Kristen Fuller
Source: Kristen Fuller

I truly believe everything happens for a reason and this past weekend was the perfect example. I was able to experience and witness the inner workings of an individual’s mind that was riddled with anxiety directly related to a recent traumatic event that occurred. I spent hours differentiating how this person and I deal differently with stress and conflict and no matter the advice I offered, it was apparent this person was continuing to struggle as if they were locked inside their own mind.  The more they thought about the trauma, the more stress they endured until it turned into a toxic cycle of obsessive thoughts followed by fear. All I could do was offer love and support and the more I thought about this individual the more I realized how our medical society is falling short in treating anxiety and related disorders.

The human reaction to fear

As humans, we are naturally driven by fear, anxiety, stress, and peer pressure to perform to the best of our abilities in order to prevent failure. Many of us live in fear… fear of failing, failing at our jobs, failing in our relationships, failing within society or even failing as individuals. For many, the fear may not be the driving force to succeed but rather the driving force to become obsessed with thoughts leading to actions that can hinder our happiness, self-worth and overall success. Anxiety is often prompted by some sort of fear or stress factor that enters into our life and results in a flight or fight physiological mode in our bodies. Anxiety for most individuals is normal, short-lived and can be overcome but for many anxiety can take over an individual’s life hindering their relationships, work performance and personal happiness.

Anxiety disorders in the United States

General anxiety disorder and all other anxiety disorders affect approximately 30 percent of adults in the United States and is the leading cause of mental illness.  Other anxiety disorders include panic disorders, PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, specific phobias, acute stress disorder, social phobia and agoraphobia. In general, treatment consists of psychotherapy, medication and lifestyle changes. I personally have treated many individuals with anxiety by prescribing them medications and referring them to a therapist or psychiatrist, but we often fall short in addressing lifestyle modifications that can help resolve symptoms of anxiety.

Kristen Fuller
Source: Kristen Fuller

The importance of gratitude

The power of positive thinking and gratitude alone can help replace toxic negative thoughts harboring the anxiety. Even when our lives are turned upside down, there is always a positive outlook an individual can take, but it is their choice whether they choose to engage in this type of thinking or engage in their anxious thoughts. Expressing gratitude for your health, your safety, your job, your best friend, the roof over your head, or the ability to walk, talk and accept human touch is one of the easiest ways to gain a positive outlook on life. Even if you feel like you have nothing left in your life, there is still a positive outlook you can take. As humans, there will always be some individuals who are better off than us and we will always be better off than some individuals…it is a spectrum and it is your personal choice to look at which side of the spectrum you are on. It is your choice to live the best life you were given so choose wisely. 

Lifestyle modifications for overcoming anxiety

Although medications and psychotherapy are considered the first-line treatment approaches for treating anxiety disorders, there are other avenues an individual can take that can place their symptoms at bay. These may seem easy at first to conquer but for many, adopting these as part of your everyday lifestyle may take years if not longer. 

  • Keeping a clean, uncluttered living space has been shown to reduce anxiety and increase calmness and happiness. Make your home your sanctuary, a place where you feel the safest.
  • Seek out positive people in your life who will support you throughout your journey. We have all met toxic people who have tried to tear us down and many of us have learned to dissociate with them however many individuals continue to allow toxicity into their lives. Be aware of whom you keep in your life as your friends and loved ones are a direct reflection of who you are as an individual. Positive people can reduce anxiety where as toxicity will continue to worsen it.
  • Eat well and exercise often. Exercise is known to increase endorphins, which simply make you feel good. Keeping on a regular exercise routine can help balance your cortisol levels, prevent heart disease and keep you in shape. Regular exercise should partner with eating a balanced and nutritious diet. Salty and sugary snack foods can become addicting and can change your brain chemistry by altering your dopamine levels. Introducing whole foods that consist of produce, whole grains and lean meats can increase your energy, concentration and alertness and make you feel good.
  • Engage in a passion outside of work. Maybe your favorite hobby is adventuring outdoors or cooking or even music. It is important to set aside a specific amount of time to engage in activities outside your work that make you happy.
  • Learn the perfect balance between work and your personal life. Many individuals who are riddled with anxiety are often stressed out due to their job and do not know how to have a healthy work/life balance. Taking your work home with you and talking about work when you are away from the office can worsen your anxiety. This may take time to figure out this balance but find the sweet spot where you can be successful in your career without being so stressed out that it is affecting your entire life.
  • Meditate, journal, take a bath, and use essential oils to relax and calm your mind. When anxiety starts to creep into your head it is so easy to get lost in the racing and destructive thoughts and to jump to the closest pill bottle holding your anti-anxiety medications. Try to take a moment to concentrate on your breathing, go for a walk, use your favorite de-stress essential oil, play with a puppy, or take a warm bath. Try to engage in natural calming remedies instead of becoming overwhelmed by your thoughts. Scents that are known to have calming effects on the body include, lavender, lemon, frankincense, rose, chamomile and ylang ylang.  These methods can also be used as preventative measures in addition to symptom relief.

If you know an individual with anxiety remember that each individual’s mind is uniquely different and treatment for this disorder is not a one-size-fits all approach. Offer support, listen, and comfort this person in the most positive way. Your personal approach for dealing with stress may or may not be beneficial to another individual. We are all unique and as a result our fears and reactions are all unique as well.

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