Ask Dr. Joy: reducing anxiety

By WEEK Producer

November 13, 2013 Updated Nov 13, 2013 at 7:45 PM CDT

Governmental shutdowns, global warming, higher prices at the gas pump, fearing spending too much during the holiday season, crime in the streets...it all ads up to increased anxiety and worry for many Americans.

What are some simple techniques for lowering your anxiety level?

• Learn breathing techniques. When we become anxious our breathing quickens and our breaths become shallow. Practice relaxation breathing by inhaling through your nose and count to 4, hold for the count of 6 and then exhale through your mouth for the count of 8. This will calm your system and lower your anxiety

• Become active. We always talk about exercise and it’s powerful effects on reducing anxiety. Try walking, swimming, or riding a bike. These activities and others will increase your serotonin “feel good” endorphins and reduce our stress levels.

• Learn meditation. Quieting the mind can help you reduce anxiety. Research shows that people who join stress reduction classes and learn meditation and mindfulness experience lower anxiety levels.

You always tell us to seek the help of a professional counselor. What do counselors generally do to help us minimize our anxiety?

• Break our negative thoughts. Therapists help people identity how our thoughts shape our anxiety and fears. Therapists are trained to assist in breaking negative thought patterns that are destructive.

• Break distorted thoughts. Many of our thoughts are unrealistic, or filled with beliefs that might not be realistic. Therapists teach us how to balance our thoughts with positive realistic ones.

• Stress reduction. Therapists teach us techniques for managing our anxiety and skills to monitor our anxiety through increased awareness.

Are there any other things that will help us minimize our anxiety?

• Reach out: Talk to someone in your support network

• Get away from stressors: Use visual distractions (TV, movies, video games, reading a book)

• Look at ways to relax and find balance: Use sensory-motor distractions (gardening, crafts, fun apps on your computer etc)

• Passions and fun: Find an alternative positive obsession (crossword, photography, or jigsaw puzzle)

• Mental reframing: Practice positive affirmations & break distractions with focusing on positive elements in your life. (gratitude vs negative)

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