How to live with a generalized anxiety disorder?
First of all, you have to know what a generalized anxiety disorder is.
Defining generalized anxiety disorder
When an external factor puts you in danger, you will feel fear, and if that factor continues over time, you will feel stress. In this case, the external factor is real.
If the external factor disappears, but the fear and stress are persistent, you can call it anxiety. In this case, the stressor will have moved to your thoughts, and the stressor will be internal.
If the stressor is unreal, or the reaction is disproportionate to the stressor or the danger, we call it a phobia.
If the reaction is short and incredibly intense, then we call it a panic attack, unlike the anxiety that is constant.
Generalized anxiety disorder or GAD, if that anxiety lasts six months or more. In this case, the internal factor will give you a feeling of a constant worry. You are always worried about the fact that something terrible can happen like losing your job, running out of money, losing your home, getting sick, death of a family member, etc.
What are the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder?
You will feel a constant restlessness, you will feel tense, and you will feel fatigued because of a sleep disorder. It will be challenging to concentrate, and you will notice irritability. In short, generalized anxiety disorder will take control of your life.
What causes generalized anxiety disorder?
The cause of this disorder is usually the stress of modern society.
Let’s analyze. The human body works like a machine that was perfected for a very long time. The human had to develop a defense mechanism against external threats that were very present such as predators. Then the body gave us the power to raise the production of stress hormones in the adrenal glands when faced with imminent danger.
The body begins to produce the hormones adrenaline and norepinephrine if it encounters danger. You will start to raise the body temperature resulting in sweats. You will have palpitations to increase the fluctuation of the blood in your body. Your pupils will dilate to be more alert, and the other functions of your body will pause, which will make you feel dizzy if prolonged in time.
Almost instantly, the body produces a hormone called cortisol that helps raise blood sugar or glucose. Glucose is used to make available the necessary energy that you will need to react but also cause a feeling of anxiety. This mechanism is called the fight or flight reaction. It served our ancestors to survive.
In our modern society, the external danger factors are less clear, we usually call them stressors, but the fight or flight mechanism responds to them in the same way that it used to do. We no longer begin to run or fight when we face these external factors, and that is why that energy accumulates in our body and results in panic attacks in some cases or, in other situations, prolonged anxiety that can lead to a generalized anxiety disorder.
I’m going to give you a first trick to relieve your symptoms before going deeper into this topic. It is called controlled breathing. Every time you are going to feel extreme anxiety symptoms, you will close your eyes and start breathing very slowly through your nose, concentrating on your abdomen. You will see how well it helps. It will significantly relieve the symptoms of anxiety. The reasons are simple.
The human body uses abdominal breathing when it is relaxed, and when there is no danger. This type of breathing gives a signal to your body that everything is going well. At the same time breathing through the nose, you purify more the air that enters your body and let the air travel a more extended way distributing more oxygen throughout your body.
On the contrary, the buco-thoracic breathing, combining mouth and chest, is a short breathing circuit that the human uses in moments of tension and danger. Unfortunately, modern man has become accustomed to dealing with so much daily stress that he uses unconscious thoracic breathing as if we would live in a state of constant danger.
Now you know what happens to you and you already learned a trick, but you wanted to know how to solve this problem.
Solutions for generalized anxiety disorder
General Anxiety Disorder is solved by acting in two ways, the mental pathway, and the hormonal pathway.
THE MENTAL PATHWAY
– Psychic healing is an internal work that you must do. You must, first of all, realize that this prolonged fear you feel is not real. You are the one who does not stop putting hypothetical stressors before you and your happiness. None of these factors is real because you are in constant apprehensive fear. You must, first of all, learn to forgive yourself when you think this way, to tell yourself that it is not your fault. That is already an essential step because if you persist in feeling bad because you blame yourself for feeling bad, it will be an endless vicious circle.
