How to Heal Anxiety

Anxiety is a condition, just like any other, that can wreak havoc on your life and leave you stressed, lonely, unemployed, and just generally all-around miserable.  This is where I found myself when I was struggling with social anxiety disorder (SAD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).  However, again much like any other condition, it is something that can be treated successfully, and you can reach the opposite extreme where you have tons of wonderful friends, fulfilling employment, romantic success, and a general feeling of happiness and well-being.

So, how do you heal anxiety?  Unfortunately, for many the solution is to visit the doctor and see which type of medication he prescribes.  This is one possible step that you can take, but like any other condition, using a more comprehensive approach enhances the level of success you experience.  If clichés make more sense to you, “you get out of it what you put into it.”  Besides taking a few steps, there is an additional point to keep in mind:  what works for one person may not work for another; it is up to you to build your own plan based on what experience teaches you.

How to Cure Anxiety: 8 Methods I Have Learned

Here are some of the techniques I have learned that can help to cure anxiety:

1. Accept help from a professional counselor or psychologist

This is very scary for people in Western society where we are taught to live independently, but life works differently.  Using the aid of knowledgeable others can be incredibly helpful.  Counselors typically have very gentle personalities and an open, calm, and accepting manner.  Their goal is to make it as comfortable as possible for you to interact with them.  Attempting to recover from anxiety on your own does work, but working with a counselor is like strapping on a jetpack – it helps you to grow at an incredibly rapid pace.  One caveat is that not all counselors or psychologists can work with all people.  If things simply are not working between you and your counselor, feel free to move on to another one.

2. Exercise regularly

Not only is exercise good for you physically, but it is also great for reducing anxiety and stress.  Exercise releases endorphins which cause you to experience a general sense of happiness and well-being.  All you need to do to gain the benefits is 3 sessions per week of 20 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.

3. Regular journaling

For me, I have found it incredibly helpful to journal in order to collect my thoughts at the end of the day.  I typically spend 15-20 minutes writing about what happened.  It helps me to gain clarity and focus, and there is something about putting words on paper that helps to remove the anxious thoughts from my head.  While helpful for me, I have heard of many people who completely hate writing.  If this is the case for you, this is one of those things that seems to be optional.  But, it is always good to at least have the awareness of another tool to reduce your anxiety.

4. Avoid foods that cause anxiety

There are a few different foods and substances that will increase your anxiety if consumed.  Caffeine and alcohol, which are difficult to avoid in American society, are two of the chief aggravators of anxiety.  If you are like me and you really enjoy drinks which contain these two substances, the good news is you do not have to completely eliminate them from your diet.  Instead, you just have to minimize your intake.  “Minimizing,” in this case, means like 2-3 caffeinated and alcoholic drinks in a week.  Of course, if you are willing to live with more anxiety, you can consume more, but this is the general guideline.

5. Eat foods that help to reduce anxiety

Be sure to stay well-hydrated.  Dehydration can cause fatigue, and one of the body’s responses to fatigue can be anxiety.  Foods rich in complex carbohydrates such as pastas, brown rice, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, and beans are excellent for maintaining your energy levels and keeping anxiety down.  Another anxiety-reducing substance is tryptophan, and foods high in tryptophan include milk, oats, nuts, and peanut butter.  Finally, one vitamin to make sure you have in your diet is vitamin B-6.  This vitamin helps to regulate serotonin, a neurotransmitter which is responsible for managing your anxiety levels.

6. Maintain a supportive social network

A supportive social network is one that makes you feel okay with having your struggle with anxiety.  Additionally, people who are supportive will offer to help you through the difficulty, or perhaps to find a new way to understand situations that are causing you anxiety.  If people are trying to make you feel guilty, embarrassed, or simply do not want to acknowledge your anxiety condition, the best thing to do is to distance yourself from them.  Of course, if they begin to show an understanding of anxiety, feel free to bring them back into your lives.  You do not have to remove them from your life completely, but you will find that conversations about anxiety will end up going nowhere.  This may be the second most difficult part of getting better from anxiety.

7. Continue to take risks

Without a doubt, this is the most difficult step in recovering from anxiety.  For a while, it may be necessary to retreat from the outside world, find some help, think things over, and figure out how you are going to approach life now that you have recognized anxiety’s effects.  But, eventually, there will come a time where talking and thinking must translate to action.  Action means that you are actively putting yourself in situations that make you anxious.  Most people are surprised when they do this because they actually experience more anxiety!  But, never fear, because that is completely normal.  You are moving outside of your usual comfort zone, and anxiety is a natural response for all people; the difficulty for people with anxiety disorders is that they experience too much anxiety in comparison to the average person.  As you continue to take risks and work through the difficult situations, you will find that eventually you begin to grow in self-confidence, and people or situations that used to cause you anxiety now cause you little or no anxiety.

8. Use medication

For many, this is the first step to recovering from anxiety.  However, medication is a short-term false fix to a long-term real problem.  When you take medication, it simply reduces the intensity of the physiological effects of anxiety (shaking, sweating, tingling etc…) and the accompanying emotions.  If you have social anxiety, you do not suddenly become a confident and competent extrovert; you still have to take risks and do the work.  Additionally, it can take much time and thousands of dollars before you find a medication and dosage that is right for you.  A certain medication may work for most people, but not all people.  And finally, the side effects of medication may end up outweighing the benefits.  All that being said, medication does have its place, but it has its highest level of effectiveness when working in combination with the other factors given before.

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There are many more methods for curing anxiety; however, with the exception of journaling, these are the most critical.  Other creative methods for healing anxiety include playing Nintendo Wii, getting a pet, and using biofeedback, but those require separate articles in themselves.

Overall, the most important point to draw from this article is that anxiety is a challenge that requires a comprehensive, rather than singular approach.  The more of these cures you use, the lower your anxiety level will be.  If you feel confused or frightened, hopefully this article has helped you to discover which direction to go in the future.  Good luck to everyone who chooses to help themselves and heal their anxiety!

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