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Self-management of anxiety

05 October, 2014

Every person goes through bouts of anxiety, whether it is separation anxiety, a debilitating phobia (snakes, heights etc) or performance anxiety, right through to what 1 in 5 Australians experience as a disorder such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress or Social Anxiety.

Those who are diagnosed with a disorder may be placed on medication or seek counselling, but there are ways to self-manage your symptoms to increase your value of life no matter how debilitating it is. Once you learn how to control your anxiety, it will cease to have control over you.

Anxiety is a normal reaction to a threat – the fight-or-flight scenario – and is a chemical reaction that is rooted in the make-up of our brain, but is presented psychosomatically through symptoms like shortness of breath, butterflies in the stomach, inability to think logically and exhaustion with an inability to sleep. Anxiety becomes abnormal, or unhealthy, when there is no real danger but is brought on by an all-consuming worry about things we cannot control in our lives.

Controlling your anxiety is like training a pet. There are physical and immediate steps you can take such as deep breathing to stabilise your heart rate, exercise to refocus the mind and massage to relax and relieve tension. Once you have control over the physical presentations of anxiety, you can better understand how you are feeling.

The best way to gain control over your growing snowball of emotions is to try and make sense of what is happening. Once you understand that anxiety is a mere chemical imbalance in the brain, it’s not impossible to train your brain into rebalancing. A good start would be to jot your feelings down in a journal or to draw your fears. These simple acts help to validate your feelings, slow your brain and gain control of your emotions.

After a time, you will learn to spot the early warning signs (sweaty palms, sleeplessness etc) and you’ll be better equipped to deal with the symptoms. Ideally, with self-management you may get to a point where you are now able to accept things as they are and relinquish all worries about events that haven’t occurred, or those that you cannot control. 

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