Living Anxiety-Free – How to Keep Your Nerves In Tact

“When you suffer an attack of nerves you’re being attacked by the nervous system. What chance has a man got against a system?”     —Russell Hoban

Many of us stress about our jobs, our families, the traffic, bills, etc. However, worries are easily diminished with a hot bath, a warm meal and some relaxation time. But what if that stress didn’t “just go away.” What if it manifested itself in trembling, a racing heart, dizziness and even obsessive thoughts? When the problem graduates to persistent occurrences for weeks and interferes with social and occupational functioning, it is known as an anxiety disorder, a problem from which, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 19 million Americans ages 18-54 suffer.

Conventional medicine seems to favor a combination of medications (including antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines, and beta-blockers) and psychotherapy, including behavioral therapies. The latter approach includes putting a stop to unwanted behaviors and re-learning alternative behaviors, accompanied with breath training and muscle relaxation, of which massage can be a tremendous help.

Aside from these choices, Freedom From Fear and Anxiety Busters, two web sites devoted to assisting those suffering from anxiety, suggest the following daily strategies:

Live in the present. Learn to let go and have fun. Try not to be held back by the “what-if’s” and “should-have’s.”
Learn simple strategies to cope with symptoms, such as taking a walk (even a short 3-5 minute walk helps alleviate pent-up stress) and stretching.
Set daily achievable goals. Accomplishing even small goals makes the big picture seem more reasonable and builds confidence for future endeavors.
Be assertive. Instead of using victim words like “can’t” and “never,” use power phrases like “though my anxiety is difficult to deal with, I am learning to control it.”
Eat well. Because blood sugar tends to drop when worrying, it’s important to eat three meals a day. This can even include an afternoon snack, such as nuts or yogurt, for a quick protein pick-me-up. Avoid caffeine, which can add to feelings of anxiousness.

For more information about anxiety, visit the Anxiety Disorders Association of America at http://www.adaa.org, the Anxiety Panic Internet Resource at www.algy.com, and the National Anxiety Center at www.anxietycenter.com.

By Editorial Staff

Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, October/November 2002.  Copyright 2003. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.

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