Managing anxiety symptoms with medication can be effective, but is not always a great long-term solution. Anxiety happens for a variety of reasons. It may be experienced when there are too many stressors making someone feel overwhelmed with no change in sight. Or it may be a matter of cutting down on caffeine intake. Unfortunately, not knowing the cause or fix for anxiety typically tends to make people more anxious.
In The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques: Understanding How Your Brain Makes You Anxious and What You Can Do to Change It, Margaret Wehrenberg acknowledges the complexity of managing anxiety and offers suggestions to manage the body, mind, and behavior with a brief overview of how the brain works. Understanding the brain is not an easy task, so she does not attempt to provide all the complex details. Rather, her focus is on how techniques and practices can change the brain when it does not work the way we would like.
When it comes to managing bodily symptoms, it is understandable why people with anxiety turn to medication. The physical symptoms are uncomfortable and medication can provide some relief. Wehrenberg does not say that people should never take it, but she does argue that a medication only plan does not give people the opportunity to learn about the cause of their anxiety. She does recognize, though, that medication is needed in some cases before people can do the hard work of learning about the origin of their anxiety, and about other ways to manage it.
This first section on physically managing anxiety is the one section that everyone should read. If readers do not think deep breathing is going to help anxiety, but are open to trying it, they will discover this practice impacts the body physiologically whether or not they have completely bought-in. As the brain changes, it impacts how one thinks and behaves because the mind and body are connected.
After working through this section, only then should the reader try techniques to manage the anxious mind. This is tougher because it requires not only willingness, but also belief. Managing anxious behavior is equally challenging because many people with anxiety avoid situations rather than charge into them. Learning practices and techniques will help conquer the other manifestations of anxiety.
Wehrenberg’s workbook is worth the investment. The exercises and tips throughout reinforce what she presents in the book. Although the book itself is easy to understand and most can probably figure out how to put the principles into practice, having exercises to accompany the reading is beneficial since reading about something is generally not enough to make lasting change. Change requires work, and homework assignments throughout the book reinforce concepts for those doing the work on their own or with a counselor.
Each workbook chapter includes charts to help explain how anxiety impacts people. Wehrenberg encourages readers to invest the time into working through the different practices such as goal setting, and to create practical action steps to get there.
Although her book and workbook are written for the lay reader, they are good resources for clinicians to have on hand. Pertinent techniques are broken up by the three areas she addresses: the mind, body and behavior. Because both the book and workbook are user-friendly, this is not something that is going to make anxious people more anxious. Additional resources, such as the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), offer suggestions for complementary apps and links for finding the right therapist. (As a side note, I discourage the use of apps because our phones are a big part of the problem.)
The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques is a realistic guide to help people work through anxiety provoking thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The most benefit will come from reading the chapters in order because they do build on each other and the physical techniques are more doable than the mental ones. But as long as readers give themselves some grace and allow enough time to master each step, people with anxiety will better understand its origins and how to manage it without feeling overwhelmed by the process.
The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques, 2nd edition
W. Norton & Company
Paperback, 304 pages