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Is There Something I Can Practice

Published: October 27, 2015
Dear TeenHealthFX,

Hi, I have struggled with anxiety and panic attacks last year and I'm finding myself finally starting to feel a lot better this year. I have tried to be more positive, do more exercises etc to make myself feel better and it seriously works. Once of the main reasons I suspect that caused this was because of stress, as last year, there was a huge leap between the schools syllabus etc and it was my first year handling these kind of work. This year, I have also had gained enough experience to start organizing my work, by simply not procrastinating, trying to finish my work on time made me feel a lot better, I've put more effort into practicing breathing techniques in times when I feel like I can't breathe, and also felt a lot more secure around people as I have opened up to a lot more close friends about this, and I'm really really proud on what I have achieved over this past year. However, as I'm feeling that I'm getting a lot better, there are certainly still times where I feel anxious in random situations usually when I'm with people, and have to take at least 5 mins to calm myself down. I want to know, if there is any way possible that there is something that I can practice myself to get through this? Thanks!

Dear Is There Something I Can Practice,

You should be very proud of yourself for the growth you have made in the past year. It is not easy to deal with our fears, but it is an important part of growth. Exercising and self-organization can be very effective when dealing with anxiety and stress. Breathing exercises are a very effective tool, especially when dealing with anxiety. One of the best breathing methods is diaphragmatic or “belly” breathing. 

Diaphragmatic Breathing

  1. Get comfortable and relax your neck and shoulder muscles. You can lie down. Sit or stand to practice this type of breathing.
  2. Place one hand on your upper chest and place the other hand at the bottom of your ribs, just above your waistline. Use your hands to feel the movements as you breathe
  3. Take a breath in through your nose and feel your hand on your stomach move outward. Do not let your shoulders move up. You should not feel movement of your hand on your chest. Think of expanding your lungs down toward your toes.
  4. Breathe S-L-O-W-L-Y and gently through your mouth with pursed lips, as if you were going to whistle or blow out a candle. The hand on your stomach moves in as you breathe out. You may need to pull in your stomach muscles at first to help move your diaphragm up. 

Exhale or breathe out at least twice as long as you inhale or breathe in. 

Practice diaphragmatic breathing for at least 10 to 15 minutes each day. Rest as needed between breaths. Learning diaphragmatic breathing takes patience and practice. As you become more comfortable breathing with this technique, you will notice that you will be using it all the time. It is the natural way to breathe. 

Whenever you get anxious, upset or short of breath, use this breathing technique. Also, use it with activities, such as walking, climbing stairs or carrying objects.    

There are many other types of mindfulness and meditation activities that are effective approaches for managing stress and anxiety. Technology has also helped by developing numerous Apps that have been specifically designed to deal with these issues. 

The above methods as well as others, are considered as coping skills to help alleviate stress. There is an emphasis on the word “coping.” The idea is that an individual cannot always control how they will react in certain situations. By developing effective skills, you realize that when you get anxious you can take some action to counter the unpleasant feeling. 

There are also techniques that you can learn in therapy that are effective in managing anxiety. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and some forms of behavioral therapy have shown to be valuable in treating anxiety. 

You have come a long way. It is important for you to remember that on those days where you are feeling particularly anxious, that you most likely having a bad day and you are not giving back the progress you have made. The things that you are proud of accomplishing, you earned them and they are still with you. 

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the AccessCenter from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area.





Signed: TeenHealthFX