– Then you will have to start relativizing things, realize that if bad things happen in life, it is because they have to happen. But that is not why you have to worry about what has not happened yet. Realize that if you worry now about what can happen, you are already having a hard time with something that has not happened yet. In life anyway, bad things happen as good things happen, that is the balance of life. And anything that happens can always be solved because the only thing that we can’t fix is the fact of dying, and if you die, you will not be there to feel worried about it. Positive thinking is your best friend. It will make you feel better and take away negative thoughts that only make you feel helpless and with low self-esteem. There is no room in your mind for both thoughts. Once you have let in positive thoughts, there will be no room for negative thoughts anymore.
– You must also find a goal that gives you perspective in life, something you want, something that fills you, something that will make you feel good. You have to focus on something new to stop thinking about the same thing all the time. Start practicing a sport, sign up for dance classes, learn a new language, take yoga or meditation classes, volunteer for a just cause, change jobs, etc. There are so many options to choose from.
– Now you must take time for yourself, all the time you need to think about where you want to be soon. You will already have more positive thoughts, but you have to start believing in these thoughts and maintain a positive dialogue with yourself that will combine perfectly with the new you who learned to forgive yourself. This more reliable person will be the original you who will give priority to himself from now on. You need to do this. If someone asks you to do things that you do not want to do or in which you do not believe, you will say no. Simply learn to say NO when necessary. You will experience relief and see how you will automatically free yourself from a hefty dose of stress.
– Finally, you must return to the social side of your life that you have given up lately because of your high level of anxiety. See your family and friends and tell them what you are living in. If you don’t have that possibility, I advise you to join a self-help group or make an appointment with a psychotherapist. You will see how people are compassionate and empathetic when you open up to them. Humans are social creatures, and social interaction gives them a feeling of protection, relaxation, and acceptance. This feeling is what you need right now.
Let’s see what the hormonal solutions are.
THE HORMONAL PATHWAY
Much of the anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder cause a hormonal imbalance that can be resolved by implementing simple changes in your diet and your life in general.
First, you will have to increase the positive hormones in your body:
–Serotonin: Serotonin is the hormone of happiness, produced naturally by your body based on tryptophan. How to get tryptophan? Easy, eating healthy. This long list of foods will help you healthily increase your serotonin levels: oatmeal, lentils, chickpeas, cassava, sweet potatoes, brown rice, spinach, lettuce, avocado, pineapple, blueberries, currants, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, apples, banana, chili, eggs, chicken, veal, tuna, salmon, sardines, shrimp, crab, spider crab, nuts, almond, fish, seeds, soy, milk, yogurt, dark chocolate, and cheese.
–Dopamine: Dopamine is known as the love hormone. It gives you signs of pleasure, satisfaction, and well-being. Getting a sufficient level of dopamine in the body is quite simple. First of all, you should consume enough protein eating chicken, eggs, veal, fish, nuts, almonds, lentils, chickpeas, lentils, beans, spinach, cucumbers, mushrooms, soybeans and drinking milk. You should also start playing sports, no matter what kind of sport, running, cycling, swimming, dancing. Start for half an hour a day. The positive hormonal effects of physical activity are that your dopamine and serotonin levels rise and your adrenaline level goes down. Adrenaline is terrible if you are an anxious person. Then your dopamine levels will also rise if you start to relax listening to the music in combination with walking or meditating. It would be better if you do outdoor activities because sunlight also increases your levels of dopamine and serotonin. Studies showed that after 5 minutes of exposure to sunlight, dopamine, and serotonin levels increase. What are you waiting for? Put on some sneakers and go for a walk in nature!
–Endorphin: These hormones are the natural equivalent of morphine. They are natural painkillers that lower your perception of pain and anguish, increasing your feeling of well-being. Although stress and anxiety are a natural way to raise your endorphin level, they will also raise the level of other hormones that don’t work for you. So, how to raise my level of endorphins without awakening harmful hormones? There are several activities you can do to increase the level of endorphin in your body, such as playing a sport, meditating, listening to music, eating chocolate, eating spicy food, or having sex. Yes, do not hesitate. Making love is very good for you!
–Progesterone: Progesterone is a female sex hormone, but men also need it for the production of testosterone. This hormone has a relationship with sexual appetite and fertility.
