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Embrace | Overcome | Create Your Life 

  • Writer's pictureTerri K. Lankford, LPCS

Mental Health Awareness Month: Taking a Holistic Look at Anxiety



Mental Health Awareness Month, observed every May, is dedicated to raising awareness about mental health issues, reducing stigma, and promoting the importance of mental well-being. This month-long campaign encourages individuals and communities to recognize the significance of mental health, understand the impact of mental health conditions, and support those who are affected. Through a variety of activities, educational events, and resources, folx celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month aim to foster a culture of openness and support, making it easier for people to seek help and access the care they need. 


This May, we’re talking about the most widespread mental health diagnosis: anxiety.


Over 19.1% of American adults have an anxiety disorder, making anxiety the most common mental health diagnosis of all time. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), one of the most common types of anxiety, is characterized by excessive, uncontrollable worry about a variety of topics, such as health, work, social interactions, and everyday life circumstances. Individuals with GAD often find it difficult to control their worry, leading to significant distress and impairment in daily functioning. Common symptoms include persistent nervousness, restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances. Living with GAD can be an overwhelming experience, as the constant state of worry and tension interferes with the ability to enjoy life and engage in normal activities. 


What are holistic reasons for anxiety to show up, and how can we treat anxiety holistically? The counselors at Rise and Thrive are here to help! Check out three strategies below about ways anxiety shows up and holistic treatment strategies to combat it.


Anxiety-Bringer #1: It Might Be In Your Genes

Believe it or not, genetics play a key role with anxiety, as anxiety often runs in families! Neurochemical imbalances involving neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and GABA can heighten anxiety levels. Certain brain structures have been shown to keep an overactive hippocampus, which is linked to higher levels of anxiety. 


So, what can you do when biology has a part to play with your anxiety? You can …


When biological factors play a role in your anxiety, addressing them involves a combination of medical, therapeutic, and lifestyle interventions. Here are three detailed strategies:


  1. Seek Professional Medical Help: Consulting a healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist or a primary care physician, is crucial when biological factors contribute to anxiety. These professionals can conduct thorough assessments, including genetic, hormonal, and neurochemical evaluations, to understand the biological underpinnings of your anxiety. Based on these assessments, they may suggest medication or other holistic measures like movement, increased sleep, certain diets, and supplements.

  2. Engage in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Other Therapies: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is highly effective in managing anxiety, especially when combined with medication. CBT helps individuals understand and modify negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to anxiety. Therapies like Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can provide tools for managing emotional regulation and developing mindfulness skills. These therapies can help rewire the brain's response to stress and anxiety, complementing the biological treatments.

  3. Adopt Lifestyle Changes to Support Biological Balance: Making lifestyle changes can significantly impact the biological factors contributing to anxiety. Regular physical activity, such as aerobic exercises, yoga, or strength training, can enhance the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and endorphins. A balanced diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins can support brain health and regulate hormonal imbalances. Prioritizing sleep hygiene is essential, as poor sleep can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. 


Anxiety-Bringer #2: Look At Your Environment

Social and environmental factors significantly impact anxiety. Family dynamics and relationships play a critical role, such as growing up in a high-conflict or emotionally neglectful household.. Environmental stressors such as work pressures, academic challenges, financial difficulties, and major life transitions like moving or divorce often trigger or worsen anxiety. Additionally, societal expectations and cultural norms can pressure individuals to meet certain standards, leading to anxiety when these are not met, while stigmatization of mental health in some cultures can prevent individuals from seeking help. 


So, what can you do if your environment brings anxiety? You can …


  1. Utilize Self-Care and Stress Reduction Techniques: Prioritizing self-care and implementing stress reduction techniques can enhance resilience and mitigate the impact of environmental stressors on anxiety. Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as hobbies, creative pursuits, or spending time with loved ones. Practice self-compassion and mindfulness to cultivate a positive relationship with yourself and navigate challenges with greater ease. Incorporate stress reduction techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, or journaling into your daily routine to promote emotional well-being. 


