What You May Not Know About Anxiety And Ways Of Managing It

From spiritual practices to earthing, there are a lot of out-of-the box things that can be done to help your anxiety.
woman with anxiety
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Depending on where you look, you will find that between 18% to 20% of people in the United States suffer from an anxiety disorder. What is anxiety though?

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety is used as a blanket term to fit in various disorders that involve extreme fear or worry, for example, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and panic attacks, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, selective mutism, separation anxiety, and specific phobias.

There can be many different reasons that a person might develop an anxiety disorder, from trauma to the anxiety being tied to another mental disorder. But one thing that not many people seem to be aware of is that it can be learned. 

Anxiety can be learned

If parents are already suffering from any type of anxiety disorder their children can learn from that behavior and mimic it.

In an articled titled 'How to Avoid Passing Anxiety on to Your Kids' published in the Child Mind Institute website, it is stated that "kids look to their parents for information on how to interpret ambiguous situations; if the parent seems consistently anxious and fearful, the child will determine that a variety of scenarios are unsafe."

The article continues by saying that "there is evidence that children of anxious parents are more likely to exhibit anxiety themselves."

When we are children we are like sponges for both the good and the bad. But, don't despair, if it's a learned behavior then you may be able to unlearn your anxiety and live a more peaceful life. 

It takes time to manage anxiety

Even if there are methods to manage anxiety, it is not something that you can get rid of overnight. Anxiety is something that takes time to become aware of, to identify, and then to treat. 

This is because anxiety can come in many forms. Sometimes you can see anxiety expressed as anger or short temper, while other times it can be expressed as nervousness or avoidance.  

When it comes to anxiety treatment there are a vast array of things you can do and that you should try out for yourself. Note that, everyone is the same and different things work for different people.

The ADAA states that when it comes to treatment, it should be tailored specifically for each person because treatments may involve medication, a therapist, long or short-term programs and it may become complicated if the patient suffers from other mental illnesses as well. 

The right treatment and program take time to discover so be patient and have compassion with yourself through this journey. 

Religion and Spirituality can lower anxiety
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Religious beliefs and spiritual practices can help manage anxiety

Although more research needs to be done, especially between spirituality, religion, and anxiety, there have been studies that have seen lower levels of anxiety in people with higher levels of spirituality. 

There have been other studies, however, that point at negative results in which spirituality and religion caused higher levels of anxiety or had no effect at all on the person. But, it seems that it all depends on the internal believes that the person has. 

The Handbook of Spirituality, Religion, and Mental Health (Chapter 3)  states:

"Positive beliefs such as greater faith and trust in God, secure religious attachment, intrinsic religious motivation, and religious gratitude, are robustly associated with lower levels of anxiety with medium to large effect sizes."

On the negative effects, the Handbook states that:

"Conversely, negative S/R (spiritual/religious) beliefs and attitudes such as punishing-God appraisals, anger and mistrust towards God, insecure/avoidant attachment to God, and extrinsic religious motivation, all predict greater anxiety symptoms with clinical as well as statistical significance."

In other words, your beliefs depending on whether they rely on internal (your own values and beliefs) or external (dependant on other people's views of you) motivation affect how your anxiety behaves and expresses itself. 

Plant medicine can be an option to manage anxiety

Because of the rising interest of people in more natural products, a lot of research has been directed towards these kinds of products and medicine. 

Studies like Plant-Based Medicine for Anxieties: Part 2, by J. Sarris, E. McIntyre, and D.A. Camfield, have uncovered that "research in...herbal psychopharmacy have revealed a variety of promising medicines that may provide benefit in the treatment of general anxiety and specific anxiety disorders."

Plants such as chamomile (Matricaria recutita), purple passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), sage (Salvia spp.), Ginko biloba, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), Indian pennywort (Centella asiatica), and others have been shown to benefit those with anxiety disorders, this according to the study mentioned above. 

