Advertising

Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How I Calm Anxiety and Start to Feel Happier and Secure with Myself

Advertising
How I Calm Anxiety and Start to Feel Happier and Secure with Myself

We all experience stress once in a while but some of us suffer from extreme anxiety that keeps them from living their life. They are so afraid to take even the smallest decision thinking that they’ll ruin their lives or the lives of others.

I was one of them and, after figuring out how to calm my anxiety effectively, things got much better. I might even say that anxiety is a thing of the past now.

Anxiety is not dangerous. However, it might keep you from living a good life and having great relationships that will support your well-being. Anxiety makes you avoid people or situations that will trigger an anxiety attack.

In this article, I will share with you how to calm anxiety by showing how I healed my anxiety with the psychodynamic technique. If you’re interested in calming your anxiety, I advise you to start as soon as possible.

How to calm anxiety with the Psychodynamic Technique

After four years of therapy, I learned that you can calm anxiety in few steps. It will take you months to practice these steps, do have patience with yourself!

1. Go to the root cause of your anxiety

This is the most important step in recovery. If you skip this one, you might just well skip the entire article. You won’t calm your anxiety in a million years if you don’t know where it came from.

There is a cause and effect to everything we do and feel. So, try to understand that, diving deeply into your own anxiety is crucial to your recovery. To manage this, keep a journal and do 20-30 minutes of journaling every day.

It took me four years to discover my root cause. The cause was my toxic upbringing. The reason why it took that long was because I was, for a very long time in denial that my family was dysfunctional.

Psychologists and researchers concluded that, a majority of people who struggle with panic and anxiety grow up in dysfunctional or negative homes. If you didn’t have a secure attachment as a child (meaning that, your parents divorced when you were small or your mother had depression and couldn’t care for you), you will become anxious and confused about yourself and the world.

Action step:

Try to go to the root cause of your anxiety by talking to a therapist or counselor whom you can trust.

Advertising

Warning: don’t drag friends into this, as it is not their duty to guide you.

2. Once you find the root cause, stay there and educate yourself about it

Let’s say that, your root cause is you never having a father in your life because your mother got divorced when you were small. This means you might struggle with the fear of loss and abandonment. You might think you’re not good enough or that you’re not worthy of love.

Your anxiety revolves around the fear of being left alone, so you’ll be clingy to situations or people in your life. You won’t be able to live alone, travel alone or just sit by yourself as your anxiety might be going through the roof otherwise.

Action step:

Grieve the parent you never had, or the loss of a past relationship that hurt you.

If your father, for example, is not in your life, grieve him. Look at a photo of him and sit through the feelings that come up. Expect a high level of difficulty here. I assume that, if you grew up in an unstable home, you weren’t allowed to feel the pain.

The way I managed this step is by educating myself about dysfunctional families. My mother has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). I started on a journey of learning about this disorder and what it means to grow up in a family affected by it.

Now is the time to learn how to let go and grieve an unhappy time in your childhood. Read books on abandonment and shame. Read about how a divorce affects a child if that’s your case. I recommend The Journey from Abandonment to Healing: Turn the End of a Relationship into the Beginning of a New Life by Susan Anderson.

If you can, connect with the other parent and express these feelings to her/him.

3. Learn the language of emotions

As I said above, you need to go deeper and let go of all the negative emotions you’ve kept in your prison since forever. If you had a father who wasn’t present, you’re probably angry or upset with him.

In my emotionally unstable home, I learned that it’s not good to cry or scream or make noises as a child. I was even scolded for crying once.

Advertising

As an adult, I would rarely cry or get angry with people. But that was before psychotherapy. Once I learned that crying is healthy, I would start weeping for hours. It felt so ‘right’.

So, if you have trouble expressing a negative feeling, seek the help of a therapist or coach. Don’t be ashamed to cry or balk in their presence. They are there to help.

You might say, ‘But I’m a guy. Guys should look strong in front of others.’

So what if you’re a guy! If you have this limiting belief, it means you were taught this by someone in your family. Or by your school or mass media. Know that all you’ve been taught about emotions is wrong.

Action step:

Read the book The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You by Karla McKlaren, you will find out more about how to learn the language of emotions from this book.

Use journaling to try and find out daily how you feel. If you start crying out of the blue, let it go. Don’t be ashamed to cry.

Everybody should learn to tune into their emotions and know what they feel at a specific time. If you are using games, internet, drugs or alcohol to numb your emotions, stop that. You are making your anxiety worse. Panic attacks are usually a cover for unexpressed negative emotions like anger, sadness and guilt.

4. Let go of your inner passivity

Inner passivity is a term I learned from Peter Michaelson, a psychodynamic therapist from Michigan. He links inner passivity to chronic unhappiness and panic attacks.[1]

Briefly, inner passivity relates to a fear inside ourselves produced by our inner critic. For example, you might refuse a job offer in another state, fearing that you’ll have panic attacks on the plane.

