There are several steps to overcoming chronic anxiety. This is an analysis of how Chrissy Rutherford of Harper’s Bazaar accomplished that. Of course, not everyone follows all of the steps and not everyone follows all (or even some) of the steps in the proper order. There are also more, detailed steps delineated by the use of cognitive behavioral therapy.
Ms Rutherford’s article (linked above) is not detailed enough to determine whether or not she followed that (although she does write about her mother telling her to face her fears, a common technique in CBT). Thus, I shall write about how she coped by employing the more general guidelines or steps.
Before I do that though, I shall relate how she developed chronic anxiety. She writes that she had been a normal and outgoing, and perhaps even outstanding student. She engaged in many extracurricular activities, including performing in school plays and was somewhat bewildered by other students expressing stage fright. Then, one day when she was 13, a student on her bus vomited.
Of course, she felt grossed-out, which is a normal reaction to this unpleasant activity. She did not think much of it later that day, but the next day, she had convinced herself that if she went to school then she would become greatly ill, as well, and stayed home from school. She soon developed a fear of buses, and it seemed to extrapolate to other forms of transportation as it was not until she was 25 years old that she managed to fly on an airplane by herself.
Reduce stress and anxiety
Anxiety and stress release adrenaline and thyroxine in your body. This helps you when you are in a “fight or flight” situation, but is harmful to the body if done in a long-term basis. There is some evidence that she did this, although they were done by methods that are better described later on. In general, though, it seems that she reduced stress and anxiety merely by avoiding the things that caused her stress (such as going on the school bus).
Exercise regularly to reduce stress
Exercise helps release endorphins which help to increase well-being and to reduce stress. In her article, she does not describe doing this, either for stress or in her everyday life.
Eat the right foods
Especially oats and nuts which contain tryptophan, which helps reduce anxiety. Drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine. As with exercise, she does not describe her dietary habits, other than to say that she took Altoid mints when she felt nauseous, although this may have been just a coping mechanism.
Seek professional help
This other source recommends finding a therapist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy, so it took the words right out of my mouth. She writes that she did go to the school’s guidance counselor and the school’s psychologist on a regular basis, but then felt slightly despondent when the counselor left the school. She then went to an outside therapist who, along with her parents, helped her develop some coping mechanisms.
This is often what people turn to first to build enough support to trying other things. It is ideal for the short-term, but it is a crutch if it is continually depended upon. The school psychologist suggested medication, but her parents wanted her to try other options. She did take Xanax as she got older. It seems that she began to rely on it less and less, and only for significant events, such as an intercontinental flight, for which she took benzodiazepines. She does credit much of her turnaround to the medication that she received.
Heal your anxiety naturally
Try relaxation techniques such as biofeedback and deep breathing exercises; yoga; meditation; and taking Kava, B vitamins, valerian and supplements or other items at your local health food store. She writes that her therapist (outside of school) did recommend her to meditate, and it seems that she did this for several years.
Get plenty of sleep
A lack of proper sleep is the beginning of a vicious cycle which increases stress and anxiety, which makes it more difficult to get proper sleep, which increases stress and anxiety, and so on. As with other steps, she does not write about this.
Continue to take risks such as going back to school
Even admitting that you have a problem and seeking therapy is risk and a big step forward. She did actively seek out therapy and, after missing three days after the vomiting incident, she did go back to school. Her parents seem to have been big believers in her facing her fears, and she seemed to be up for the challenge. She acknowledge that facing her fears got better with practice.
Build healthy relationships with others
Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. Join a support group of like-minded individuals, and stay away from those who ridicule or belittle you. At the end of her article, she expresses thanks for her family, therapists and supportive and understanding friends. Photos available on the Internet make it appear that she has a healthy romantic life, as well. In the end, it seems that she found meditation, medication, coping mechanisms and her family (especially for her mother) to be most helpful and significant. It seems to have taken her 14 years to come to a place where she felt that she had overcome chronic anxiety. I hope that it will not take you as long. I hope that you will follow these steps and find success sooner.