If you are interested in trying plant medicine, we recommend going to someone who knows about this such as naturopaths or clinical herbalists, and always consult your doctor. 

tv and social media can worsen anxiety
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Social media and the news can increase anxiety

Believe it or not,  watching the news or social media for long stretches of time is anxiety-inducing. According to the ADAA, in times of uncertainty, one of the ways the mind seeks to cope with the anxiety is by looking up information. This way we can feel like we are in control.

Unfortunately, the ADAA, says this is a fleeting feeling:

"Staying glued to the news (and social media) actually increases our anxiety in the long-term because it contributes to the false belief that if we have enough information, we can remain in control."

In fact, coming down from that elevated state of stress after watching the news is very hard.

A study on the negative effects of watching the news found that watching the news on television triggers persisting, negative psychological feelings that could only be buffered (lessened or treated) by the directed psychological intervention (relaxation exercises).

So, try to limit your news and social media consumption. It is alright if consumed in smaller doses but can become very bad for your anxiety if you are always watching the same negative or triggering things over and over again. 

Working on self-esteem can help control anxiety

"Self-esteem is known to play a role in social anxiety disorder (SAD) and general anxiety disorder (GAD)", states an article in VeryWell Mind, which continues saying that negative "core beliefs help to maintain your anxiety and maybe rooted in low self-esteem."

Thinking negatively about yourself or your actions, criticizing yourself, continuously thinking this way, and catastrophizing, among other things, keeps you in a stressful and anxious cycle.

This is done by making you unconsciously seek out the negative things that validate your negative thoughts in the outside world, which in turn "tells" you that you were right and the cycle starts again.

It is for this reason that working on your self-esteem and self-worth can help you tremendously when it comes to managing anxiety. Stopping the cycle can help you lower your stress and anxiety levels because you are no longer spending so much energy inside your own head or looking for negative validations, and can spend your energy productively elsewhere. 

Earthing lowers anxiety
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Earthing helps reduce stress and anxiety

Recent studies exploring the health implications between humans and the Earth have shown that the electrons on the soil can help balance our bodies physically, emotionally, and mentally due to their negative charges interacting with our own positive charges.

How can the Earth's electrons help manage anxiety?

According to Better Earthing, a company that specialized in earthing products; earthing can help reduce sympathetic nervous system override, balance the autonomic nervous system, and reduce the stress response.

In which case, walking barefoot on soil helps you calm down and become clear. It is recommended that this be done for at least 15 minutes to see some change in yourself.

Better Earthing also states that earthing helps reduce inflammation, normalize cortisol levels, and reset your biological rhythm, helping you to sleep, be more positive, and improving energy levels. 

Animals can help calm anxiety

For those of you that are animal lovers, you will be happy to know that there have been studies linking animals to lower levels of anxiety.

In an article called Reduction of state-anxiety by petting animals in a controlled laboratory experiment, it was proven that just petting animals, whether with soft fur or hard shell, "reduced state-anxiety".

Another study that looked at the relationship between farm animals and people with clinical depression, showed that working with farm animals helped lower anxiety and depression "when progress in working skills was achieved."

You don't necessarily have to work with farm animals to help with your anxiety, though. In fact, you can get an emotional support animal by talking to your mental health professional.

The US Service Animals describes emotional support animals as animals that provide comfort just by being with a person.

Despite emotional support animals having shown to provide service to their owners, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA because they are not trained to do a specific task or job. This means that emotional support animals do not have the same rights as other service animals to accompany their owners to the places they have to go. 

That being said, there are still some places where emotional support animals are allowed. So we recommend doing research in your area by asking the businesses and stores you frequent if you can take your emotional support animal with you.

What can I do now with my anxiety?

If you think you suffer from anxiety the best way to know is to go to your doctor. Anxiety is hard to diagnose but once you know what's truly going on you can confidently seek out the best options for treating it. 

A writer with a love for hot chocolate and rainy days. Has a bachelor's degree in Journalism and is experimenting with fantasy writing.

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