You are in an avoidance mode, which makes you a victim to your circumstances. You might tell yourself you don’t have the skills to perform your job. Or that you’re not that interested in it.

Advertising

The truth is, your inner passivity is keeping you from achieving your goals, so you won’t have to suffer. What you don’t know is that, inner passivity destroys your confidence little by little.

I believe the first step in letting go of inner passivity is to build a better self-esteem.

Action step:

How to build a better self-esteem?

  • Being truthful with yourself
    If you want something badly (for example, ‘I want that web design job in New York’) say it out loud. Write it down. Tell others. But don’t avoid this wish. If you have flight anxiety, you can learn breathing exercises, take medication or do mindfulness exercises. Don’t let fear stop you from pursuing something you love.
  • Teach people how to respect you
    Try to learn boundaries and surround yourself with people who love you and appreciate you. Very often, people stay in relationships that are stressful, full of drama and even abuse out of fear. If that’s you, set those boundaries in place. When you understand that you deserve to be happy just like everybody else, you’ll stop the cycle of toxic relationships. You’ll stop making excuses for people when they treat you badly and move on.
  • Make a list of 5 things you want to achieve (or have) and accomplish them
    Start small, like, ‘I want to eat breakfast daily’. Make a food plan where you can write what you’d like to eat for breakfast. Make it fun and exciting for you. If you love pancakes, go ahead and make pancakes, use Maple syrup and strawberries if you want. Accomplishing this small thing will give you the confidence to accomplish other, bigger things. Remember that inner passivity comes into action when you make excuses for not doing something or when finding valid reasons for giving up. Or, in other words, you’re self-sabotaging.
  • Talk positively to your inner critic
    You don’t have to sit still and take the kicks from your inner bully. If your inner critic starts a fight, fight back. Teach the inner critic to talk positively to you and encourage you. Use positive affirmations to retrain your mind. They will help you in long-run to counteract the negative effects of your negative voice.
  • Set boundaries
    As for boundaries, you can learn about them with a therapist in a safe environment. You can start researching what boundaries are and talk about what you have found with him/her. If you want a cheaper approach to learning boundaries, read Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

5. Confront your fears

This might be an obvious advice but many people engage in avoidance behavior because of their fears. For example, for many years my anxiety kept me from going to the bank and asking about my own debt.

The bills would be sent home and I would be terrified of opening them. My fear was real: I didn’t have money to pay those debts but it made life a daily challenge. Each time I’d return home, I’d see the unopened letters piling up on my kitchen table and I’d shiver. I’d tell myself that tomorrow is a good day to confront the debt but ‘tomorrow’ never arrived.

When I finally got the courage to call my bank and negotiate on a new payment plan, I felt free. I opened the letters and realized that the fear was bigger in my head than it was on paper.

Action step:

Find 30 minutes every day to learn about your fear and make friends with it.

For example, maybe you have a bank to call about an outstanding loan, just do it! You can tell a friend and ask her to assist you during this time and, perhaps, knowing that someone is there for you will make things easier.

If ‘just do it!’ advice doesn’t work (and I assume it might not), try writing about the fear. Ask yourself why are you so afraid of calling the collection agency or the bank:

Advertising

Is it because you’re afraid they might find out how ashamed you are of being in debt? Do you think they’ll judge you for it? Know that collection agencies deal with debtors every day and they don’t really make an opinion about them. They just wanna do their job so they can earn an income.

If this doesn’t work either, ask help from a therapist to face your biggest fears.[2]

You shouldn’t be afraid of anxiety because it is there to help you and not destroy you. Make anxiety your friend.

Calming anxiety is possible

Learning how to calm anxiety is not such a difficult task to do if you are really committed to getting better.

Carve a chunk of your time daily and dedicate it to knowing yourself and your feelings better. Do some research about your early life or experiences and get some kind of closure to what they meant to you. Invest in some therapy sessions with a psychodynamic therapist.

Learn how to put your emotions into words and understand how inner passivity plays out in your life. And maybe, you can let go of toxic relationships to make room for positive people who will treat you well.

You will see that once you start feeling happier and more secure with yourself, your anxiety will not terrify one bit.

Featured photo credit: Allan Filipe Santos Dias via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Marlena Bontas

Mental Health Freelance Writer with a passion for Movies and Popcorn

How I Calm Anxiety and Start to Feel Happier and Secure with Myself Relationship Anxiety: The Reason Why You Have Unhappy Relationships

Trending in Mental Wellness

1 Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why? 2 Does Depression Make You Tired And How? 3 Overwhelmed at Work? 17 Ways to Manage Work Anxiety 4 Why Am I Depressed If My Life Is Fine? 5 How To Cope With Traumatic Events And Stress

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Published on October 15, 2021

Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

Advertising
Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

1. Stress Hormone Overload

Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

Advertising

You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

3. Negative Mindset

Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

Advertising

Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

4. Digestive Issues

It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

5. Depression

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

Advertising

Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

6. Breathing Problems

Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

Advertising

There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

7. Sleep Issues

Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

Advertising

More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next