  1. Develop Strong Social Support Networks: Building and maintaining strong social connections is vital for managing anxiety influenced by social and environmental factors. Engage with supportive friends and family members who provide emotional support and practical assistance. Participate in community groups, clubs, or activities that interest you to expand your social network and reduce feelings of isolation. Volunteering can also be a great way to connect with others and gain a sense of purpose and belonging. 


  1. Embrace Solution-Focused Thinking and Problem-Solving Strategies: Instead of dwelling on problems and stressors, adopt a solution-focused mindset that emphasizes identifying actionable steps to address challenges. Practice reframing problems as opportunities for growth and change. Break down overwhelming tasks or stressors into smaller, manageable steps, and focus on finding practical solutions. Utilize problem-solving strategies such as brainstorming, creating action plans, and seeking advice or support from trusted individuals. 


Anxiety-Bringer #3: Your Thoughts May Contribute to Anxiety

Psychological factors play a pivotal role in the development and perpetuation of anxiety disorders. Cognitive processes, including thought patterns and beliefs, significantly influence anxiety levels. Individuals prone to negative thinking patterns, such as catastrophizing or overgeneralization, may experience heightened anxiety in response to stressful situations. Additionally, past experiences, especially those involving trauma or adversity, can shape one's perception of current events and contribute to anxiety. 


So, what are your options if your thoughts are contributing to anxiety? You can …

  1. Initiate a Therapeutic Relationship: Taking the step to seek treatment from a mental health therapist involves initiating a therapeutic relationship built on trust, empathy, and collaboration. Begin by researching therapists who specialize in treating anxiety or the specific psychological factors contributing to your symptoms. Consider factors such as therapeutic approach, credentials, and compatibility with your personal values and preferences. Schedule an initial consultation or intake appointment to discuss your concerns, goals, and expectations for therapy.

  2. Explore Underlying Factors and Developing Coping Strategies: During therapy sessions, your therapist will work with you to explore the underlying psychological factors contributing to your anxiety. Through compassionate listening, empathetic understanding, and evidence-based interventions, your therapist will help you identify patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that maintain anxiety symptoms. Together, you will develop personalized coping strategies and skills to manage anxiety triggers, challenge negative beliefs, and cultivate resilience.

  3. Build a Toolbox for Long-Term Well-Being: Therapy offers a comprehensive approach to addressing anxiety by equipping you with a toolbox of practical tools and techniques for long-term well-being. Therapy provides an opportunity to learn and practice skills for effective communication, boundary-setting, and stress management, enhancing your ability to navigate relationships and daily stressors. As you progress in therapy, you will work collaboratively with your therapist to set goals, track progress, and integrate newfound insights and skills into your daily life, empowering you to live authentically and thrive emotionally, psychologically, and socially.


We hope this blog post provided psychoeducation on causes of anxiety, and also provided holistic tips for reducing anxious feelings. If you want more holistic help, look no further than Rise and Thrive Counseling. Our holistic counselors can help address all areas of life. Reach out today to learn more. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Welcome to Embrace | Overcome | Create Your Life.

 

I’m Terri Kiser Lankford, owner of the Rise & Thrive Counseling Practice, a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor (in NC), and the host here at Rise & Thrive Counseling, PLLC and the Embrace| Overcome|CreateYourLife Blog.

 

I’m also an entrepreneur, Syltherin, foodie on a fitness journey, complete book nerd, photography novice who happens to think music is life. 

 

Warning! This site is about motivation, health & wellness, and self love.  but its also about various mental health issues and may talk about subjects such as suicide, self-harm and other touchy subjects at some point. This site is not intended for youth and may be “too much” to some.

 

Nothing on this site should be considered a medical recommendation. I am not a doctor. Anything of interest should be discussed with your doctor or therapist, or me (in person) if you are my current client.  No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. (Sorry, I have to say that.)

 

All writing and mental health information here are accurate to the best of my knowledge at the time of publication. However, keep in mind my opinion, and available information, changes over time.

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