Anxiety is a physical reaction to racing thoughts. There is a natural assumption that racing thoughts is the only factor involved in anxiety. There is an emotion associated with the anxiety. The emotional part of anxiety is the most neglected when it comes to resolving it. Medication is taken sometimes to stop the racing thoughts. Cognitive techniques and behavioral techniques manage the physical and mental anxiety. Along with your medication, and the other techniques you use to manage your anxiety, therapy is needed to address the emotional part of the anxiety.
Anxiety is often driven by fear. This fear is often generalized. When asked a person will say "I don't know? I am just afraid? In helping a client understand this fear that triggers their anxiety using Eric Erickson's Stages of Development helps them understand their anxiety in the context of their lives. http://psychology.about.com/library/bl_psychosocial_summary.htm
Eric Erickson’s first stage of child development is trust versus mistrust. His theory states that between birth and 18 months a child either learns to trust their basic needs will be met or they will not be met. When a child learns to mistrust this means that some basic need whether it is food, shelter, safety, or emotional needs were not meant. As the child matures they learn to satisfy this need on their own. In other words they learn to control their environment to meet their needs. When they cannot control their environment then the anxiety begins. Over time this coping method expands to other areas of their lives. At some point this anxiety will become unmanageable. This is when treatment for anxiety begins.
An anxious person is usually easy to see. Their bodies are often in motion and so are their minds. Talking to fill the silence is another way anxiety presents itself. An excellent analogy for anxiety is a hamster running on a wheel. The hamster gets the wheel going so fast it cannot get off until it runs out of steam on its own. For our purposes our thoughts are the hamster and anxiety is the wheel. Anxiety is powered by the emotion of fear and fear provides the energy. It may take a moment to understand how anxiety is fear based. Anxiety is about a person feeling like they don’t measure up to something, they won’t measure, or can’t control something to get the outcome they want.
The first technique for treating anxiety is teaching the brain to stop. Mediation can be helpful in the long term. The stop technique is to be used in the moment. The person tells their brain to stop by visualizing a stop sign or hand signal. Another way to use the stop technique is snapping a rubber band when the thoughts are racing.
A second technique is learning to deep breathe. When we are anxious we breathe from the lungs. The breath is short, and causes the lungs to speed up needing more air. Learning to breathe from the diaphragm helps calm the physiological responses to the mind. Take a breath to the count of three, and relax on the count of 4-5-6. Take a deep breath inhale 1-2-3 and exhale 4-5-6. Continue until your body responses to the anxiety have calmed down. Returning to soon to normal breathing may cause the anxiety to begin again. Take your time.
A third technique that is helpful is the use of mantras. Mantras are short statements that remind you to do something. An example of a mantra is” I give myself permission to be imperfect.” Place it where you see it frequently during the day. It could be on your phone, your computer, a sticky note on your office phone or better yet written on the bathroom mirror. This ensures that you see it. Over time the more you say it the more it becomes true.
These simple steps to change how you think and how you behave will help diminish your anxiety. Lastly, learn about anxiety, learn what triggers your own anxiety, and develop methods to cope. If it works for you, it works.