How to deal with anxiety without treatment

Sometimes the answer is medication and therapy, but quite often learning to cope with anxiety can make a big difference. Here are some of the ways to do it.

How to deal with anxiety without treatment

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, an estimated 12 per cent of Canadian adults experience anxiety disorders of some sort, including generalized anxiety, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic attacks.

Choose one thing that is making you anxious

  • Now sit down and write out all the fears you have about that one thing.
  • If it's money, write down what would happen if you lost your job, if you couldn't pay your bills.
  • What is the absolute worst thing that could happen? Now look at each item and mark it on a scale of one to 10, with one being highly unlikely that it would ever happen, 10 being likely that it would happen.
  • You'll be surprised at how few items rank above a five.
  • This understanding should help to reduce your anxiety. If something does rank higher than a five, you may want to develop a contingency plan for it.
  • Nothing works better to calm anxiety than turning from pure worry to an action plan.

Name your fears

The most anxiety-producing thing of all is the unknown. So make a point of dragging your worries out of the shadows.

  • If you're worried about your son/daughter/partner getting hurt or killed in a car crash, for example, discuss it – at least with yourself. Look up the statistics on driving and injury to relieve your mind.
  • Do the same for whatever else makes you worry, whether it's Ebola virus, bioterrorism, cancer or plane crashes.
  • Once you name your fears and learn more about them, you can take steps to minimize your risk.
  • You'll also find that the fears you name and tame are far less menacing than the fears left to lurk in the shadows of your imagination.

Relax, detach and focus

Try the following routines:

  • Relax your body from the toes up.
  • Detach from your thoughts.
  • Centre yourself in the moment (for example, feel your head upon the pillow or your feet on the ground, etc., depending on where you are).
  • Focus on who you want to be and how you want to feel.

Breathe

Proper breathing is particularly important during moments of great anxiety. At times like these, many people resort to chest breathing – the type of big, desperate inhales and exhales that make you rapidly puff up and deflate your chest.

      Breathing tips:

  • To regain healthy breathing during periods of anxiety, lie on the floor and place your hand on your chest.
  • Using your hand as a gauge, try to reduce the amount of chest movement, while continuing to breathe normally.
  • You don't want your chest to move; you want the other parts of your body to take over the breathing – using your diaphragm instead of the big chest inhales and exhales. Do this for five minutes.What else to know:
  • Be aware that chest breathing still has a purpose, but only in times of extreme emotional arousal or physical challenge.
  • Most people use chest breathing because of instincts developed from fight-or-flight conditions.
  • It's in those types of physically dangerous situations that it is still necessary – not for everyday stress or anxiety.
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