Tips for coping with anxiety from a Psychiatrist

The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that is responsible for executive functions such as planning for the future, judgment, decision-making skills, attention span, and inhibition. It’s responsible your ‘normal’ mood.

For a regular person, the Amygdala (fight or flight) portion of the brain is switched on when one comes in contact with danger, or potential danger. The Amygdala takes over the frontal lobe to ensure you make/take steps to protect yourself. For example, when you’re walking a trail and you can see a bear in the path ahead of you – that is when the Amygdala comes into play.

For an anxious person, it can almost seem as though there is no clear line between what is perceived as safe and what is perceived as dangerous. Instead of their being a clear switch to turn on the Amygdala, it seems to consistently stay on. Almost like a light with a dimmer switch. The light can be bright, or it can be dim, but it always stays on, and that anxious feeling always stays there, in your mind.

If you’ve ever experienced anxiety before, you know that static can really take over your brain and make it hard to do or focus on anything. Everything seems to stress you out more, and everyone seems to agitate you with even the most simple of gestures. Once you’re in that state of mind, it’s hard to escape it.

I’ve recently started seeing a psychiatrist to see if it will help me cope with the massive amounts of anxiety that I’ve had in 2019. And, quite honestly, if it’s something that you can afford, I highly recommend it. But, I realize that it’s not a feasible option for everyone. It’s expensive. And, if you’re not in Canada, it gets even more expensive! The Psychiatrist that I’ve been seeing has given me a few points of suggestion to help me cope when I become anxious, and I wanted to share them. They might seem quite obvious, but sometimes it helps to see everything written down in one place to take things more seriously.

  1. Exercise daily. Just 30 minutes of exercise that elevates your heart rate is the equivalent of a mild dose of prozac to the body. Something as simple as going for a walk each night can greatly boost the serotonin production in your body.
  2. Think of a memory, one happy memory, and keep that memory at the top of your mind, always. When you think of happy memories, it produces serotonin in your body that can help boost your mood. If you keep one happy memory at top of mind, always, you can use that memory when you’re feeling triggered. Forcing that happy memory on your brain when you’re feeling anxious/stressed can help trick your brain. It’s not going to take away the things in your life causing you stress, but it will help you cope with the stress better.
  3. When you get anxious, write down your happy memory, much like a journal entry. Whether it be in your phone, on your computer, in a journal, on a napkin at a restaurant… just write it down. The brain is such an analytical object, seeing the written words, wherever it might be written, will help your brain to think of the happy memory when you become triggered. While it may not happen right away, after a while of writing down your happy memory time and time again, your brain will automatically associate the happy memory with your triggers in order to help you through the struggle.
  4. Sleep. Sleep is so integral to keep the brain functioning properly. If you’re feeling anxious, the best thing that you can do for yourself is to ensure you’re getting adequate sleep and sleeping during the normal period for which one should be sleeping. (IE. Don’t sleep from 10 am – 6 pm) Giving your brain the proper rest it needs is much like taking an off-day at the gym. Much like your arm muscles needing to recover during leg-day, your brain uses sleep as a period of recovery. Without it, your stress will remain high.
  5. Consider an anti-inflammation diet. Inflammation wreaks havoc on the body and if you’re in a state of mind that is wreaking havoc on your soul, having an inflamed body is only going to make your state of anxiousness seem worse. With as many alternatives to Dairy and Gluten as there are these days, it’s easier than ever to avoid foods that could potentially be wreaking havoc on your body.
  6. Always keep music near by. As the universal language of the human condition, music can help distract you from yourself when needed most. Even sad songs. The simple act of putting those headphones in your ears and focusing on the lyrics or the beat, rather than what is plaguing your mind can help to provide one a greater sense of peace and help to boost serotonin when it’s needed most.
  7. Keep some sort of small ‘knick knack’ with you at all times. Make sure it’s something simple, something that can fit in your pocket, or in your purse, or wherever it needs to go so that it’s with you. When you’re feeling triggered, take out the knick knack and study it. Tell yourself it’s colour, it’s shape, it’s dimension, it’s size. Be as descriptive as you can in your mind about what this knick knack is and what purpose it serves. While you might just look like you’re fidgeting to everyone else in the world, what you’re really doing is sending a message to your brain that these triggers and anxious thoughts do not control you. Putting your attention elsewhere in moments of anxiousness is much like avoiding your boyfriend when he’s being a jerk. You are strong, fierce and independent and no boyfriend nor negative thought is going to weigh you down.
  8. Consider keeping a journal. Use this journal to write out all the nasty, or mean or negative thoughts in your brain. Sometimes, just having these thoughts escape your brain, even if no one ever reads them, provides catharsis for the mind. And that’s the ultimate goal. So test the journal method and see if it helps at all.

