The best treatment for anxiety is typically a combination of psychotherapy and medication. However, lifestyle modifications can also help manage symptoms.
Psychotherapy and medication are the two most effective and popular treatments for anxiety disorders. While both are equally important, the best treatment option is determined by the severity of symptoms along with the presence of any underlying conditions. Generally, a combination of both treatments along lifestyle modifications is recommended. Your healthcare provider will help determine what will work best for you.
Psychotherapy (often called talk therapy or psychological counseling) is working with a therapist to alleviate anxiety symptoms.
For anxiety disorders, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective kind of psychotherapy. CBT is a short-term treatment that focuses on teaching you particular techniques to help you improve your symptoms and eventually resume activities you have avoided because of anxiety.
CBT incorporates exposure treatment, which involves progressively exposing yourself to the object or scenario that causes your anxiety. This practice may help you gain confidence in your ability to deal with the situation and anxiety sensations.
Depending on the type of anxiety condition you have and if you also have other mental or physical health concerns, different medicines are used to help reduce symptoms. Anxiety problems are also treated with antidepressants. Other medicines, such as sedatives (benzodiazepines) or beta-blockers, may be prescribed in certain instances. These medicines are only meant to be used for short-term alleviation of anxiety symptoms and should not be used indefinitely.
Lifestyle modifications for treating anxiety
Treating anxiety can also involve lifestyle modifications that help manage stress levels, as well as calm down and ease symptoms. These modifications may include:
- Go for a short walk: Exercise can be a great stress reliever because it helps release endorphins (the feel-good hormones), so going for a walk can create a diversion from worries and provide new perspectives.
- Use visualization techniques: Visualization and guided imagination can restore peace of mind while relaxing a person mentally and physically.
- Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR): This is a technique where all the muscle groups are tensed and then relaxed, making the body feel calmer and helping the person handle anxiety better.
- Aromatherapy: Sniffing relaxing fragrances is another easy tool that can be used quickly. Lighting a candle or diffuser with a calming essential oil, such as lavender, decreases anxiety.
- Breathe deeply: Focusing on breathing exercises is one of the most effective ways to slow the racing heart and feel calmer right away. Slow, deep breathing techniques lead to feelings of comfort and relaxation and reduce symptoms of anxiety.
- Use logic to challenge fears: Intense feelings of anxiety and stress often stem from irrational thoughts and deepest fears. Thinking more positively and using logic to challenge those fears can reduce anxiety.
- Move the body: Anything that gets one moving, such as washing the car, gardening or playing a game, removes negative thoughts and encourages the body to release endorphins that boost mood and make one feel good.
- Chew gum: Chewing gum helps reduce stress, improves mood and reduces anxiety.
- Take a bath: People who bathe in hot water have better mental and emotional health. Warm water also eases sore and aching muscles, which can help relieve anxiety and make you feel calmer.
- Go outdoors: Getting some sun can increase the release of serotonin in the brain, which improves mood and relaxes the mind. Also, being surrounded by nature is a calming experience, even on a cloudy day.
- Write it down: Writing about anxious and worried thoughts can make one feel that a weight has been lifted off their shoulders. Journal writing helps healthily process emotions and confront fears, reducing feelings of anxiety.
- Listen to music: Listening to music helps control stress and anxiety levels, even in tough situations. Calming music or soothing sounds keep cortisol levels down and relaxes the mind, giving instant relief.
- Be thankful: Feeling grateful can help wash away anxiety and depression almost immediately. Writing down a list of things that you are thankful for to help focus on the positive aspects of your life.
- Close the eyes: Closing the eyes and focusing on relaxing facial muscles can eliminate anxiety and bring one back to a state of calm.
- Play with a pet: Playing with a pet can lead to a significant reduction in the stress hormone, cortisol, which can improve one’s mood and reduce anxiety.
- Completely relax muscles: Relaxation can be practiced through autogenic training. which is done by sitting or lying down in a comfortable position and letting the muscles go completely limp, effectively making negative feelings drift away.
- Watch something funny: Laughter is the best medicine that can relieve anxiety and boost positive feelings. Watching a clip of your favorite comedian or blooper reel will help stop anxious feelings fast.
- Meditate: Meditation can significantly lower levels of anxiety and stress.
- Sip herbal tea: Chamomile or green tea decreases anxiety symptoms and depression. Brewing a cup of tea provides a much-needed break to step away from stress.
- Distract yourself: Redirect attention away from distressing thoughts or emotions by shifting your focus to any activity that will interrupt these thoughts.
- Avoid caffeine: Caffeine is an anxiety inducer. Coffee, chocolate and some pain medications contain caffeine, so when feeling anxious, intake of these items should be reduced.
- Eat something healthy: Low blood sugar can make one feel nervous, irritable and anxious. Have a healthy snack, such as fruit, oatmeal or nuts.
- Practice yoga: Practicing yoga decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety. It also reduces levels of cytokines, which are released during stress in blood.
- Accept anxiety: Accepting anxiety instead of feeling ashamed or frustrated will help you feel less anxious.
- Get to the pressure point: Using the thumb of one hand press around the palm of the other hand to potentially help reduce anxiety.
- Stretch to release tension: This is extremely effective at releasing tension in different parts of the body.
- Talk to someone understanding: If feelings of anxiety are making it hard to function, talking to understanding friends can help relieve anxiety.