Counsellor's Corner: AnxietyWhy do I feel so Overwhelmed?? Coping with Anxiety and Depression, Part 1
Anxiety and Depression are often 2 sides of the same coin. In this two-part blog we will look at Anxiety and Depression including symptoms, self-care strategies and supports.
Part 1: Anxiety
In 2012 Statistics Canada discovered that 1 in 4 Canadians will have at least one anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Anxiety is the most common mental health challenge in Canada. The prevalence of anxiety issues show that people need tools and resources to help them reduce and cope with anxiety. If you or someone you care about is dealing with anxiety, here are some general symptoms that you may notice, as well as self-care Strategies and supports to help you deal with Anxiety.
• Restlessness, feeling keyed up or on edge
• Getting tired easily
• Trouble concentrating
• Muscle tension
• Sleep problems
• Constant worrying
• Sleep routine
• Techniques to stay present and mindful
• Create a Positive Attitude
• Spend time in nature
• Understand what you have control over and what you don’t
• Positive support system
• Limit caffeine and alcohol
• Develop and maintain a positive support system
• Seek out professional help
o Evidence shows that Exercise can lift your mood, clear your mind, and help your body feel stronger. Start gently with a walk around the block, and slowly build your stamina and exercise from there. Don’t compare yourself with others and just focus on building your own capacity.
o Our bodies need high quality fuel to function at their best. A healthy balanced diet will support your body and give you more energy. Drinking water every day to maintain hydration is important and will often increase your energy level.
o Maintaining enough sleep is important for a healthy mind and body. Going to bed and waking up at regular times can help you get the sleep you need. Regular physical activity can help you sleep more soundly and longer, so add that to your daily routine. Falling asleep for some is a challenge. If this is a concern for you try using a meditation or relaxation app on your phone to slow your mind and relax your body in preparation for sleep. A regular bedtime routine can help your body prepare for relaxing. Avoid viewing devices with screens before bed as they can add to sleep disruption. Having mobile phones or tablets shut off and put away at night (not beside your bed) will help with less disruptions in the night.
Techniques to stay present and mindful
o When we get thinking about the past and the future, it can add to anxiety. staying present and mindful of the present moment will help you to limit dwelling on the regrets of the past or worrying about the future. Our mind is like a muscle and we have to practice staying in the present to build up that ability. Things that you can try to help stay in the present include:
• T’ai Chi
• Breathing exercises
• Relaxation techniques
Create a Positive Attitude
o Try to stop “what if”ing yourself. Many things might have happened in a situation but didn’t. focus on being grateful when things go well and try not to invent worrying stories that did not happen.
o Reframing your thinking is important so you start to see the positive things in your life and the world around you. Seeing the glass half full instead of half empty is about being grateful and aware of the positive things in your life and in the world.
Spend time in nature
o Evidence shows that being outside in nature, whether walking or sitting enjoying the view, is healing and helps to settle our minds. You can go for a walk through the park, go for a hike, smell the flowers, lay on the grass and look at the sky, trees and clouds, or play in the dirt. Nature is very grounding and has a calming effect on our nervous systems. Try to get outside every day and enjoy something in nature. If you enjoy nature while you’re walking, you’ll be doubling up on your self-care!
Understand what you have control over and what you don’t
o We often think we have more control over some things than we do and at the same time do not take action on the things we can control. Sorting out what we control in life and what we don’t can save us a lot of emotional energy that we can direct toward effective action in other areas of our life. Most of what we control in life comes down to our own thoughts, actions and behaviours. Spending less time trying to make other people act as we would like them to, and instead being more aware of our own thoughts, actions and behaviours will help us be more effective in changing the things we can.
Positive support system
o Our family and friends are a very important part of our mental health. Everyone needs a support network of some kind. Being around positive and supportive people can help lift us out of our own negative thoughts and keep us focused on the bigger picture. Try to spend time with family and friends who offer positive and supportive feedback and encouragement. Sometimes it is helpful to minimize contact with those that are negative or discouraging, as spending time with this kind of attitude can add to your anxiety.
Limit caffeine and alcohol
Both caffeine and alcohol can aggravate anxiety. Try to limit your intake of these. Drink water instead.
Develop and maintain a positive support system
o Know who supports you and stay connected to that network of people. Some people have many family and friends to rely on and others have 1 or 2 people that they can turn to. It doesn’t matter how big your support system is, it’s more important that you have healthy people you can talk to and spend time with.
o Sometimes we have to educate our family and friends about what is helpful for us. Remember that they are also struggling to understand how to be helpful to you. Don’t expect them to know what you need.
Seek out professional help
o See your Medical Doctor
o There are other medical issues that have similar symptoms. Having a checkup from your doctor will rule out other health issues first.
o Sometimes medication is helpful, when anxiety is a long-term problem. Discuss this with your doctor. Giving your Doctor as much information about your symptoms as possible can help sort out the best way to reduce the anxiety.
o See a counsellor
o A licensed counsellor/therapist can help you deal with your anxiety. Research has proven that counselling can help people cope with their anxiety and help people learn new skills and strategies and reduce anxiety in their lives.
o It is important to feel comfortable with your counsellor, and you have the right to meet with different counsellors until you find one that is helpful, and you feel safe with.
o Working on anxiety or any other issue in counselling takes commitment on your part. Try to be open to new understandings and insights, and be willing to learn new ways to help yourself.
There are many websites and books that can give you more information about dealing with anxiety. Here are a few that have helpful information:
The Anxiety & Phobia workbook. 6th Edition. By Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D.
Feeling Good: the new mood therapy. By David D. Burns, M.D.
What to Do When You Worry Too Much: a kid’s guide to overcoming anxiety. By Dawn Huebner and Bonnie Matthews