There’s no quick fix to combating anxiety. It’s going to take weeks, months or even years to train your brain that the irrational fears aren’t as bad as you think they are and that the real fears can be faced, and conquered, if you’re willing to work at it. Everyone faces hardship, and that likely won’t ever go away. But, if you can stare that hardship down and put yourself back to a good place in life, you can lock those anxious feelings in a tiny little box in the back of your brain and tell them to stay there and shut up. (Bad analogy, I know)

I’ve committed myself to trying these tips, to making a conscious effort to retrain my brain and defeating the static. Fight or flight is not a bad portion of my brain… but it also need not be on 24/7.

If you are out there and you’re struggling, I see you. I hear you. I understand you. You are not alone in this. Anxiety, depression, whatever plethora of mental illness/struggle you might be dealing with, I am with you.

My psychologist said that, in her professional opinion, through her patients she often finds that the people who struggle most are those of higher intelligence. And this is because they see the world and the people around them in a way that the majority of the population cannot understand. Being hyper alert and aware, it’s a sign of high intelligence, and also, most often a symptom for highly anxious people.

So… glass half full? If you’re reading this and you are struggling – kudos to you for being smarter than everyone else.

33 thoughts on “Tips for coping with anxiety from a Psychiatrist

    1. I’m glad you liked it! It’s definitely opened my eyes learning these new things. They seem so obvious, but to me, they weren’t things I thought about in the big picture.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I have panic attacks mostly at night right before bed. I think It’s because I associate sleep with nightmares. My crying is uncontrollable at times. These are very good tips and I really appreciate that you chose to share these tips with us. This is invaluable information that you’re sharing and it’s nice that I didn’t have to spend tons of money on more self-help books when the holy grail is right here!! 😇 I started the anti-inflammatory lifestyle a couple weeks ago and I’m still learning how to perfect it using progressive extremism where I eliminate bad foods gradually but permanently. I did this because my depression and anxiety was really bad, so it made me wonder… the mind and body are interconnected, so what is this junk food I’m eating doing to me on a molecular level?

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    1. I’m with you on the sleep issues spectrum, that’s for certain. I think one of the most scary things about it is that you really cannot control your mind while you’re sleeping. You can’t stop the bad dreams unless you wake up, and if you wake up several times a night, that’s giving you shitty sleep.

      One of the things that has helped me with the sleep spectrum is that, instead of taking my anxiety meds in the morning, I take them before I go to bed. That being said, if you’re not on medication, you can take something like ZZZQuill to calm your mind. It’s not a long term fix, but in the short term while you’re working on yourself and trying to calm your brain around the idea of sleep, ZZZQuill can serve as a bandaid. (Cover it to let it heal kind of analogy)

      Another thing I do to try and help with sleep is watch or read really happy stories prior to going to sleep. That way, if I’m putting those good thoughts in my mind before I go to sleep, they’ll hopefully help me to stay calmer through the night. Things I like to watch on youtube are like… dogs reactions to soldiers coming home from war, or ‘best birthday surprises’… feel good stories to help boost serotonin before you sleep.

      Good for you for working towards an anti-inflammation diet. I really hope that it helps you! It’s hard. It’s definitely really, really hard. You’ve got your work cut out for you but I believe you can do it, one step at a time!

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    1. I’m glad to hear that you’re practicing it without even thinking about it. That’s good for your brain and your well being. Sending love and light your direction ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Do you have an email address? Or a contact you section on your site if you don’t want to give out your email address? I could get quite lengthy in discussing things like this, and I don’t fully want to make it public, if that makes sense?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Sleeping pressure mats help, and weighted blankets. And if you have to, take something like ZZZ Quill to help you rest! Your brain will thank you ❤️

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  2. Thank you for sharing this post. I started having anxiety in 2014 (I was always a nervous child). Back then, I didn’t know what was happening to me. Life was a big void. There are good days and there are bad days. Your post is spot on and I’ve learned about your points the hard way. Yoga, green tea, and meditation is quite helpful. The intelligence part made me smile. 🙂

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  3. This is helpful. I knew some of these tips but not all. Thank you! because being axnious sucks and I understand more why since I’ve started univeristy why my anxiety has just been getting worst over the years like to the point I have to leave class and not go some days

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