Carolyn Chambers Clark, founder of The Wellness Institute, says that anxiety conditions are “the number-one mental health problem among American women and are second only to alcohol and drug abuse among men” (Clark, Carolyn Chambers, ARNP, EDD. Living Well With Anxiety: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Tell You…That You Need to Know. New York: HarperCollins).

Billions of dollars are spent each year in treating anxiety and anxiety-related disorders. While a great many cases warrant professional intervention and require monetary investments, there are ways that people can help reduce anxiety in their lives.

What is Anxiety?

Before one can effectively cope with anxiety, it helps to understand the condition. Professor Clark explains that anxiety is best understood as a type of worry, which “leads to a state of apprehension and uncertainty, which results in both physical and psychological effects.”

Anxiety comes in several forms, including panic attacks, phobias, and post-traumatic stress, among other forms. The reader is advised to consult with a certified and trained professional, before attempting any self-diagnosis.

Ways to Treat or Reduce Anxiety

A person’s brain consists of 10 billion neurons, which connect and network with one another to regulate bodily function, thought, and emotion. The brain controls everything in one’s body. The brain interacts with itself via neurotransmitters, and it’s this interaction that is key to understanding anxiety (and virtually all other mental or emotional disorders as well).

The key then in treating or coping with anxiety is to zero in on the brain. Efforts to reduce anxiety are best understood as efforts to manage the brain.

Here then are five ways a person can effectively manage his or her brain and reduce anxiety:

  1. Consult with a doctor and get a complete physical – Information is the key to beginning any systematic treatment program. A person equipped with the right knowledge, concerning her health, diet, medical condition, etc. will be best positioned to conquer anxiety.
  2. Stop smoking and/or chewing tobacco – Research has proven that tobacco products play a part in reducing a person’s health and increasing a person’s anxiety.
  3. Limit or eliminate the consumption of alcohol and caffeine – Caffeine directly impacts a person’s nervous system, and alcohol (though perhaps contributing to partial or temporary relaxation and calming of the nerves) indirectly affects the nerves, by leaving them in an “agitated state” (Wehrenberg, Margaret. The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques. W.W. Norton, New York).
  4. Practice diaphragmatic breathing – According to Dr. Margaret Wehrenberg, a licensed psychologist, controlled, deep breathing “calms down physical arousal” and is “the most reliable way to stop a panic attack once it has begun” (Wehrenberg, previously cited).
  5. Pursue a brain-healthy diet – Dr. Harold Bloomfield advises that people eat right to avoid “nutritional deficiencies,” which can contribute to stress and anxiety. Says Bloomfield: “A healthful, stress-reducing diet includes a wide array of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, whole grains…a variety of legumes…low-fat or nonfat dairy products, and limited amounts of nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, and lean poultry” (Bloomfield, Harold, MD. Healing Anxiety Naturally. New York: HarperCollins, 1998).

Choosing to Deal With Tension, Worry, and Anxiety

Ultimately, it’s up to each person to take a proactive approach toward dealing with tension, worry, and anxiety. Most people are quite reactive with their health. They go along in life, until something goes wrong and forces them to pay attention.

The way to reduce anxiety is to manage the brain. This requires a systematic, disciplined approach, beginning with a physical and consultation with one’s doctor. With this information in hand, a person who hopes to effectively deal with anxiety should regularly practice deep breathing, reduce or preferably eliminate alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco – and work toward a brain-healthy diet.