What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is the anticipation of a future threat and one of the most distressing emotions that people feel.   According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18% of the population.  Anxiety disorders affect 1 in 8 children.  Anxiety disorders are treatable and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is highly effective in treating various anxiety disorders.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

CBT is a theoretical orientation that focuses on how our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are influenced by one another.  CBT highlights that each person has a choice as to how to think and behave which directly increases his/her coping skills in dealing with daily life challenges.

A Cognitive Behavioral Profile of Anxiety:

Common Physical Reactions:  sweaty palms, muscle tension, racing heart, flushed cheeks, light headedness.

Anxious Thoughts/Cognitions:  overestimation of danger, underestimation of your ability to cope, worries and catastrophic thoughts, underestimation of help available.

Typical Anxiety Behaviors:  avoiding situations where anxiety might occur, leaving situations when anxiety begins to occur, trying to do things perfectly or trying to control events to prevent danger, shutting down, restlessness, fidgeting. 

Anxious Moods/Feelings:  anxious, panicky, nervous, irritable, overwhelmed.

Coping Strategies for Anxiety via a Cognitive Behavioral Approach:

Coping Strategies for Emotions/Feelings:

Some helpful anxiety coping strategies include the following:  identify the feelings, rate the feelings, learn to let go, daily journaling, and talking with a friend, family member or therapist.

Physical Coping Strategies:

Some of the most helpful physical anxiety coping strategies include diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery/visualizations that focus on your senses, physical exercise, yoga and walking in nature.

Coping Strategies for Cognitions/Thoughts:

The following list includes helpful coping strategies for challenging our distorted anxious thoughts:  healthy distractions (counting, crossword puzzles), scheduled worry time, various cognitive exercises (thought records, cognitive restructuring, worst/best/realistic case scenario) and mindfulness.

Behavioral Coping Strategies:

Behavioral coping strategies to lessen anxiety include: exercise, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, massage, making time to socialize (friends, hobbies, sports), a healthy diet and a healthy sleep hygiene routine.