Anxiety: A Treatment Guide
In last week’s blog, co-founder Ngozi shared a very personal experience of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), highlighting just how this type of anxiety is more than just ‘worrying’. It’s when worrying goes beyond, to an unhelpful level, which can become quite debilitating for people.
The video above highlights what anxiety can be like for some people. Does this sound like you or someone you know?
In today’s blog, I will be taking you through some of typical treatment options and coping strategies that you or someone you know who struggles with anxiety might access.
The first thing to note here is that you should always see your GP for a consultation regarding how you feel. They should discuss all available options to you, so you can make an informed decision as to what might suit you best.
1. Self-help therapies or programmes
This generally involves a self-help workbook pack which could include information guides, worksheets, exercises, and diaries to measure your anxiety levels and track your progress. The advantage of this option is that it’s cost effective and convenient as you can do this in your own time. This can also be done in a group setting, where you meet and share your feelings with others who also feel similar anxiety to you, and won’t judge you. You’ll learn how other people cope with their anxieties. Most good quality self-help books are typically rooted in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques which I will discuss in more detail later. One of such books includes Overcoming Anxiety by Helen Kennerley. The UK Royal College of Psychiatrists have particularly endorsed this book as well as others in the ‘Overcoming’ self-help book series. At Aurora Wellness, we offer small group workshops specifically designed for busy professionals struggling to get their anxieties under control. Please contact us here if you would like to know more.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapies
2. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is an evidence-based therapy that focuses on how you think about yourself, the world and other people. It highlights the circular connection between your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. In other words, how you ‘think’ affects how you ‘feel’, which affect how you ‘behave’, which affects how you ‘think’ again!
CBT can help you to change how you think (‘Cognitive’) and what you do (‘Behaviour’). These changes can help you to feel better. It particularly focuses on the ‘here and now’ problems and difficulties, rather than the causes of your distress or symptoms in the past. Its primary goal is to help you look for ways to improve your state of mind as it is ‘now’.
It helps you to challenge your negative thoughts and encourages you to find evidence to discredit those unhelpful voices running in your head. CBT treatment can last anywhere between 6 weeks to 6 months, depending on the severity of your anxiety. Your GP should be able to refer you to a CBT specialist to help you work out how long you might need.
Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow’s trouble, it simply takes away today’s peace.
Mindfulness practices are not new and have origins in the contemplative traditions of Asia, especially Buddhism. However in the last 40 years they have been formulised into the therapies of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), traditionally delivered in eight week classes.
Mindfulness works by focusing on your awareness of the present moment and acknowledging and accepting what you are feeling- to ‘sit with it’ until it passes, focusing on your breathing. Mindfulness techniques teaches you how to relax your muscles and also how to relax your muscles in response to a trigger word like ‘Be still’ or ‘Relax’. Practising mindfulness can give you more insight into your emotions, boosting your attention and concentration. A growing body of evidence has found that when people intentionally practice being mindful they feel less stressed, anxious and depressed. At Aurora Wellness, we would always look to include a 15 minute ‘mindful wind down’ at the end of our workshops.
Medication can play a part in the treatment of some people with Generalised Anxiety Disorder. The most common medications are tranquillisers like benzodiazepines (most sleeping tablets also belong to this class of drug). High-potency benzodiazepines relieve symptoms quickly and have few side effects, although drowsiness can be a problem. As people can develop a tolerance to them, with an increased dosage to get the same effect benzodiazepines are generally prescribed for short periods of time.
Alternatively, the newer anti-depressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are also used to treat anxieties. These medications act on a chemical messenger in the brain called serotonin. SSRIs tend to have fewer side effects than older antidepressants. People do sometimes report feeling slightly nauseated or jittery when they first start taking SSRIs, but that usually disappears over time.
Only your doctor can prescribed these, so before treatment can begin, you must see your GP to conduct a careful diagnostic evaluation to determine whether symptoms are due to an anxiety disorder, which anxiety disorder(s) you may have, and what coexisting conditions may be present.
In the meantime…
While most people with generalised anxiety disorders need psychotherapy or medication to get anxiety under control, lifestyle changes can also make a difference. Here’s what you can do:
Talk to someone. Find a trusted friend or colleague and tell them how you’re feeling. They might understand a lot more than you think.
Keep physically active. Develop a routine so that you’re physically active most days of the week. Exercise is a powerful stress reducer. It may improve your mood and help you stay healthy. Start out slowly and gradually increase the amount and intensity of your activities.
Make sleep a priority. Do what you can to make sure you’re getting enough sleep to feel rested. If you aren’t sleeping well, see your GP.
Use relaxation techniques. Visualisation techniques, meditation and yoga are examples of relaxation techniques that can help ease anxiety.
Eat healthy. Healthy eating — such as focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish, can help your moods and boost your concentration. Side note – so can chocolate!
Avoid excessive alcohol and recreational drugs. These substances can worsen your anxiety.
Quit smoking and cut back on drinking coffee. Both nicotine and caffeine can worsen your anxiety.
These videos are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.
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With over 15 years of management experience behind me I love to see women succeed at work and home. When I'm not doling out advice, I can be found sitting mute on the sofa watching tv with my husband or refereeing fights between my two kids.