To obtain a healthy dose of progesterone, I recommend the following foods: beans, chickpeas, bananas, nuts, seeds, carrots, lentils, broccoli, beets, almonds, spinach, squash, brown rice, and milk products.
Progesterone will help you moderate sudden tension and reduce mood swings. The simple fact of being less steep will naturally help you to have higher progesterone levels in the body because when you are stressed, stress hormones such as adrenaline and norepinephrine will signal your kidneys to convert progesterone to cortisol. Later you will read that this is very bad for you.
–Oxytocin: Oxytocin is one of my favorite hormones because it is a very mysterious hormone. We call it the love hormone. It occurs in the hypothalamus, which is one of the oldest parts of our brain and regulates essential functions such as the regulation of body temperature, sleep, thirst, hunger, sexual appetite, and parental relationships, more specifically the paternal or maternal love. Oxytocin transmits feelings of love and empathy. It is one of the most potent relaxing hormones and an immunizer against anxiety and depression. Foods and condiments that stimulate the production of oxytocin are figs, spinach, arugula, basil, cinnamon, peppermint, watermelon, pomegranate, avocado, Banana, almonds, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, carrots, asparagus, and oysters. Now you know how aphrodisiac foods work!
You already know what you should do to feel pleasant and relaxed.
The time has come to explain what you should avoid so as not to be stressed and anxious. Avoid high levels of these harmful hormones:
–Adrenaline: Adrenaline or epinephrine is the activation hormone. Adrenaline is produced by the adrenal glands that are located above the kidneys. They give powerful signals that are vital to our survival because they help in the need, in dangerous situations, to flee or fight. They speed up the heart rate, increase blood pressure, and provide you with more oxygen in the blood. Anxiety is when you receive these signals but that the danger is non-existent or irrational. In our modern society, the leading cause of high levels of adrenaline that causes anxiety is stress. To relieve stress, you have to combine an active life, a healthy diet, set up a routine, spend time in nature and find a goal in your life, something that makes you feel happy.
–Norepinephrine: Norepinephrine or noradrenaline is the hormone we commonly call the stress hormone. The function of this hormone is basically to prepare the body for action and is the leading cause of anxiety. The adrenal glands also produce norepinephrine. Stress and anxiety are the primary causes of the rise in norepinephrine levels that, in turn, will cause more stress and more anxiety, a vicious circle. But norepinephrine also plays a decisive role in the body. This hormone plays a crucial role because a low level of norepinephrine causes negative thoughts and depression.
–Cortisol: Cortisol is also produced in the adrenal glands and is a hormone that serves to increase blood sugar and transform fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into energy. That way, you have a great source of energy available that will help you if you must flee or fight. If you feel anxiety, as I explained, your body will give signs of danger in situations where there will be no rational danger, and the production of this hormone will be activated.
All foods that contain a high level of refined sugar or saturated fat will raise your cortisol level. Above all, you should stop consuming these products: coffee, soda, Red Bull, sweets, pizza, hamburgers, alcohol, fruit juice, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, and all light products that are nothing but junk food in disguise.
If these tips did not help you fight your generalized anxiety disorder, you should consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This therapy is a mixture of psychotherapy and behavioral therapy that is generally short-lived and whose goal is to change the patient’s behavior, way of thinking, or emotions.
Typically a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy lasts about five months. It focuses on problems, attitudes, and thinking and how they influence behavior and emotions. The therapist will develop with you a strategy to address and solve the issues that are encountered. You will learn a set of principles that you can use for the rest of your life when you need it. It is an effective and scientific therapy to find your emotional balance and control of your life.
Then you will have to choose the therapist that best suits you among online psychologists. It would be better to go to a reputable website with accredited therapists and put filters to limit your search for specific problems, type of therapy, language, country, gender, etc.
Once you have found the psychologist that you think is appropriate, contact him to ask him some questions that you feel are essential. If you found the first contact satisfactory, you can make an appointment for your first session.
If you need more information about generalized anxiety disorder, check out helpguide.org or join a support group to talk with someone. Here you have a complete list of support groups provided by adaa.org.