Brain Facts

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Don't Try to Suppress Anxiety, Learn to Cope Instead

Finally, it's important to remember that anxiety is a natural human response. If you're struggling with it, your goal shouldn't be to just make it go away, that's unrealistic. You can't just will anxiety away?if you could, no one would have to deal with it.

As for suppressing anxiety, that’s like expecting your body to not get hungry after not eating for a few days. Anxiety is a normal and necessary emotion that is there to protect us. The key is to identify “unnecessary anxiety”. Unnecessary anxiety can be managed with preventative measure (i.e. exercise and meditation) and by challenging the veracity of the anxiety-provoking thoughts (like CBT does).

Gil explained that your goal instead should be to learn to cope with it and minimize it, and develop the mechanisms to handle it, get your mind off of the things that make you anxious, and go on with your life. Some of the tips we've mentioned will hopefully help. If you see a friend or a loved one who's suffering from anxiety, Dr. Degroat offers these tips:

Talk with them, let them know you've noticed they seem to be stressed recently and you're available to talk if they want. People who are experiencing anxiety may avoid socializing because of their overwhelming worries, leading to feelings of loneliness. If you have a friend who is withdrawing, check in with them often, inviting them to get together frequently. While they may often turn you down, just knowing that they are invited can help them feel more connected. If your friend's anxiety appears to be significantly interfering in his or her life (failing school, no longer socializing, talking about taking their lives), I would immediately contact a crisis hotline,mental health professional, and/or family members of your friend.

Of course, entire books have been written on the topic of anxiety and anxiety disorders, and we could go on describing their causes and potential treatments. Hopefully some of these suggestions can help you deal with anxiety, or identify it in your friends or loved ones so they can get the help they need to cope. Many people who suffer from anxiety disorders or just live with anxiety from time to time are highly functional, so don't think that anxiety is something you can necessarily see on someone's face. It can also often be coupled with depression or other conditions. With the right attention, learning to cope with and minimize unnecessary anxiety is something we can all do.

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