Anxiety or nervousness? Jitters or heart attack? Constant state of panic or briefly scared? Yep, we all feel this way from time to time, since life is usually not a bed of roses for most of us! But before jumping into the anxiety boat, make sure to carefully and thoughtfully meet with a mental health physician to determine that you indeed meet the criteria for Generalized Anxiety Disorder in the DSM-V (Glasofer, 2016) so that you can be properly and promptly treated.
As the resident Health Advisor at TERIMIYAHIRA, my Ph.D. in Social-Health Psychology allows me to share my professional research training experience with you. By disseminating sound research findings and the latest medical studies, the true hope of helping someone here is a blessing. However, keep in mind that it is dangerous to self-diagnose (even with the guidance of the Internet webs), and is important to understand that temporary worries and fears are a natural part of life. When these worries and fears become persistent, debilitating, interrupt fully with life functions, and may cause harm to others or yourself, seek professional help immediately.
To be alive and to live is to experience anxiety. Worries about missing the bus to work. Anxiety over a final presentation. Panic when you’ve lost sight of your child for 2 seconds. These occurrences are normal everyday reactions to things we are anticipating or that surprise us. Clinically speaking, however, this is not enough to start thinking you have a serious mental health illness.
To understand anxiety better, there are 3 different types we need to explore first.
1. General Anxiety occurs when people are excessively worried about something to the point where they physically make themselves ill and experience unstable and unpredictable moods.
2. Panic Anxiety occurs out the blue and people are flooded with intense fear, experience shortness of breath, and feel impending doom.
3. Social Anxiety happens when people are worried about social events, worried about what others think of them, and afraid of social gatherings.
The notable variable among all three types is that it happens for an extended amount of time and starts to interfere with your everyday life and relationships (NIMH, 2016).
If you feel you have trouble with anxiety and your doctor has thoroughly determined that this anxiety is “normal”, there are natural ways to deal with the occasional, daily-life bouts. Again, the key things to remember here with anxiety being an actual problem are severity, consistency, and duration of symptoms over time that interferes with daily, normal functioning of life.
To aid in occasional, daily-life anxiety, there are some natural methods that may help before seeking pharmaceutical drugs. (As always, talk to your healthcare professional first before using any kind of method to treat or cure anxiety or other types of mental health issues).
Theanine is a natural amino acid found in green and black tea that has been shown to help with improved cognitive function (Kimura et. al, 2007) and positive mood-boosting abilities (Kennedy et. al, 2002). The recommended dosage is 200-400mg taken on an empty stomach. Here at TM, we have taken 200mg for a few months, sometimes in the morning, and have not felt sleepy or sluggish. When taken a few hours before bed, we have found that it’s helped to improve our sleep and gently nods us to slumber quicker.
2. A Throw-Away Journal
This type of journaling is different from the hot pink Barbie journal with the fake lock we had at 7 years old, where we wrote about how we had a crush on Mike and hoped we’d get a bunny for our birthday. This is the big kid serious level of journaling meant to help us purge and let go of anything that’s causing us anxiety (also known as “brain dumping”). Once we physically write it all out, the idea is that we should be able to take a deep inhale and let go because the physical act of writing acts as a form of self-therapy. A TM favorite is the Moleskine hardcover journals, meant for creatives and writers, but we love it for daily journaling also.
3. Visualize the Next Steps
There are things that make us really nervous that we feel as though we might throw up (e.g., Meeting Josh Groban or something). A presentation, a job interview, traveling, or even having one of “those” talks with a significant other. Visualize what you’ll wear, how you’ll enter the room, how you’ll greet the person, and what you’ll say. Practice verbally or in your mind over and over again. The thought is that this practice of visualizing the next steps towards the big event that’s making you anxious will help start getting you more comfortable because you are practicing anticipating what’s next. It’s like a dress rehearsal where practice makes you more comfortable for the real deal.
4. Talk to a Friend You Trust
Good, healthy relationships with friends you trust can help reduce your anxiety. They help provide a feeling of safety and confidence. Confide in someone you trust and knows cares for you about your anxious situation. They may give you insights on how to handle the situation or help reframe your perspective so that you care “less” about the situation that may be causing you “unnecessary” stress. Having an outside opinion from a trusted friend helps you step out of your head and away from your anxious feelings.
5. Go for a walk
As simple as this may sound, it’s clinically proven to be effective. Get outside and physically take yourself away from the environment causing you anxiety. Getting out your head space and being in a different physical place altogether can help ease your nervousness tremendously. Walking helps you breathe, taking in fresh oxygen, and deeper breathing helps you relax (versus the shallow breaths we tend to take while we sit in front of the computer). Walk with your dog, find a dog to borrow, walk with a friend, or walk alone and really soak up the green beauty around you. You’ll find that nature can be your greatest friend in your time of need; she’s free, non-judgemental, and all-natural.
Kennedy DO, Scholey AB, Tildesley NT, Perry EK, Wesnes KA. Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of Melissa officinalis (lemon balm). Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2002 Jul;72(4):953-64.
Kimura K, Ozeki M, Juneja LR, Ohira H. L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biol Psychol. 2007 Jan;74(1):39-45.
Photo Credit: @cakeandconfetti