Overcoming Anxiety and Restoring Mental Balance
Has your mind become your worst enemy as it struggles to reconnect with your more metered self? Do you feel trapped in a relentless cycle of subtle agitation, nagging doubt and self-destructive behavior? Has one pervasive, unnerving thought overtaken your mind and body and compromised your ability to think clearly? This can trigger your fight or flight response, which is your body’s way of alerting you to threats and to prepare you to deal with them.
Although this preoccupation can make you feel off, that is, not quite like yourself, you do not have to endure this indefinitely. The beginning of your journey to establishing a balanced manner of thinking and problem-solving is to acknowledge to yourself that you see a pattern of often feeling worried, nervous or fearful of ordinary occurrences. It is important for you to recognize that you cannot work on this interloper in your life until you own it. The next step is to contact a psychotherapist who is experienced in working with those addressing this emotional challenge which can upend your life.
Prevalence Of Anxiety
Long before COVID-19 was sweeping across our country anxiety was on the rise. Even among the young diagnoses like Generalized Anxiety Disorder have become increasingly more common. A recent poll by the American Psychological Association revealed that the average person feels as though he experiences an unhealthy level of stress in his daily life. Were you aware that how you live your life, the pace at which you move through it, and your level of digital, rather than interpersonal, involvement with others often results in a heightened level of isolation and impacts on your level of felt stress?
Did you know that anxiety affects eighteen percent of the adults in the United States and that it is the most common form of mental health challenges? The National Institute of Mental Health reports that most people have experienced anxiety at one time or another. Facing a job interview or review, taking an exam or attending a social event may trigger this. Generally this feeling is short-lived and does not interfere with your daily functioning. However, anxiety disorders are different in a number of ways. Anxiety Disorders are characterized by more than a fleeting feeling. They are relatively long-lasting experiences, which often worsen over time and significantly interfere with an individual’s ability to function on a daily level.
There are several different types of anxiety disorders including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Agoraphobia, Social Anxiety Disorder, Separation Anxiety, Panic Disorder and Selective Mutism in addition to a wide range of specific phobias. While they take different forms, excessive fear is a common quality, which causes significant stress and interferes with life. Fear is experienced in the expectation of an immediate threat, which might be real or imagined. Anxiety is the anticipation of a future threat resulting in the prevalence of behaviors which persist long after the need for it has passed. Many people struggle with panic attacks, which make moving through the demands of daily living a challenge.
Panic Attack Symptoms include:
- Fear of dying imminently,
- Having difficulty breathing and/or a fear of choking,
- Experiencing a tingling sensation or numbness in various parts of the body,
- Experiencing chest pain,
- Fear of fainting, feeling lightheaded or dizzy,
- Feeling overheated or having the chills.
Emotional Symptoms Of Anxiety
The physical expression of a medical condition, as well as substance abuse or withdrawal from prescribed medications or illicit drugs, can cause the presentation of anxiety symptoms. Feelings impact on our sense of well-being, our stamina and our resilience. They can cause stress, anxiety, depression, excessive self-criticism and perfectionism. Anxiety makes moving through your day take on new emotional challenges:
- Have you found yourself worrying excessively over everyday decisions?
- Do you have difficulty concentrating in spite of your own best efforts?
- Do you find that your mind goes blank?
- Are unwanted feelings, thoughts or fears troubling you?
- Are you fearful that something terrible is about to occur?
- Are you feeling angry or irritated?
- Are you attempting to minimize these challenges through the participation in routines or rituals such as counting, repeating or avoiding numbers, sequences, or sites?
Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety
Anxiety symptoms are associated with a number of medical problems. It has been found that as symptoms of anxiety and depression increase so does the likelihood of a person to have asthma, heart problems, migraine headaches, visual problems or back problems.
On a physical level there are a number of symptoms that may be indicative of anxiety. Examine what you are experiencing physically:
- Does it feel as though your heart is bursting out of your chest?
- Are your hands clammy; are you sweating?
- Do you find yourself shaking, twitching and feeling as though you could jump out of your skin?
- Is insomnia your all too present bedtime companion?
- Do you become light-headed or feel confused when in individual or group social settings?
