There are many more treatment options for anxiety disorders today compared to the 1960’s when people were mostly given Valium to alleviate their symptoms. (Parry 1973)
“Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in your own sunshine”.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
A 1976 study revealed that primary care physicians reported anxiety visits to be more frequent by some accounts than the common cold. And antidepressant drugs were typically reserved for the most seriously ill patients through the 1970’s.
Not Much Was Known about Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Even in the 1980’s, journals featured panic disorder, agoraphobia, PTSD and OCD. But less than 10 percent of the articles were on generalized anxiety disorder. (Norton 1995)
Now – thousands of papers on anxiety disorders are published every year, not only about the causes – but how the mind works.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) aims to help you overcome your fears by correcting irrational thoughts and changing behaviors that result from the thoughts. The methods help you cope with your feelings so you can deal with the situations that make you anxious.
They Said The World Would End
I overcame GAD in the year 2000. I remember this well because we were dealing with Y2K at the time. Some people said that the world was going to end. Others said that our computers would crash because they wouldn’t be able to count up to the year 2000, but revert back to the year 1900. Utilities would shut down, banks would have no records of our money and gas pumps wouldn’t function.
CBT helped me change my attitude
- Had I not learned the skills to change my thinking, I would have made myself sick with the idea that I was going to die. Instead I decided to believe those who said nothing would happen, because there was nothing I was going to be able to do about it anyway.
Hitting Rock Bottom
- In the beginning when my anxiety was the worst, I couldn’t sleep, and worried obsessively about my family and my health. I had no appetite, low self-esteem, a negative attitude, and I expected too much of myself and other people.
- I was prescribed an antidepressant which I decided to take because I was too anxious not to. My body was in a constant state of tension, so I was grateful that medication could relax me enough to learn the skills of CBT. (I stopped taking the medication after 9 months and that was almost 19 years ago).
Medication and Therapy
- I learned that medication will calm us, thank God. But it won’t change our attitude and behavior. The coping skills from CBT can helps us control our fears and anxieties and when the time comes, help with discontinuing medication.
What I Did To Overcome My Anxiety:
1. Examined My Beliefs
I struggled with the idea that I wasn’t good enough. I thought this to be true in high school, in college, and as a parent. I’m a perfectionist, so I’ve always had high expectations of myself and I compared myself to others, often not measuring up. I stopped believing that thought, when I realized that my anxiety was behind it.
2. Got information about panic attacks and generalized anxiety disorder
My negative thinking caused the stress hormones to react in my body, which caused the panicky feelings and the anxiety. I practiced abdominal breathing, calmed my thoughts and learned that relaxed body cannot be anxious at the same time. Getting information is a powerful way to dismiss fear.
3. Wrote down my negative thoughts
When the I had a negative thought, I immediately wrote it down. I wrote another one right after it that was truthful and made me feel better. Eventually my brain learned how to do it on its own. This was one of the most important CBT skills I learned.
- Negative Thought: What if I never feel better?
- Positive Thought: I am doing the work to feel better each day. I will follow the process and will not let this thought scare me.
4. Lowered my expectations of others and myself
Making mistakes irritated me, and I felt the need to always be in control. Getting frustrated if people didn’t like me or treat me the way I would treat them was a common concern. I learned to laugh at my mistakes, and have less expectations of myself. Not everyone will like me and that’s perfectly fine, there are plenty of people who do.
5. Ended morning cups of coffee until I got my anxiety under control
Too much caffeine, sugar and fatty foods are going to affect us negatively, especially if we’re anxious. If we put garbage in, garbage comes out.
6. Put my needs before others
Assertive people are confident, likable and typically successful. I struggled with confrontations, offering my opinions, and not putting myself first. If we are assertive and put our own needs first we are setting a good example for our kids and it makes us feel better about ourselves too.
7. Stopped yelling so much to try and gain control of a situation
Having anxiety makes us angrier because we are tired, depressed, and frustrated. Nobody listens when we raise our voices because at this point they are shutting us out or thinking of ways to get back at us. Taking a whole day to consider if something is worth getting angry about can help us deal with it in a healthier way.
8. Figured out that worrying about my health was not going to save me from death
We have to stop worrying about things we can’t control. It is a complete waste of time and energy and it’s not going to give us any more protection from dying. We can make healthy choices to keep our bodies fit and well, but beyond that letting the fear of dying go will decrease our anxiety.
9. Let go of useless guilt
Guilt for the most part is more harmful than good. We all make mistakes and if we do something wrong it is meant to be a tap on the shoulder to remind us what we did – not a life sentence of feeling bad about it. Anxiety sufferers often feel guilty over unreasonable things like wishing they hugged their kids more.
10. Learned how to stop obsessing about things
Obsessive thinking is ineffective problem solving. In our minds it’s like running around a circle and ending up in the same place. Doing a walking meditation for 30 minutes helped me jump out of the circle and stop the cycle of thinking. The more I practiced, the less it happened.
11. Practiced yoga, relaxation, and meditation for several months
These practices helped calm my body and my mind. Eventually I did not need to do these activities to help me cope because I knew that I was capable of relaxing so the fear dissipated.
12. Exercised often
Walking, running, hiking, biking – any form of aerobic activity always made me feel better, which helps us in every aspect of our lives
I read lots of books, listened to various CD’s, and tried therapy for a few months. After consuming so much information I decided not to look for more ways to overcome my anxiety (which would have prolonged the process) because I had all the information I needed. My recovery was up to me.
1 In 6 People Suffer From Anxiety
The National Institute of Mental Health states that anxiety is the most common form of mental illness in the United States. 40 million Americans (1 in 6) are suffering from some kind of anxiety disorder at any given time.
The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry reported that 1 in 6 people worldwide would be afflicted with an anxiety disorder for at least 1 year of their lifetimes.
CBT Most Effective Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be the most effective treatment for any form of anxiety. It focuses on the way we think and the way we act. And when we have anxiety, we give our thoughts too much power.
If you are struggling with anxiety, there is help for you. If your desire is do the work and get better, it is possible to have the peace of mind you are looking for.