caught up in anxiety-provoking thoughts. Mindfulness and Journaling guides us to bring our attention back to the present moment and unhook from thoughts that may be unhelpful.

Mindfulness and Journaling, are self-awareness tools that are becoming more and more popular as people start to realize how beneficial self-awareness is as a holistic approach to not only are mental and emotional health but our physical wellbeing. There are many resources available help you develop a mindfulness practice such as journaling.


There is one on the Wild Roots Gathering Store. Be Dazzled, a daily mindfulness devotional and five-minute journal. It’s focused on your identity helping you build self-esteem while teaching you three daily mindfulness techniques to encourage positivity, gratitude, and self-reflection.


Relaxation techniques 


A person who feels racy or anxious most of the time has trouble relaxing but knowing how to release muscle tension can be a helpful strategy. Relaxation techniques include:

  • progressive muscle relaxation

  • abdominal breathing (deep breathing exercise)

  • isometric relaxation exercises

  • Professionally guided TRE (trauma release exercises)

Correct breathing techniques


The physical symptoms may be triggered by hyperventilation, which raises oxygen levels and reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood. Carbon dioxide assists in the regulation of the body’s reaction to stress, anxiety, and panic. 

It can be helpful for a person who suffers from anxiety to learn how to breathe from their diaphragm, rather than their chest, to safeguard against hyperventilation. The key is allowing your belly to expand as you breathe in. 

You can make sure you are breathing correctly by placing one hand on your lower abdomen and the other on your chest. Correct breathing means your abdomen moves, rather than your chest. It also helps to slow your breathing while feeling anxious. 

Some people can find abdominal breathing challenging. There are many other breathing techniques that you can try. You can also try to hold your breath for a few seconds. This helps to boost carbon dioxide levels in the blood.


Dietary adjustments


Do you crave chocolate? Chocolate contains trace amounts of magnesium combined with sugar giving us a temporary relief from minor stress. It’s not a god choice honestly, but it may be a sign you’re in need of magnesium. The mineral magnesium helps muscle tissue to relax, and a magnesium deficiency can contribute to many mental and physical health symptoms including anxiety, depression, insomnia and headaches, leg cramps and constipation. Inadequate intake of vitamin B and calcium can also exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Make sure your daily diet includes foods such as wholegrain cereals, leafy green vegetables, and reduce dairy products.

Nicotine, caffeine, and stimulant drugs (such as those that contain caffeine) trigger your adrenal glands to release adrenaline, which is one of the main stress chemicals. These are best avoided. Other foods to avoid include salt and artificial additives, such as preservatives. Choose fresh, unprocessed foods whenever possible.


Exercise and physical activity


The physical symptoms of depression and anxiety can be greatly improved by exercise. Anxiety symptoms for example are caused by the ‘flight-or-fight’ response, which floods the body with adrenaline and other stress chemicals. Exercise burns up stress chemicals and promotes relaxation and regular sleep and eating patterns. Physical activity is another helpful way to manage anxiety and depression. Aim to do some physical activity at least three to four times every week and vary your activities to avoid boredom.


Learning to be assertive


Being assertive means communicating your needs, wants, feelings, beliefs, and opinions to others in a direct and honest manner without intentionally hurting anyone’s feelings. A person with an anxiety disorder may have trouble being assertive because they are afraid of conflict or believe they have no right to speak up. However, relating passively to others lowers self-confidence and reinforces anxiety. Learning to behave assertively is central to developing a stronger self-esteem.


Building self-esteem


People with anxiety disorder often have low self-esteem. Feeling worthless can make the anxiety worse in many ways. It can trigger a passive style of interacting with others and foster a fear of being judged harshly. Low self-esteem may also be related to the impact of the anxiety disorder on your life. These problems may include:

  • isolation

  • feelings of shame and guilt

  • depressed mood

  • difficulties in functioning at school, work or in social situations.

The good news is you can take steps to learn about and improve your self-esteem. Engaging in a supportive community, interests’ group, church, or team sport and you may even consider personal therapy/counselling to cope with these problems.


Structured problem solving


Some people with anxiety disorders are ‘worriers’, who fret about a problem rather than actively solve it. Learning how to break down a problem into its various components – and then decide on a course of action – is a valuable skill that can help manage generalized anxiety and depression. This is known as structured problem solving.


Medication/Supplements


We are talking about daily tools to help manage anxiety; However, I think it is important to note most of us don’t need medication however, others use supplements or medication as part of their self-care routine.

It is important that medications are seen as a short-term measure, rather than the solution to anxiety disorders. 

Research studies have shown that psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavior therapy, are much more effective than medications in managing anxiety disorders in the long term. Your doctor may prescribe a brief course of antidepressants to help you deal with your symptoms while other treatment options are given a chance to take effect.


Community and education


Community allows people with anxiety to meet in comfort and safety and give and receive support. They also provide the opportunity to learn more about themselves and to develop health social skills and networks.

If you need help? Don’t hesitate to reach out.

·  A Medical Healthcare Provider, General Practitioner

  • Psychologist

  • Therapist or Counsellor

  • Your local community health center

  • Mental Health Advocate (non-medical professional, a confidential mentor, provides support, guidance, and accountability, through the clinical evaluation, diagnosis and treatment, maintenance plan process.)    


Bonus: New clients often ask what cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and Behavior Therapy are and what is the difference. I added a summary description to this article as a perk!



Cognitive therapy


Cognitive therapy focuses on changing patterns of thinking and beliefs that are associated with, and trigger, anxiety. For example, a person with a social phobia may make their anxiety worse by negative thoughts such as, ‘Everyone thinks I’m boring’. 

The basis of cognitive therapy is that beliefs trigger thoughts, which then trigger feelings and produce behaviors. For example, let’s say you believe (perhaps unconsciously) that you must be liked by everyone to feel worthwhile. If someone turns away from you in mid-conversation, you may think, ‘This person hates me’, which makes you feel anxious. 

Cognitive therapy strategies include rational ‘self-talk’, reality testing, attention training, cognitive challenging and cognitive restructuring. This includes monitoring your self-talk, challenging unhelpful fears and beliefs, and testing out the reality of negative thoughts.


Behavior therapy


A major component of behavior therapy is exposure. Exposure therapy involves deliberately confronting your fears to desensitize yourself. Exposure allows you to train yourself to redefine the danger or fear aspect of the situation or trigger. 

The steps of exposure therapy may include:

  • Rank your fears in order, from most to least threatening.

  • Choose to work first on one of your least threatening fears.

  • Think about the feared situation. Imagine yourself experiencing the situation. Analyze your fears -– what are you afraid of?

  • Work out a plan that includes several small steps – for example, gradually decrease the distance between yourself and the feared situation or object, or gradually increase the amount of time spent in the feared situation.

  • Resist the urge to leave. Use relaxation, breathing techniques and coping statements to help manage your anxiety.

  • Afterwards, appreciate that nothing bad happened.

  • Repeat the exposure as often as you can to build confidence that you can cope.

  • When you are ready, tackle another feared situation in the same step-by-step manner.

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