Anxiety is something that can benefit from professional help. Professionals are experts at working with your symptoms, especially if you've tried everything and cannot seem to get your anxiety under control.
But few people want to see a professional - especially when there are self-help techniques available for anxiety that can be completed in the comfort of your own home, and are far more affordable. Below, we'll review some of the easiest ways to reduce anxiety without seeing a psychiatrist.
Self Help for Anxiety?
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The Basics of Self-Help Techniques
The following are individual self-help techniques that are extremely valuable for curing anxiety. But ideally, you need to consider a more comprehensive at home strategy that will effectively reduce your anxiety symptoms. Find out how by first taking my free anxiety test.
Each of the following strategies is known to reduce anxiety. Some of them are variations of what you would do in the psychologist's office. Others are strategies that you may not have realized are powerful tools for anxiety.
Many people suffer from anxiety symptoms, but do not necessarily have any specific fears or issues. They're simply anxious, either physically or mentally.
But for those that do have fears, desensitization is the act of mentally "getting used to" the fear so that it no longer causes fear. Let's look at some examples:
- Those with recurring thoughts that they cannot control (known as obsessions, a hallmark of obsessive compulsive disorder) often develop a fear of that thought. Studies have shown that by sitting in a comfortable environment and purposely thinking those thoughts will end up causing the thoughts to become boring. Eventually they won't cause fear, and the person will think about them less.
- Those with panic attacks that are triggered by some type of physical sensation, like feeling dizzy, experience a rush of fear when faced with that sensation. So to fix it, the person can continually subject themselves to that sensation over and over again (in the case of feeling dizzy, by spinning themselves around in a chair) until it doesn't cause any anxiety.
- Those with phobias may need to take a longer, systematic approach, but still approach it the same way. For example, if you have a fear of snakes, you first think about snakes until they don't cause fear, then you look at a photo of a snake until it doesn't cause fear, then you watch a video of a snake until it doesn't cause fear, and finally try to be in the same room as a snake until it doesn't cause fear. Feel free and spread it out over multiple days, or try multiple photos/videos/snakes.
This type of strategy is often used in cognitive behavioral therapy, but it can also be completed in the comfort of your own home. However, there is a caveat - if you decide to use this strategy, you cannot quit or take a break. That can cause what's known as "negative reinforcement," which could actually make the fear worse.
But if you're ready to commit to this type of self-help treatment, you'll find that those individual fears improve in no time. Try to repeat the process every once in a while in order to make sure the fear never comes back.
Exercise has become "that dreaded word." You hear it every day, with everyone recommending fitness as an important part of aging, staying fit, and staying healthy. You probably shrugged them off.
But what you may be surprised to learn is that there were some studies that compared intense exercise to anxiety medications in terms of their ability to reduce anxiety symptoms, and these studies found that the two are comparable.
Why would exercise reduce anxiety? The answer is actually a combination of a variety of factors:
- Natural Painkillers When you exercise intently, your body releases pain killers in your brain to make sure that you don't experience too much discomfort. These pain killers, known as endorphins, are actually the same exact chemicals that create a "good feeling" and relaxed mood. So while your body isn't technically trying to make you feel good, exercise acts very similar to an anxiety drug.
- Reduced Symptom Severity Many of the symptoms of anxiety are also reduced simply because of the effects exercise has one the body. Muscle tension is harder when your muscles are relaxed after exercise. Unused energy doesn't get placed in negative areas because there is less unused energy. Sleep is easier because your body needs to rest to recover from the exercise, and so on. There is evidence that when the symptoms of anxiety are weaker, you actually experience less anxiety in the future because coping becomes easier.
- Burned Stress Hormone While the science on this is unclear, there appears to be some evidence that when you exercise, you actually burn away cortisol - the stress hormone responsible for most of anxiety's worst long-term symptoms. Whether this is entirely true is debated, but the potential is certainly there.
All of this ignores many of the other smaller benefits, such as engaging in healthy distracting activities, getting outdoors, and improving your heart health - all of which can affect your anxiety levels. Exercise may be for physical fitness, but there is simply no denying that it can have a powerful effect on mental health as well.
Another self-help strategy strongly worth considering is a thought journal. Thought journals are areas where you both write out any thought that is bothering you (even if it is not an anxiety thought) so that you can keep track of it and examine it.
Much of anxiety is spent trying not to have anxious thoughts or feelings. Very often the individual does whatever they can to push those thoughts and feelings away, hoping to be free of their anxiety. This doesn't work, and it also ignores a very important part of controlling anxiety - learning to re-think your thought processes.
That's where a thought journal comes in. Rather than try to fight your thoughts away, you can write them all out in a journal. This has several advantages for those living with anxiety:
- Research has shown that when you write out thoughts, your brain doesn't focus on them as much. This is believed to be because the mind knows when a thought is in a permanent place, so it doesn't feel as pressured to remember it.
- Writing out the thoughts can be a therapeutic activity. It gives you an important break from the thought so that and allows you to process it rather than simply feel the anxiety of it. It also forces you to think about it, which studies have shown is actually an important tool for fighting its severity.
- Many of the fears of anxiety are irrational. Writing them out forces you to really think about them. Even though you know they're irrational, they often feel very real. However, when you go through the slow process of writing out your thoughts, you'll often find that you start to see how irrational they become. You can also follow that up by writing out all of the reasons the thought is irrational so that you start to change your mindset on these types of issues.
Writing out your thoughts in a journal is incredibly therapeutic, and definitely something worth considering. There is also another variation of this type of self-help strategy that can be very valuable, known as "positivity journaling."
Anxiety creates a considerable amount of negative thinking. It's actually a symptom of anxiety, since the changes in your brain chemistry cause you to translate information more negatively. Unfortunately, that negativity actually fuels anxiety further, making it harder to stop anxious thoughts.
So one strategy designed to create positive thinking is to start "positive journaling." Every day, write down 10 to 20 specific, positive and happy things that happened that day. You have to set a high minimum, and force yourself to reach that minimum every day, without skipping a day.
Eventually, your mind - knowing that you have to fill in 10 things - starts to notice all of the positive things because it's trained to figure out what goes in the journal, and in the end you'll find that you have an easier time thinking positively as a result. While separate from a thought journal, this is another type of journal that has been popular in the past.
A Complete Anti-Anxiety Strategy
For those that are looking for something a bit more comprehensive, I strongly suggest you take my free 7 minute anxiety test now. The test will examine your symptoms and give you a chart of your severity, and that chart will then be used to recommend an at home, self-help anxiety treatment option.
So if you haven't yet, start the test here.