Try Taking Action Not Valium
By Diane Chambers
We are blessed to live in a time when there is less stigma about anxiety disorders and
more options for treatment, so that those who are afflicted do not have to suffer
needlessly. Single parents are often plagued by anxiety, simply because their lifestyles
can be harried and full of enormous responsibilities. Yet, many seem to accept stress and
anxiety as just part of the job, rather than symptoms of something deeper. I am glad many
of my single parent friends are beginning to recognize that living in a constant state of
anxiety is not healthy and they are seeking help. But I am equally concerned that so many
of them are taking anxiety medications, without seeming to feel a whole lot better about
their states of mind. It may be that because of all the drug company hype, we are
convinced the cure is exclusively in a pill rather than a more complex strategy. Before
relying on a little pink, blue or red pill to fix what ails you, try taking some action first
and you may find you do not need medical intervention.
1. Get Moving. Much anxiety is caused from lack of rest. I know it sounds odd, but the
best way to get good rest is to get moving! No one likes to hear that a cure for anxiety
could simply be a little exercise. That sounds too simple and requires a commitment, but
probably is not as difficult as you think. We are programmed by hard-body ads to think
that exercise requires equipment, club memberships and expensive uniforms. This isn’t
about marketing, it’s about your good health. Can you commit to walking fast five
minutes per day? Of course you can. Start out walking around your block everyday for a
week. Then try walking around twice for another two weeks. And just do that for awhile
until you begin to feel a self-esteem boost. With each boost, you’ll want to add more.
Ultimately, if you can walk 30 minutes a day, you will probably notice a big difference in
something as vital as your ability to sleep. If you do not like to walk or are physically
unable, try to start a routine of stretching exercises. This could be beginner yoga or
Pilates poses. Many are very simple and do not require any sweat at all! I do mine every
night at 9:00 pm while I’m watching television and I find it helps me relax enough to
easily fall asleep by 11:00.
2. Make an Action Plan. Once you have gotten into a good exercise routine, you may
find the anxiety continues to linger. This could be because you are paralyzed by some
looming problem, such as financial, relationship, or job issues. Make a list of things that
cause you to lose sleep at night or thoughts that distract you as you are driving or trying
to concentrate on other things. These thoughts usually point to the root of your anxiety.
Once you have a list, decide on some action that you can take to address the problem.
Make a plan to do something each week that addresses the problem. This could be in the
form of making a phone call, writing a letter, setting a specific goal, or exploring options
on the internet. Commit yourself to spending at least 30 minutes per week doing
something to work toward a solution to the problem area.
3. Find an Accountability Partner. Exercising and making an action may require you to
change a habit or form a new one. This is never easy since we are inclined to be
comfortably miserable rather than uncomfortably happy! Knowing this ahead of time,
find someone in your life who is willing to keep “tabs” on you to make sure you are
sticking to your plan. This could be a family member, friend, co-worker, or trusted
mentor. Ask this person to call you once a week (maybe every Sunday night) and find out
how you are progressing – not to scold you, but to encourage you to keep going.
4. Record Your Progress. I am a big fan of keeping a personal journal. Even if you do
not like writing, anyone can identify emotions and jot them down. One day, you might
just write, “I feel frustrated today and don’t know why.” As you talk to your
accountability partner and think about your action plan, you will begin to identify more
and more emotions and your daily writing should reflect how you feel. Eventually, you
may use your journal to expand your goals and make more action plans. You may use it
to express prayers or scream out angry thoughts. The benefit of keeping a journal is in
looking back at it after a year or so and recognizing your progress. Or you may see a
pattern of the same old complaints that could give you a valuable clue to the true source
of your anxiety.
5. Seek Professional Help, if needed. If you work through a few of the above steps and
are still not able to calm your anxious thoughts, be sure to seek the help of a skilled
professional. This could be your family doctor or a counselor who is listed on your health
insurance plan. Do not feel like a failure if this is the route you ultimately take. There are
numerous medical reasons for anxiety and it may be that you are physically incapable of
treating it on your own. The most important thing you can do for yourself and for your
kids is to attack the anxiety head-on, no matter what it takes. Do it today!

Anxiety - Florida Conference of Seventh

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