Beating Worry and Anxiety

    Almost everyone has felt uneasy, nervous or jumpy at times.  If you are worried about the economy, dealing with a difficult family member or having to give a speech, you may feel anxious. For some people though,worry and anxiety can be much more intense and disabling and be catagorized as an anxiety disorder.  Approximately 40 million American adults, at some point during their lives, will experience anxiety that is so persistent and life-altering that it hinders their ability to function normally.

     According to the National Comorbidity Survey, one in four Americans may experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetime.  This may be evidenced as an acute or episodic anxiety disorder such as a phobia or as a long-term or chronic one such as generalized anxiety disorder. Besides the emotional effects associeted with anxiety, health effects include fatigue, tension headaches, diarrhea and high blood pressure.

     Because of the physical symptoms, many people begin their search for relief with their medical doctor.  Doctors typically prescribe antidepressants such as Imipramine (Tonafril) and desipramine (Norpramin, Pertofranel) or  anti-anxiety drugs, such as alprazolam (Xanax) for persistent anxiety.  Other anti-anxiety medications include clonazepam (Klonopin) and lorazepam (Ativan).  There are advantages and disadvantages to these medications.  Anti-anxiety drugs often work more rapidly than an antidepressant.  But their disadvantage is that these drugs can be addictive and create severe withdrawal symptoms. 

    Besides medications, other treatments for anxiety disorders include therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychotherapy and hypnotherapy.  Cognitive-behavioral therapies teach specific strategies for coping with anxiety.  Psychotherapy explores possible unconscious motivations behind the anxiety. Hypnotherapy can be used to encourage calmness and relaxation and give specific suggestions about coping with anxiety.

     There are also things you can do to help yourself.  Many people try to self-medicate themselves out of worry and anxiety by adopting bad habits, such as drinking too much, overeating or smoking.  Finding strong tools to battle these behaviors can help relieve anxiety.  Go to a twelve-step program, get a support system, use a tool like hypnosis to release these bad habits.  Creating new habits like releasing those old behaviors, being more assertive and stopping negative self-talk will help ease worry and anxiety. 

     Exercise is a wonderful way to relieve stress.  Think about when you were a kid.  If you liked to run and play, well get outside and take a walk, ride a bicycle, fly a kite.  If you liked to swim, go to the Y or the Rec Center.  If you liked team sports, join an adult group your own age.  Or take a class, a yoga class, a Pilates class, a dance class.  Get up and move and release the endorphins to make you feel better. 

    Check your diet, avoid sugar and salt.  Simple sugar like that found in ice cream and pastries causes your body to release too much insulin.  This imbalance can cause people to feel anxious.  Instead, eat complex carbohydrates such as fresh fruit and vegetables and unrefined grains like in cereal.  Salt causes your body to excrete potassium which you need for a healthy nervous system.  Use a natural salt substitute or herbs as a seasoning.

    People suffering from anxiety should avoid caffeine which triggers the release of the brain chemical norepinephrine increasing alertness.  Many people choose a caffeine drink in order to get that alertness.  But consuming caffeine also causes your body to release adrenaline.  Besides coffee, other drinks including, tea, cola, and cocoa contain caffeine.  Some over-the-counter meds such as Excedrin and Anancin also contain caffeine. If you are suffering from anxiety, avoiding caffeine is a simple way to stop the release of the adrenaline.  You may need to withdraw over several days to avoid discomfort and side effects.

    There are a couple of minerals that may be of value in dealing with anxiety.  The first of these is calcium. It is a natural tranquilizer and when people are calcium deficient can cause symptoms of anxiety such as insomnia, heart palpitations and nervousness.  Magnesium is the second mineral which you may find of value in dealing with anxiety.  Irritability, nervousness and weakness are often evident in people who have magnesium deficiency.  Both calcium and magnesium can be easily taken in a multimineral supplement.  In addition, calcium rich foods include eating more kale, Chinese cabbage, sardines, tofu and broccoli.  To increase your dietary intake of magnesium eat halibut, almonds and avocados.

    Diet, lifestyle changes, counseling or therapy and medical treatments are all available if you are dealing with worry and anxiety.  Don't give up.  Use these ideas to relieve anxiety and make your life better.