The Way Out; Overcoming Anxiety Disorders

We’ve spent a lot of time this month defining anxiety and chronic worry as well as discussing the uncomfortable symptoms that accompany them. This week’s post will focus on solutions. If you suffer from anxiety, you are not doomed to suffer for the rest of your life. There is a way out. It usually involves seeking help from a professional, but not always. Here, we will go over some of the therapeutic strategies that have been found to yield positive long-term results in clinical populations, as well as some helpful relaxation techniques to calm nerves and reduce anxiety.

1) Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): if you are an anxiety sufferer, you are likely familiar with this therapeutic approach. CBT works with your cognitions (thoughts) and how these in turn influence your behaviour and consequently, your emotional state. Oftentimes, in the case of anxiety, individuals suffer from irrational or unsubstantiated fears and worries. These can stem from distorted thoughts (called cognitive distortions) about the self, others, or the world around us. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy challenges cognitive distortions and unhealthy thought patterns to ultimately result in significantly reduced anxiety and increases in both self-esteem and positive affect. Therapists often use this method or components of it to treat anxiety and anxiety disorders. Its tenants can be applied outside of therapy as well if you wish to read up on it and familiarize yourself with the therapeutic philosophy.

2) Mindfulness Therapy: Our Clinical Director, Psychologist Paula Lorimer, is an advocate of this method and practices it with her clients on a regular basis. Mindfulness is a serene state of mind achieved by non-judgmental present moment awareness, and the acknowledgement and acceptance of one’s thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. Okay, we agree that was an earful. Mindfulness is one of those philosophies that seem daunting and complex at first, but become ever more intuitive and simplistic with practice. Meditation is perhaps the most common practice within mindfulness that has jumped in popularity, especially recently. If you are highly anxious, it may be difficult to conceive of the possibility that you may look at your situation from an objective point of view, and accept the emotions without judgment or conscious effort to change them. But it is possible. With time and practice, many of our anxious clients have learned to calm their nervous systems and practice self-compassion and self-acceptance, which go hand in hand with symptom relief.

3) Relaxation techniques: there are a number of relaxation techniques that are used in therapy, but also impart benefits when practised outside of a therapist’s office. Meditation is a very powerful anxiety-relieving force as is deep breathing and progressive relaxation. The web is rich with quality information on the practices of both meditation and deep breathing. We encourage you to explore these two powerful tools or contact us for more instruction if you are having difficulty. Progressive relaxation consists of tensing up different muscle groups and then relaxing them to notice the different sensations that constitute physical (and mental) tension and release. The biggest obstacle keeping these three excellent strategies from providing their benefits, is the belief that they are useless. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard our clients express they’ve tried the breathing but it didn’t work, or asked “how is sitting down and closing my eyes for 10 minutes going to rid me of my pain?” Remedies can never be forced upon someone, especially not these ones. I am guilty of having discounted them in the past as well, until I was finally ready to give them a proper chance. When you are ready, and keep at it consistently, you will see the immense benefits of relaxation exercises such as meditation, deep breathing, and progressive relaxation. I speak honestly when I tell you I can now “breathe” my way out of impending panic attacks.

We hope you have found this post useful, and that it helps guide our therapeutic path to overcoming anxiety. Remember to practice patience and self-compassion. You can and you will overcome this, one deep breath at the time.