Are You An Anxiety Junkie? - 7 Strategies To Break The Addiction

Our world is in the midst of an emotional meltdown. As a psychiatrist, I've seen that many people are addicted to the adrenaline rush of anxiety, known as the "fight or flight" response, and they don't know how to defuse it. An example of this is obsessively watching the news about natural disasters, trauma, economic stress and violence, and then not being able to turn bad news off. Also, people are prone to "techno-despair" -- a term I coined in my book, "Emotional Freedom." This is a state of high anxiety that results from information overload and Internet addiction. It's also related to our super-dependence on smartphones and the panic of feeling disconnected if technology breaks down and we can't access emails or other communications -- a new version of what's psychiatrically known as an "attachment disorder." I've helped many patients address the adverse effects of techno-despair, such as insomnia, nightmares, restless sleep and ongoing angst. You, too, can break your addiction to anxiety and lead a more peaceful life.

Am I Addicted To Anxiety?

To determine your current level of anxiety, ask yourself:

  • Do I worry about many things every day?
  • Is it difficult to stop watching anxiety-provoking news on TV or the Internet, though I try?
  • Do I experience separation anxiety when I can't access my smartphone or computer?
  • Do I make problems larger, not smaller?
  • Do I worry about things that no one around me worries about?
  • When one anxiety is solved, do I immediately focus on another?

If you answered "yes" to all six questions, worry plays a very large, addictive role in your life. Four to five "yes" answers indicate a large role. Two to three "yes" answers indicate a moderate role. One"yes" indicates a low level. Zero "yes" answers suggest that you're more warrior than worrier!

To quiet anxiety and turn off your flight-or-flight response, it's important to re-train your brain to send chemicals to counteract this powerful biological response. Otherwise, anxiety can become an addiction. In contrast, with a calm biology, you can generate endorphins -- the blissful natural painkillers in your body. To master your anxiety, practice the techniques below to quiet your system. They will help you achieve immediate and long-term results.

7 Strategies To Overcome Anxiety (From "Emotional Freedom")

  1. Eliminate caffeine, sugar and other stimulants. These fuel the "fight or flight" response.
  2. Avoid people who reinforce your fear, whom I call "emotional vampires." They are biological irritants. Stick close to positive people. (See my previous post, "Who's the Emotional Vampire in Your Life?")
  3. Stay away from violent newscasts, arguments, the Internet, paying bills or other stress inducers, especially before sleep.
  4. Set healthy limits and boundaries. To combat stress, it's important to realize that "No" is a complete sentence, and a healthy way to set limits and boundaries with stress-inducing people and situations.
  5. Pause when agitated. Make this vow: "I will never have a conversation with someone, send an email, or make a decision when gripped by anxiety." No matter what the upset is, do not act until you have gained calm and composure.
  6. Use this Progressive Relaxation Technique. In a comfortable position, sitting or lying down, take a few deep breaths while letting your body go as limp as possible. When you're ready, begin by tightening the muscles in your toes. Hold to a count of 10, and then relax. Enjoy the relief of tension melting. Do the same with flexing your foot muscles, and move slowly through your entire body: calves, legs, stomach, back, neck, jaw and face, contracting and releasing each area.
  7. Stay in "the now." Try not to project negative scenarios about the future. Stay solution-oriented in the present moment and be grateful for what is positive in your life.

Being aware of what triggers your anxiety and mindfully making choices to cope with them provides emotional freedom. Then you won't simply be reacting when your buttons get pushed. You will be better able to take charge of your emotions and your life.

Comments

k 22nd April 2011 11:54 am

Great message! There was a time when I could not relax enough to enjoy a sunset. I could not enjoy anything because my mind was on what I thought I needed to do, it was always busy thinking. Even good things that came to me could not be enjoyed. Yoga, meditation and forcing myself to retrain my brain to stop and enjoy simple things has been rewarded with the blissful state most of the time. When challenges do come, I have learned that it is important for me to try to not let the emotions and anxiety grip me, because my happiness depends on my ability to be a master of myself. This is hard to do when hardship comes, but I realize that time will pass and with time the pain of the experience will lessen, and I try to bring that lessening into the present. What happens on the outside is not near as important as what we do with the inside. If personal development is the goal, then we take our experiences as learning opportunities and work through them in a positive way as we mature into a master.

maniktwin 23rd April 2011 10:35 pm

this is your best yet.

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Dr. Judith Orloff

Judith Orloff, MD is author of The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, upon which her articles are based. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty.

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