How to Deal With Stress and Anxiety

Although the terms “stress” and “anxiety” tend to be interchangeable in common usage, medically they are different. Stress is a normal reaction to a specific threat or situation and as such, it is not a disorder. Typically, once the cause is removed, the levels of stress hormones return to normal. However anxiety is a bona-fide medical condition. In order for anxiety symptoms to be diagnosed as an anxiety disorder, the symptoms will have persisted for at least six months. Anxiety is one of the possible consequences of a prolonged high level of stress, and that goes on without an identifiable cause. Anxiety is the prolonged feeling of apprehension or fear, perhaps without a known cause. The person afflicted worries about what lies ahead, and often suffers from physical symptoms such as panic attacks, dizziness. The DSM-IV-TR identifies these anxiety disorders:, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), separation anxiety, childhood anxiety disorder, specific phobias, panic disorder, panic disorder with agoraphobia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Anxiety symptoms can include constant worrying or obsession; it may be over seemingly small things or larger fears. There may be a feeling of restlessness or general unease; a feeling of being on edge without any specific cause. There is often trouble sleeping, and a feeling of fatigue, of being tired even after a night’s sleep. There may be muscle tension or trembling, which may lead to aching muscles. Concentration is poor and the mind tends to “go blank”. There may be irritability, generally feeling crabby and crappy. A constant feeling of tension may lead to being easily startled, or even trembling. Digestive upset is common, with loss of appetite, or conversely seeking sweets, overeating, drugs or alcohol in the attempt to feel better. Sweating, nausea or diarrhea may occur, as well as shortness of breath or rapid heartbeat.

The earlier chronic stress and anxiety is addressed, the easier it is to overcome. At least, by acting quickly, there is less damage to health, including lowered immune response and damage to cardiovascular system. Holistic health practitioners recommend a number of strategies to help bring down the stress levels. Anxiety disorder is a medical condition that has gone on for a while, and generally will take a more comprehensive approach in order to heal.

Mindful Meditation and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Daniel Smith, who wrote about his struggle with anxiety disorder in his book A Monkey Mind, states: “For me, it’s mindfulness meditation or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is tailor-made for anxiety.” A Boston University study found that anxiety symptoms were relieved for people who used mindfulness or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with the most dramatic results being for those with obsessive compulsive disorder and acute stress disorder.

Cognitive therapy has been shown to be very effective in helping with anxiety disorders. Therapy will work best when the individual also contributes to the process by developing strong self-care habits. Mayo Clinic suggests a number of lifestyle programs which will lead to better health outcomes. Daily exercise is at the top of the list. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, people who get regular exercise are 25% less likely to develop an anxiety disorder over the next five years.

The 21-minute cure

Dr. Drew Ramsey highly recommends exercise to stay healthy and happy; he calls it “The 21-minute cure”. He has written a book on self-care, healthy habits and good nutrition called The Happiness Diet. “I generally ask my patients to spend 20 to 30 minutes in an activity that gets their heart rate up, whether it’s a treadmill or elliptical or stair stepping-anything you like. If you rowed in college, get back to rowing. If you don’t exercise, start taking brisk walks.” — Dr. Drew Ramsey, author of the book “The Happiness Diet”

Help from Nature

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