So I recently had a patient tell me her doctor wanted to put her on medications for anxiety issues. She said she did NOT want to be put on medicine. I told her I’d send a message to her about how to deal with anxiety without drugs. I let her know that she was talking to someone who personally dealt with anxiety, and even full blown panic attacks, about a decade ago, and never had to take a drug. So, this blog post is for her, and for all that deal with issues like anxiety, stress, and even insomnia, which is often present with these issues.
First let me say that if you are dealing with anxiety issues, it IS real. You’re not crazy. But it doesn’t have to lead to dependence on medications, because after all, the cause of anxiety isn’t a lack of Zoloft in your body. So buckle up, there are things you can do about this. There are three things I recommend that are effective, and each one requires some explanation, so I’ll start with just one in this post.
First on the mental side, there’s an activity I recommend everyone do whether or not they deal with stress/anxiety. It’s called the gratitude exercise. Don’t “poo-poo” this idea because it sounds like something from a burnt out hippie. It really works well. Here’s how to start your gratitude journal/exercise.
Every night, the last thing you do before you go to bed should be this exercise. Make sure all the things you have to do before walking to your bed are done, ie the dogs are in, all lights are out except what you need, you’ve been to the bathroom, brushed your teeth etc. Sit down, and with a notebook, or an app like Evernote, start the exercise. I want you to be able to go straight to bed when you finish this with no delay. You need to think of 3 (at least) things you are grateful for from that day. Write/type them into your journal. But, don’t just write them down. The object is not just to make a list. The object is to re-experience what it is you’re grateful for. So write it down, but write down why you’re grateful for it. One of my more recent ones looked like this: “Thank you God for a walk today. I exercised and felt better about myself for doing it. Plus it got Sil and I doing things together. It was great to be outside and moving.”. Yes I am a Christian and I believe in thanking God for all I get to experience (In all things give thanks). You don’t have to write it that way, but it’s how I do it.
By writing down why I’m grateful for it, it creates a feeling in me like I’m going through the experience again. It has been scientifically shown that by re-experience and focusing on things we are happy about or grateful for, it creates the same physiological changes inside us that occurred when the event actually happened. That’s healthy for you and I. Conversely, when we relive a negative event, or focus on our worries, it too creates physiological changes inside us, but of the negative variety. That leads to illness and disease.
I would also suggest, to piggy back on this idea of gratitudes, that you take the first ten minutes of every day, when you first wake, to spend it in gratitude as well. I call those ten minutes my “Think and Thank” minutes. What a great way to bookend your days, filling it with gratitude! And any time during a day when you are feeling particularly stressed or anxious, focus on gratefulness. Maybe re-read your journal if that helps.
That’s a good start for today. You can start this today, and I recommend you use this even if you’ve never dealt with stress/anxiety in your life, it’s a great way to retrain your brain to focus on what is going great in your life as it’s too easy for our brains to focus on what’s not quite right. Watch for the next step to be posted in a few days.
Until next time…Be Well.