Anti-Anxiety Hints

By Jack Bragen
Friday February 03, 2012 - 11:11:00 AM

Do you ever wonder about the butterflies in your stomach?

Do you wonder if that tightness in your chest, that queasy feeling in your abdomen, and, let's admit it, that worry, is a problem that others suffer from, too? Are you anxious? Do you feel something that you have identified as angst? Do you seem to have these fearful emotions for no apparent reason? Do you find that these painful emotions are almost unbearable? You are not alone. 

Millions of Americans with or without a mental health diagnosis suffer from chronic anxiety. Sometimes it is impossible to pinpoint exactly the issue that is being worried about. Many people seek relief through the pharmaceutical route. Drugs like Klonopin, Valium, and Xanax provide temporary relief, although they are controlled substances and can be habit-forming. Anti anxiety agents such as these, while they may provide short-term relief, don't do anything toward solving the underlying problem: Your mind is generating fear. 

Sometimes cognitive methods can offer another choice. 

Most popular trademarks of cognitive therapy (or cognitive techniques) have roots in Buddhist concepts, if not practices. Neuro-Linguistic-Programming and the "Living Love" methods (introduced by the late Ken Keyes Jr.) involve getting very specific about the exact "programming" that needs to be changed. (The term, "programming" refers to various patterns of thoughts and emotions that are keeping you stuck.) However, I believe this type of "reprogramming" often is not necessary. Oddly enough, getting completely specific about the direct cause of an emotion doesn't always hit the nail on the head. 

If using cognitive methods, I believe that it isn't always necessary to address the specific fears that your brain is using to generate the anxiety. In some instances, the specific fears that are being used to generate the discomfort are not central to the actual issue. The issue, for example, could be that you are somehow "rewarded" for having a bad mood every day. Or, it could be that the anxiety is causing you to slow down and rest, when otherwise you would be overexerting yourself and not getting enough quietness. The actual issue could simply be that you are overly sensitized to discomfort, and you should create a thicker skin. Or, you could be accustomed to a certain level of suffering in your life, and going too far above or below this level is threatening to you. So, you see, there can be a number of reasons for your subconscious to furnish fear, and the actual thing being feared may be secondary to the real issue. Anxiety could have a type of "usefulness" in your life. However, if you analyzed it enough, you could substitute something else for the function that the anxiety is serving. 

There are people, however, who would fall apart if subjected to a significant level of analysis. These are individuals for whom therapy would open a Pandora's Box of problems. They are better off not analyzing what is under the hood and can do okay in life sweeping their problems under a rug. Some people who are like this are paradoxically very successful in their careers. For these individuals, anti anxiety medication can serve a very important purpose. 

And there may be those who have a major psychiatric condition and for whom the anxiety is caused by yet another brain malfunction. For these people, the personality may be healthy but the brain that is supposed to carry this personality has problems. 

Cognitive methods for lowering the anxiety level can include but are not limited to: exploration of the fears to discover the exact architecture of the fear structure; reframing and/or changing the perception of the anxious feelings; focusing on the breath; reordering of consciousness. 

Numerous methods other than medications can be used to get relief from a painful emotion. The human organ of thought between your ears has countless unused capacities. And for those who have tried numerous techniques and haven't succeeded at conquering their anxiety, there is no shame in consuming anti anxiety medication. The author of this article takes a substantial dosage of a milder anti anxiety agent, and supplements this with meditative methods. 

Lastly, there is no usefulness in comparing yourself to others in terms of anxiety. Some people may feel anxious and it isn't an indication of weakness. Instead of seeing anxiousness as a weakness, you could view it as a sign of being a more complex and thoughtful person.