Teens & Anxiety
All teens experience some from of anxiety as they transition from childhood into adolescence. This is a normal reaction to stress, which often helps teens learn to deal with situations they find overwhelming. As their brains respond to the anxious feelings of apprehension and uncertainty, they experience increased heart beats and excessive sweating.
When young people are struggling with an abundance of stress, they often present as being frozen in place or in a state of overwhelm. At these times they become disconnected from their critical thinking skills, lose a clear sense of their direction in life or confidence in their plans for the future. The resulting feeling is helplessness, accompanied by anxiety and/or depression.
Teens are often unaware of what they are experiencing when they feel anxiety. They may seen worried, nervous or fearful of ordinary occurrences, yet are unable to identify the source or the trigger. You may be wondering whether your teenager is experiencing anxiety, since it is not always easy to recognize. However, there are subtle indications that you can be on the lookout for.
Is your teen exhibiting subtle Emotional Changes including:
- Feeling wired, keyed-up or on edge;
- Exhibiting increased moodiness, irritability or unexplained outbursts;
- Having difficulty concentrating;
- Experiencing restlessness?
Has your teen’s pattern of Social Interactions changed by:
- Avoiding interactions with the usual friends
- Unwillingness to participate in the previous extracurricular activities of choice
- Isolating themselves from others by spending more time alone?
If this occurs look carefully at what is going on or not! Talk with your teen, ask questions and reach out for professional assistance if their is any doubt in your mind as to what is transpiring.
Anxiety in teens, as well as adults, often has Physical Manifestations including:
- Gastrointestinal distress, nausea
- Aches and pains with no explanation,
- Extreme fatigue or legs shaking
- Complaints of not feeling good without medical cause
- Sleep disturbances
- Poor school performance
- Changes in eating habits
Therapy & Anxiety
Through the therapeutic process you will learn how to process life in a very different and productive way. The incorporation of dynamic interpersonal interventions will help you find peace, remain calm and process life in a grounded way. Through our therapeutic relationship you will learn to identify the tools needed to help you overcome anxiety, depression and a wide variety of mental health challenges. This therapy will help you learn to implement behavioral strategies so that the feelings of anxiety depression do not take the best out of you. Instead of being rooted in your self-defeating and pain-filled repetitions, therapy will teach you to move productively through your life and become more effective in your relationships.
The best compliment to psychotherapy to treat most emotional challenges, is regular, aerobic exercise three to four days a week. The important variables are that this activity is consistent, aerobic and non-competitive. The purpose of this is to dissipate the impact of stress and irritation on your emotional landscape and your physiological terrain.
Maximize Your Outdoor Time
At a minimum go out daily for a walk, even a short one, alone or with another, or a deep breath of fresh air. Take time to appreciate your surroundings-the sky, the changes in the light at different times of the day, the plants, shrubs and landscape, the birds and domestic animals.
In addition at least initially avoid the consumption of stimulants including alcohol, caffeine and nicotine. The more you add stimulants into your body the more you are feeding the anxiety. If your goal is to even out your emotions, maintain greater control over them and live a more balanced life, this is a must.
Be Kind To Yourself
Remember that being maximally productive on an ongoing basis is not optimal. Spend less time on screens and more time with children, family, friends, pets and your favorite hobbies or areas of interest.
Last, but not least, be sure to establish the pattern of a good night’s sleep. Establishing this as a priority will help you cope more effectively with your symptoms when they arise.
Treatment For Emotional Challenges
Within my private psychotherapy practice in Manhasset, I work with individuals, couples and families as they struggle with anxiety, depression, self-esteem, communication and conflictual or less than optimal interactions with significant others. My treatment modalities incorporate an awareness of the mind-body interface through an application of anxiety therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy and emotional relearning therapy interventions. You can grow from your challenges, regardless of their nature; heal from your pain; and move forward to where you want to be in your life. Call me at (516) 627-1145 for a complimentary consultation to discuss any of these or related topics.
Dr. Maryann B Schaefer
Ph.D. – Counseling, Concentration in Psychology
NYS Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Fellow of American Psychotherapy Association
Phone: (516) 627-1145
5 Travers Street Manhasset, NY 11030
Office Hours: By appointment only.