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4 Healthy Ways to Overcome Anxiety

4 Healthy Ways to Overcome Anxiety

Anxiety is something that millions of Americans suffer with on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the condition goes largely untreated. People tend to turn to unhealthy habits and crutches, making the underlying causes worse in the future.

Did you know that almost half of all teenagers suffer from some form of social anxiety? And unfortunately, this early exposure to anxiety often leads to even bigger issues in adulthood. Many who suffer from extreme forms of anxiety turn to things like alcohol, drugs, and risky behavior to cope, but it’s important that people know there are healthy ways to deal with anxiety.

From going for a run to talking with someone you trust, here are some ways to deal with anxiety.

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1. Go on a Run

Physical exercise is one of the best ways to fight stress and anxiety. Not only does it provide physical relief, but it also helps clear your mind. When you engage in physical activity, your immune system strengthens, and your body releases neurotransmitters known as endorphins. These endorphins help relieve pain and make you feel better. Exercise also burns away stress hormones and tires the muscles, which aides in sleep.

So next time you’re dealing with anxiety, force yourself to go for a jog. Half an hour at a moderate pace should do the trick. And go ahead and turn on some motivational tunes while you’re at it.

2. Try Your Hand at Meditation

If meditation isn’t something you’re familiar with, then you may feel like it’s hokey or ineffective, but be wary of jumping to this conclusion. Meditation can be a very powerful tool for gathering your thoughts and recognizing how you feel.

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Meditation doesn’t have to look like a sitting in a yoga pose and holding your hands up in front of you. All you need is some peace and quiet. The goal is to focus on your breathing and constructively deal with thoughts as they enter the brain.

3. Call a Trusted Friend

Do you have a best friend, parent, or coworker who you really trust? Consider giving them a call when you feel overly anxious about something. It often helps to converse about the issue with someone else, even if you’re the one doing most of the talking.

4. Question Your Way to the Root

Often, people feel anxious without really knowing what they’re anxious about. When they dig deep and understand the cause, they realize that things aren’t that bad after all.

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If you find yourself anxious about a particular issue, try questioning your way to the root cause. For example, let’s say you’re nervous about giving a presentation at work. Start by asking yourself why. You’ll discover that it might not actually be the presentation you’re nervous about, but rather the possibility that you’ll forget what to say. And it’s not the forgetting that scares you, but the fact that you’ll be embarrassed. Specifically, you’re afraid that a critical coworker will think less of you.

So, getting to the root cause, you realize that all of your anxiety is tied to the fact that one coworker will think less of you because you may forget something in a presentation. Suddenly your anxiety sounds a little ridiculous and you can rest easier.

Approaching Anxiety From a Healthy Angle

When you suffer from anxiety, your ultimate goal is to calm your nerves and feel better. This could lead you to seek instant gratification through alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, and other risky behavior. Unfortunately, these crutches tend to get abused and lead to addictions and other adverse health effects. As you deal with anxiety, make sure you’re using healthy coping mechanisms.

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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Larry Alton

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Last Updated on September 10, 2018

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]

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Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

Looking at images of loved ones

While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.

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In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]

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Exercise

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.

Meditation

Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.

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In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.

With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

Featured photo credit: condesign via pixabay.com

Reference

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