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How do I Reduce Anxiety?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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There are a number of ways to reduce anxiety, but it’s important to get a doctor’s help if anxiety is constant or appears to be diminishing quality of life. Many people have conditions called panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder, and some people with bipolar disorder may experience great anxiety during swings to manic or hypomanic states. Understanding if anxiety is in part medically induced can be extremely valuable, because it then may be possible to control the disorder with a combination of medication and therapy.

The major prescription medications that reduce anxiety include some of the best-known antidepressants (particularly Paxil®, Prozac® and Zoloft®) and the class of medications called benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines (Valium®, Xanax® and others) are short acting, and many simply refer to them as tranquilizers. They may be prescribed to reduce situational anxiety, like flying or going to the dentist, or they may be a part of long term treatment. These medications are addictive and need to be used under a doctor’s care, and they should never be discontinued without medical guidance.

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It isn’t always necessary to turn to medications to reduce anxiety. Many people find that work with a therapist helps and others are helped with a number of self-coping methods. A good way of assessing anxiety may have medical cause is to see a doctor and work with a therapist. If methods like cognitive behavioral therapy work alone, medication may not be required or may only be necessary for short-term use.

Some people find they don’t require therapy. Taking to a friend, a family member or a trusted pastor could be enough to help relieve fears. When this alone is insufficient and the person has no reason to suspect medical cause, a number of other things may help ease tension.

Getting regular exercise may reduce anxiety because it increases serotonin production, which can promote better feelings and a sense of calm. Some people who have anxiety exercise on a regular basis and find that if they are really stressed it helps to exercise immediately to reduce stress. Taking a quick walk around the block, doing some jumping jacks or spending a few minutes on a stationary bicycle may actually create significant calm.

Others employ various deep breathing methods to reduce anxiety. It might seem strange that breathing alone could decrease tension, but the act of focusing on breath through guided exercises is thought beneficial. Some people combine breathing with meditative forms of exercise like yoga or tai chi. Exerting the body and focusing on breath can have very positive results. Things like prayer and standard meditation may pose a solution for others with much stress.

It may be possible to reduce some anxiety by distracting from topics creating it. It can help to stay busy when a matter is weighing on the mind, and not focus solely on it. Someone waiting for a loved one to get through a surgery might be better able to pass the time by doing something constructive like knitting, crochet, crossword puzzles or the like. Though this clearly can’t remove the source of stress, it may help it be more bearable.

Equally important in reducing anxiety is avoiding certain things. Caffeine tends to create more stress, and should not be used. Drinking alcohol may help temporarily reduce anxiety, but it has a bounce back effect if used in excess. Though stress may be reduced when someone is drinking, recovery from the drinking can make things seem even harder. It's also important not to use alcohol or illegal drugs in combination with anxiety-relieving medications because this may lower effect of these medications or make them dangerous.

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