Have you tried fighting anxiety?
Trust supersedes fear
When fear rules life (page 11/11)
Self-help with relaxation procedures and sport
Relaxation methods are especially important for changing the strong physical tension in fear. Less tension often also significantly reduces the physical symptoms of anxiety such as restlessness, palpitations or pressure on the chest.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PME)
The most important relaxation methods include progressive muscle relaxation (PME) according to Edmund Jacobson, autogenic training according to Johannes Schultz and biofeedback methods. The PME is active in action and therefore very well suited for people who have not yet had any experience with relaxation methods, because the practitioners can hold onto the movements, so to speak, and are not immediately confronted with their innermost feelings.
Edmund Jacobson discovered that all mentally ill people suffer from muscle tension, that tension and exertion shorten muscle fibers, and that relaxation counteracts states of excitement. So if the muscles of the body can be relaxed, then that would also have a positive effect on the mental state, so was the approach of the doctor, who was born in Chicago in 1888.
In the exercises, certain muscle groups are tensed briefly and only gently, primarily in order to be able to consciously perceive the subsequent letting go and the associated relaxation. The point is to learn to perceive the difference between tension and relaxation and to induce relaxation yourself.
Progressive means progressive. With regard to progressive muscle relaxation, this means, on the one hand, that more and more muscle groups are integrated into the exercises and, on the other hand, that the muscle groups are combined after a certain exercise time in such a way that the practitioner can use letting go in every life situation and thus relaxation more and more to his own Basic attitude. This is also intended to gradually reduce the residual stress.
The autogenic training
The psychiatrist Johannes Schultz, born in Göttingen in 1884, developed autogenic training while dealing with hypnosis. Schultz discovered that when people are relaxed, their muscles feel heavy and their bodies warm, the breathing rate drops and the heartbeat becomes calmer. Overall, the thoughts become calmer and the person feels trust and joy.
Schultz recognized that humans can also induce this state of relaxation themselves actively by means of formulas spoken in silence within. The more regular and permanent the practice, the faster the practitioner can adjust to the state of relaxation.
Autogenic training requires more concentration than progressive muscle relaxation and is therefore not suitable if attention, affects and drive are severely disturbed, as is the case with mental illnesses, for example, with the emotionally unstable personality disorder of the borderline type, with ADHD, with severe depression or with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder.
In certain cases, the progressive muscle relaxation is suitable as an introduction to the relaxation process. Absolute contraindications are psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia, as well as a lack of intellectual prerequisites, because the principle of the exercises cannot be understood and thus the exercises cannot be performed.
Those who are really relaxed feel joy instead of fear. These relaxation procedures are therefore also used psychotherapeutically. For example, Joseph Wolpe developed systematic desensitization. In doing so, clients first learn a relaxation process. After they have induced the state of relaxation, they are confronted with the anxiety-inducing stimulus in the presence of the therapist and experience that it no longer triggers fear in them.
These relaxation procedures can be used consciously as coping skills. Over time, they enable people to assess certain situations differently and to experience them more relaxed overall.
Influence physical reactions with biofeedback
Biofeedback means biological feedback in German. The aim is to make physiological processes such as heartbeat, pulse or even brain waves, which normally run unconsciously, so transparent that the client can see a connection between his or her attitudes or behavior and his physical reactions.
The devices and apps that are used for this are very different. For example, sensors are attached to the client's body and connected to a computer via a cable. The client sees the measured values on the screen and can relate them to his own state of health. This gives him a relationship with how and when his body reacts, for example, to thoughts or situations that are stressful for him.
In order to positively influence the physical reactions, the clients use relaxation methods during the biofeedback session, for example. In this way they experience that they can influence the values that they see on the screen for the benefit of their health. The client perceives live, for example, how he can actively lower his pulse through the difficult exercise of autogenic training.
Reduce fear with sport
Exercise can also be helpful in reducing anxiety and tension. In particularly dangerous situations, fear has a warning function and the resulting stress reaction prepares us for fight or flight in a matter of seconds. The increased hormones released as a result, such as adrenaline, noradrenaline, insulin and cortisol, however, have to be broken down through activity, otherwise they put a strain on the organism and a persistent stress reaction makes you sick in the long term.
Exercise breaks down these hormones and releases endorphins instead. The endorphins, also known as happiness hormones, make us feel good and relaxed and make us much more capable of reacting to stress in a healthy way. Regular sport, especially endurance sport, helps to become much more resistant to stress overall. Studies have shown that even 30 minutes of exercise a day lead to a significant reduction in anxiety symptoms.
Self help tips
Above all, it is important to react early when fears arise. Perhaps you observe fears in yourself that you yourself consider to be exaggerated or nonsensical. You may find that all of a sudden you are avoiding places or situations that are not inherently dangerous and that you may not have previously minded.
What you can do
If the fears are not too strong, you should consciously return to the places or situations that trigger fear - so you should face your fear. You should stay in the situation until the fear has decreased significantly on its own. You should avoid anything that could give you security in the situation (for example a talisman, "emergency medicine" or someone you trust) during these exercises. By “confronting” the fearful situations or stimuli, you can experience that nothing bad actually happens. This should completely or almost completely resolve the fear over time.
For example, if you are afraid of dogs, you should consciously be around dogs and also touch or feed them. If you experience any discomfort in the subway, you should consciously travel longer distances on the subway and not get off even if you feel fear and would like to flee. And if you have a lot of "stage fright" before lectures or a public appearance, you should keep putting yourself in such situations, seeing them as a challenge and practicing until the lecture or appearance is easy for you and maybe even fun.
In situations in which it is "normal" to be excited or to be afraid, you can use breathing exercises or relaxation techniques, or you can persuade yourself well (for example: "I will manage it. In similar situations I have also done it." ).
However, if you find that you cannot control your fears on your own, do not hesitate to seek support. There are a number of well-reviewed approaches to therapy that are mostly effective at treating different types of anxiety. It is important that you do not just come to terms with your fear and the restrictions! You can find professional help, for example, from a doctor, especially a specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapy, or from a psychotherapist. Participating in a support group can also be a great way to learn how to deal with anxiety.
What not to do
In no case should you avoid situations that frighten you. As already described, this avoidance behavior leads to the fact that the fear becomes entrenched and can even increase over time.
Also, do not try to "treat" anxiety with alcohol, drugs such as marijuana, or sedatives (so-called benzodiazepines). While this self-medication can provide relief for a short time, it makes you increasingly dependent on a certain substance to fight the anxiety. So you can quickly slide into a dependency.
- Medical and health service Onmeda: www.onmeda.de
- S. Schmidt-Traub and T.-P. Lex (2005): Anxiety and Depression. Hogrefe-Verlag, Göttingen.
- WHO (2010). International classification of mental disorders. ICD-10, Chapter V (F). Clinical diagnostic guidelines. 7th, revised edition. Eds. H. Dilling, W. Mombour & M. H. Schmidt. Publisher Hans Huber, Bern.
- K. Lieb, B. Heßlinger & G. Jacob (2009). 50 cases of psychiatry and psychotherapy. Bed-side learning. Urban & Fischer Verlag, Munich.
- J. Margraf & S. Schneider (2009). Behavioral Therapy Textbook. Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg.
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