Methods of Alleviating Anxiety

Exploring various internal and external methods to help your anxiety symptoms

Posted Jul 18, 2014

In my previous post, Understanding Anxiety as a Symptom: Not the Problem, I focus on what causes the brain/body reaction to produce anxiety symptoms, such as racing thought, heart pounding, bodily trembling, profuse sweating, and inability to control breathing, just to name a few.

Many people have written to me telling me what has worked for them to alleviate their anxiety symptoms, such as taking specific medication, laughing, praying, exercising, singing and meditating. I’m not a medical doctor (M.D.) nor am I a prescribing psychologist. I do know that there are prescribed medications and over the counter medications (OTC) that truly work and help with the various symptoms. In my life, especially when I have to get my yearly MRI brain scan, medication has truly helped. With all my training, during this type of event, I prefer medication.

My next choice is humor. By making fun of myself, I put everyone, including myself, more at ease.  So, if you’ve discovered  a method that works for you, great. Then you do understand it is possible to alleviate your anxiety. Continue what you’re doing. Please remember that if something works for you, each person is unique so that method doesn’t necessarily work for someone else.

External Methods Vs. Internal Methods to Help Anxiety Symptoms

In my practice, I divide methods into two categories: internal and external. Medication is an external, while humor, exercise, and meditation is an internal. I believe it is extremely important to know the internal methods, because there comes a time, when you may not have access to the external.

A perfect example was when I had an emergency MRI of my brain after my second automobile accident. This is when I used my extensive knowledge and training in hypnosis. It worked perfectly to elevate my anxiety. Now you might ask if you know this works, why don’t you use it during your yearly MRI? Doing this level of hypnosis takes effort and concentration. Taking a pill that I know works, is both quick and effective and gives me no side effects. So, why not? Some may question this. I will own up to being lazy sometimes, and the pill works.

So if you have a method or methods, be it internal or external that work, then great. For those of you who have not found something that works, or you just want additional methods that truly do work, here they are divided into internal and external methods for alleviating the symptoms of anxiety.  

Internal Methods

As mentioned above, internal methods require nothing from the external world to assist you in alleviating anxiety. These methods count on you and you alone:

  • Prayer
  • Meditation
  • Visualization
  • Distraction
  • Thinking about something else
  • Fidgeting
  • Music: Singing, dancing, drumming
  • Emotional Freedom Therapy ( EFT) / Thought Field Therapy ( TFT)
  • Energy Medicine
  • Art
  • Humor
  • Heart Rate Variability Breathing
  • Hypnosis
  • Exercise, Yoga, Reiki. Ti Chi and QiGong

Worldwide prayer and/or mediation are two of the most calming methods known. However, most people do not take time to pray, and learning how to mediate correctly has a learning curve, just read the book Eat, Pray, Love.  

Visualization Techniques for Anxiety

If you prefer utilizing visualization, distraction and breathing techniques, Dr. Joseph Cautella, Ph. D., who was a professor of psychology at Boston College developed the Cautella’s Self Control Triad. The following is a brief explanation of Cautella’s method:

You learn to stop thinking by saying “Stop,” then you take a deep breath in through you nose and exhaling out your mouth, then you picture water over your body and then picturing a squeegee, you visualize the squeegee removing the water going from the top of your body down to your toes. You keep doing this until you feel calmer and then you picture a calming relaxing scene. 

Energy Psychology and Energy Medicine for Anxiety Symptoms

For many people fidgeting with their clothing, hair, or an object can be very soothing and calming, while singing, dancing, making rhythmic sounds, taping or drumming is very effective.

If you like drumming or tapping, there is a form of Energy Psychologycalled Emotional Freedom Therapy (EFT) and/or Thought Field Therapy (TFT) that encourages you to tap specific acupressure points in a specific pattern producing a very effective method for alleviating anxiety.

There is also Energy Medicine, founded and developed by Donna Eden and Dr. David Feinstein, that heals the body by activating its natural healing energies, and by restoring energies that have become weak, disturbed, or out of balance. To accomplish this, energy medicine uses techniques from healing methods such as acupuncture, yoga, kinesiology, and Qi Gong. The various approaches in energy medicine work well against the symptoms of PCS and PTSD.

