Life is inherently stressful, and what separates those who genuinely feel relaxed versus those in a consistent state of anxiety and panic is the ability to acknowledge life’s stressors, tolerate the discomfort, and attempt to control that which can be controlled, and not worry about controlling that which cannot be.
An example of something we can all control are the decisions that we make, the relationships we choose to pursue and cultivate, and how we spend our time. Those who find themselves becoming upset at the traffic, the weather, or even what others are thinking about them may find that they are generally anxious and live in a state of fear. Perfectionism, or essentially the assumption that we as individuals can control all or even most of the elements of our lives including other people will be destined to be self-critical and let down by their own lofty and irrational expectations.
Make no mistake though, not worrying about what others must be thinking, or not being frustrated by the traffic is definitely easier said than done. That being said, it is important for all of us to be mindful of our own tendencies to expect ourselves to be able to control our social environments. Generally it is this expectation which is a major cause of stress and anxiety. Individual therapy can be a great help at reducing this type of stress, and other interventions that people can do on their own can also be helpful. Exercise for example is a good way of releasing pent up anxiety, or aggression, and there are also things that millions of people do every day that unwittingly contributes to their own stress.
Two activities that are part of millions of Americans daily routine actually exacerbate stress while their intended use seems to be to relieve stress. Smoking cigarettes and drinking caffeinated beverages can both pomote anxiety and even trigger panic attacks. Smoking interferes with breathing and reduces oxygen flow to the brain which causes more rapid breathing and faster beating of the heart. This is a physiological reaction which mimics some of the symptoms of panic, “hyperventilating, and tachycardia.”
The stimulant effect of caffeine can also promote anxiety in much the same way. Stimulants activate the body’s central nervous system which mediates the body’s response to stress or danger. So, for people who may be susceptible to stress and anxiety, (i.e. Type A people and perfectionists) avoiding smoking and caffeine and while exercising regularly can promote a healthier lifestyle and reduce overall anxiety.
If you feel overwhelmed by anxiety, stress or self-doubt, Dr. Maloff can be reached for consultation at (310) 712-5480.