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You want to live a better life. Here’s how.
If you are experiencing an emergency, contact emergency services to get help immediately.
If you are not currently experiencing an emergency, contact a mental health professional that deals with anxiety. You will not be able to make your anxiety go away by sheer force of will. You will need professional help. If you think there is even a remote chance that you need professional help, consult a professional.
It may take a while to get an appointment with an appropriate mental health professional. While you’re waiting, or in between appointments, there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of anxiety attacks:
Some medications can help alleviate symptoms in the short term. They include classes of drugs called tricyclics, benzodiazepines, beta-blockers, MAOIs, SSRIs, and buspirone.
All medications have some side effects, sometimes significant ones. Also, while these medications can provide relief from symptoms, they do not address the root cause of your anxiety. They target the triggers and effects of your anxiety, but not the processes in the brain that cause it.
The root cause of your anxiety is a habit your brain has formed of taking everyday anxieties and pouring them into a negative feedback cycle that turns them into something crippling.
You cannot eliminate triggers from your life. Anxiety-inducing moments are all around us. Neither can you simply damp down the symptoms forever.
The only long-term treatment that works is to address that root cause. It’s to re-train your brain so that when you feel anxiety, your brain doesn’t automatically make it worse and worse until it’s debilitating.
That process is called CBT or Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and with the help of a mental health professional, you’ll be able to use CBT to reprogram your brain and eliminate that negative feedback loop.
You won’t be avoiding triggers or masking symptoms; you’ll be addressing the root cause of your problems. It’s the only long-term solution that can have you living your best life.
CBT is not a quick fix, so your mental health professional may put you on medication so you can function while you develop your skills with CBT.
That spiraling feeling you’ve felt before is your brain’s habitual reaction to anxiety-inducing situations. CBT is the process of breaking that habit and replacing it with better ones.
Changing habits is neither quick, nor easy, and that’s particularly true of habits we don’t even recognize as habits. When you’re using CBT, you’re rewriting the way your brain thinks. It sounds like science fiction, but it’s incredibly powerful.
You have two brains. Your lizard brain is in charge of habits and reactions. Your conscious brain is in charge of focus and reflection. Your conscious brain is open to new information. Your reptilian brain isn’t.
When you feel anxiety coming one—that regular everyday anxiety we all feel—your reptilian brain is going to apply the same old habits that lead to a downward spiral. You can use your thinking brain to interrupt that habit. If you do it often enough for long enough, you’ll break that habit and develop a new one.
It’s not easy, and it’s not fast, but it’s the only thing that works long-term.
Your thinking brain can only interrupt your reptilian brain when it recognizes something is headed into that downward spiral. That’s obvious, right? But that means you have to put your thinking brain in a position to recognize the thoughts and feelings that are passing through your lizard brain all the time.
That’s called Mindfulness and it takes a lot of practice.
When a new feeling of anxiety comes in, you’ll want to derail it instead of allowing it to continue into a downward spiral. You won’t always succeed, but the more you practice, the better you’ll get.
First, you’ll want to recognize the thoughts or feelings. Simply denying them doesn’t make them go away. Acknowledge to yourself that you’re anxious about an upcoming meeting, or afraid that you’re going to make a fool out of yourself if you go drinking with friends.
Acknowledge the thought or feeling for what it is. Then decide what to do with it. There are several things you can try:
Anxiety didn’t become a problem overnight, and it’s not going to be resolved overnight. It’s a process, and here’s where you can start.
I help my patients in many ways...one of them is to encourage small, positive actions. Investing in yourself (be it time, therapy … or this book) is an excellent first step. There’s no risk (I have a money-back guarantee) to you so you’re assured a positive outcome. I look forward to hearing your story of transformation! Read more about Dr. Sharyn
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- Dr. Sharyn