Drawing and creating art can be done without any external methods and allows the overactive Limbic system to feel calmed. Humor is another universal method of bringing calmness. Heart Rate Breathing is very quick to learn, yet it does take some external devices to give you the proper feedback. One of the best is through HeartMath, Emwave

Hypnosis is the natural ability to disassociate from the current situation. To learn it properly and effectively, you do need to be trained by a certified hypnotherapist. Once you have learned what is needed, you have an extremely effective method and tool for alleviating anxiety. 

Exercise, whether it is active sports, or recreational activity such as swimming, brisk walk or various forms of yoga, Ti Chi, Reiki, and QiGong, all are great at producing a calming effect to the brain without any external methods.  

External Methods

The following external methods require something external to help you alleviate anxiety:

Nutrition for Anxiety

What you eat truly does affect how you feel. If you eat lots of sugar you will not feel calm, and many of the feelings of anxiety will feel worse. While alcohol and some recreational drugs might feel good at the moment, in the long run these will only perpetuate your anxiety. If you have any form of brain injury, please avoid sugar, alcohol and recreational drugs. 

Medication for Anxiety

Before using any medication, whether it is prescribed or over the counter, please consider whether you’re hearty, reactive and/or sensitive,e and how medication may affect you and what the side effects might be. Does the treatment outweigh the possible side effect? Before taking any medication, discuss your medical history with your PCP or licensed provider. This also goes for homeopathic, herbal remedies and aromatherapies. 

Other External Methods for Alleviating Anxiety

Acupuncture has been around for over 4,000 years as an effective external method for alleviating anxiety. You know what you think can produce your body and brain to react. Just think of the last time you went to a movie and how your body reacted. It is because you suspended reality and became part of the movie. Understanding how you think and how to change your thinking can be effectively done through talk therapy with a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or family counselor. Another form of talk therapy, specially designed to deal with anxiety is Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). It was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro. This form of talk therapy includes an integrative eight-phase approach to disconnecting the emotional and physical reaction to a traumatic event from the thought of the event. This method of identifying the mind/body and emotional triggers that heighten PCS symptoms provides tools to work through and sever this connection. This type of therapy is done by a mental health professional specifically trained in EMDR, or by a graduate student under the supervision of a licensed clinician.

Sound therapy includes using scientific program such as Hemi-Sync, Bilateral Sound, the Tomatis Method and Swingle Sounds helps to soothe the over active Limbic system. Light therapy uses lasers from infrared to visual wave patterns to sitting under various color lights that help produce a calming effect to the brain.

Biofeedback and Neurofeedback for Anxiety

Biofeedback, which includes thermal, muscular and EEG (neurofeedback) is akin to looking in a mirror that shows your inner responses rather than your outer appearance. For example, you cannot ordinarily influence your brain wave activity because you have no information about it. However, when you can see instantaneous information about your brain function on a computer screen, you have the ability to positively influence that function

One form of electrical biofeedback speaks to the body through electrical impulse signals that are modified based on changes detected at the skin’s surface, such as reddening or numbness. Signals are sent to the body through the skin based on changes within the body, and reflected back to the surface of the skin. This causes the body to move toward a more normative state. Self-controlled energy neuro adaptive regulation (SCENAR), developed by Alexander Karasev for use in the Russian space program, employs signals that are modified depending what happened in the past—a backward-looking technology that is viewed as reorganizing. The newer Cosmodic technology of adaptive regulation looks ahead to the body’s target state of response, so it is more regenerative in nature. In Russia, SCENAR is considered a conventional, rather than complementary, approach and is currently used as a principal treatment instrument.

Another electrical biofeedback method that was also developed in Russia during the 1950s is Cranial Electo Stimulation (CES). From this technology, there has been proven double blind clinical trials proving it effective in treating anxiety, insomnia and depression. It is a registered FDA medical device for alleviating anxiety, insomnia and depression. Also, it is effective for chronic pain.

Neurofeedback has many subdivisions, which I will go into greater detail about in a future post.  However, all of the various types are specifically designed to alleviate anxiety. The number of external sessions of treatment vary depending on the specific cause. Neurofeedback is one of the external methods that not only addresses the symptom of anxiety, but also addresses the cause.  

The use of Neurofeedback with talk therapy, in conjunction with many of the other internal and external modalities presented can help your alleviate anxiety. As a neuropsychologist and trauma therapist for over 35 year I strongly believe an integrative approach is the most effective method of treating any problem. There is Help and Hope. There is a Way!

Copyright: Methods of Elevating Anxiety © 2014 Diane Roberts Stoler, Ed.D.