Fire number "7"Are you constantly feeling stressed, unable to relax, always worrying about the day ahead and unable to fall or stay asleep because your mind is overloaded from the pressures of the day or worries about what’s in store the next day?  If you can relate to this, you are probably suffering with anxiety.  

Intense fear, terror, panic or dread my leave you feeling physically and emotionally drained to the point where even normal activities may be avoided or curtailed. You may experience a number of distressing or debilitating symptoms including, but not limited to, tightness in the chest, racing heart, difficulty breathing,  trembling hands or limbs, racing thoughts or being in a mental fog, or feeling detached from your body. You may have obsessive thoughts and excessive worry, and self-medicate or engage in other behaviors to calm your nerves.

Anxiety states range from mild, moderate, to severe.  You may find yourself feeling emotionally and/or physically drained, and begin to question your ability to tackle even the basic of daily activities.  You may find yourself needing to gain relief through alcohol or drugs, gambling, self-imposed isolation and/or avoidance of normally pleasurable activities.  You may also develop physical aches and pains and feel the need to seek medical attention or end up in the hospital emergency room.  

People suffering with generalized anxiety disorder experience difficulty controlling worrisome thoughts which interfere with managing tasks at hand.  It is common for persons with this disorder to worry about daily, routine tasks and circumstances such as school, job or career responsibilities, health, finances, household chores, being late for appointments, or question or evaluate the competence of their performance in given situations. The focus of their worries or anxiety may shift from one concern to another, as it is common for such persons to complain about persistent thoughts of worry, anxiety, fear, distress or dread which they feel incapable of shutting off.

Your self-esteem may come into question while self-mastery over your thoughts, emotions and behaviors appears out of reach.  You may also feel increased lack of energy, purpose, joy, sadness and even depression as your anxiety takes over your entire being.

Here are some strategies for dealing with stress and anxiety.  Try one or try all but, above all, Try!!

  1. Exercise. 
    Take a walk, ride your bike, go to the gym, participate in martial arts – whatever it takes to release stress. You should engage in a physical hobby which will naturally relieve your anxiety and improve your overall wellness.
  2. Get out of your head by getting outside.
    A change of geography, such as a day trip, mini-vacation, or even a walk on the beach can have a positive impact on your mental state.  Fresh air and change of scenery can do wonders. Regardless of whether it is snowing or sunny out, some time spent outside can do you much good and decrease your anxiety levels.
  3. Connect with new and old friends and acquaintances.
    There are numerous ways of doing so, ranging from a simple phone call to contacting them through social media.  Reminiscing about old times or planning get-togethers can ease stress and promote joy.
  4. Volunteer.
    Helping others will not only benefit others but give you a sense of purpose. By helping those less fortunate, it will make you calmer and feel better.
  5. Eat healthy.
    The old adage still holds true, “You are what you eat.”  Being more conscious of the choices you make in dietary intake will increase your energy level and make you more stress- resistant, as you become more mentally fit to tackle the challenges that confront you. The more green and leafy vegetables the better, as those release calming antioxidants and provide essential vitamins that help protect your mental health.
  6. Think “O2E,” which refers to Opposite to Emotion.
    This is a concept from dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) which challenges you to do the opposite of what you’re feeling. So, for example, if you normally isolate or sleep to deal with sadness or depression, you are encouraged to engage in behaviors which are more typical of a person who is not sad or depressed. This one takes some imagination and creativity, but it is rooted in the concept that changing your behaviors in turn changes your mental outlook which, in turn, reinforces more proactive behaviors. It’s as if you stepped outside of yourself and created a new reality of what is possible. You are no longer a slave to stress inducing emotions and come to the realization that you can choose how to feel by changing the way you act.
  7. Practice yoga, meditation and/or progressive muscle relaxation.
    Yoga combines strengthening and stretching poses with deep breathing and meditation or relaxation. It’s a “total mind-body workout.” It helps reduce stress and anxiety and promote mental and physical stamina. Studies have shown its effectiveness in reducing anxiety and overcoming depression.Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique for learning to monitor and control muscular tension. Daily practice reduces worry, stress and physical ailments, such as stomach and headaches. Being mindful makes one aware of what one is feeling and experiencing in the moment while remaining in a calm, accepting state. Applied relaxation focuses on muscle relaxation and visual cues to maintain that state of calm and acceptance. Yoga and other meditative techniques have proven highly effective in reducing or deactivating the “anticipatory anxiety” normally associated with generalized anxiety disorder.