A reader asks:
I have been wondering if I need to call or go in and see my doctor. When I wake up in the morning my heart starts to race. It didn’t used to do this. I would say it just recently started this past month and it continues to get worse the closer I get to school starting.
I wake up and start thinking I missed my alarm (even if I don’t have one set) or that I forgot to set an alarm but really have somewhere I need to be. When I realize I don’t, I try to relax and go back to sleep or start slowly waking up. If I go back to sleep typically it repeats the next time I wake up. What do you think?
Anxiety can be very difficult to live with. When we are experiencing anxiety, our first reaction is often, “I need meds.” We want the discomfort of anxiety to go away — and go away now!
While anxiety medication may help, I believe it is better to try non-medical approaches to deal with your anxiety first. If you can learn how to manage and control your anxiety without medication, you will feel personally empowered … and spare yourself what could be considerable expense for prescription medication as well!
Certainly, consulting with your doctor is not a bad idea — but keep in mind that most doctors, by virtue of their medical and professional training, are predisposed to prescribe drugs to treat their patients’ ailments. Few doctors are aware of, or trained in, alternative approaches to anxiety treatment that could work as well, or better, than medication. So, if you choose to consult a doctor, I would start by asking him or her what natural remedies s/he might suggest as a first step to control or manage your anxiety.
Many people suffering from chronic anxiety have found relief with the following exercises and natural approaches. Granted, these require a little more effort, commitment and focus than popping a pill — but you will feel much healthier and experience the satisfaction that comes with building skills that last a lifetime.
Reduce Caffeine, Sugar and Alcohol
Reducing the amount of caffeine, sugar and alcohol in your daily diet can help reduce anxiety. So, if these are part of your regular diet, I suggest you start by cutting back. Then, you could try a cup of chamomile tea before bed.
You can also ask your physician about possible herbal treatments. If your doctor cannot — or will not — suggest natural treatment alternatives, you could consult with your local natural health market or an herbal medicine specialist and ask what they would recommend for you.
Change Your Breathing Patterns
Anxiety is often linked to — and aggravated by — shallow, rapid breathing patterns. So, the first thing you should do as soon as you notice yourself feeling anxious is to begin taking slow, deep breaths, inhaling from the diaphragm and then slowly releasing those breaths. Do this 3 or 5 or ten times, until you heart beat has slowed down and you are feeling more relaxed.
Change Your Inner Conversation
If you find your mind racing with thoughts of terror and panic and inadequacy, stop and remind yourself that your state of mind is causing your anxiety — and you can take the bull by the horns to change your state of mind. Tell your racing mind that you are in control, then steer your internal conversation in the direction you want to go. Recite positive affirmations to yourself.
“I am capable.”
“ I am able to face this new job.”
“I am excited about this new opportunity and my body is just reacting to my excitement.”
“I am in total control of my thoughts.”
“There really is no threat.”
“I am at ease.”
“I can do this.”
“I feel calm and peaceful.”
“I breathe in and out slowly.”
“This, too, will pass, as it always does.”
Get rid of some of the excess energy that accompanies your anxiety by taking a walk or a run.
Write your thoughts on paper.
Talk to a friend.
Distract yourself with an activity.
Stress hormones feed on adrenaline. They need someplace to go. So, get physical and help them be on their way.
Allow Yourself to Experience Your Feelings
Let your anxious feelings wash over you like a wave — then visualize them returning to the ocean from whence they came. Don’t resist your feelings or they will keep fighting you. Just face your discomfort, breathe in — and let it go. When your body realizes you won’t react by panicking, the anxiety will come less frequently.
The Biggest Mistake
The biggest mistake you can make is to fight your anxiety. When you resist, it will persist. When you recognize what’s happening and refuse to allow your anxiety to have power over you, you win.
So take a deep breath and try these alternative approaches for a few weeks.
It takes three weeks to change a habit, and sometimes that is just what anxiety has become — a bad habit. So kick the habit and just breathe!
Marianne Clyde helps men and women throughout Northern Virginia create and maintain happy, vibrant, loving marriage and family relationships. For more information or to request an appointment, call Marianne today: (540) 347-3797.