Poet Jae Nichelle is making big waves online speaking out about what has become an almost universal mental health crisis—anxiety.
A video of Nichelle performing her poem ‘Friends with Benefits’ at the Texas Grand Slam Poetry festival has gone viral. Nichelle’s performance poem about the socially damaging effects of an anxiety disorder—personified in the context of a “friends with benefits” relationship—strikes a clear chord because it beautifully addresses something that cripples millions.
In recent years, anxiety has virtually become an epidemic. Anxiety disorders seem so prevalent in modern society that it’s become a prominent buzzword in its own right. This is not to say that anxiety is something to trivialize. It’s a serious problem that seems to be hindering countless lives relationships.
There is no miracle cure for an anxiety disorder, but there are many ways to combat anxiety and find a calm, peaceful center in life—even if anxiety is a constant. Here are five ways to find a deeper sense of calm and peace for those who suffer from anxiety. It can be incredibly difficult to be honest with oneself about an anxiety disorder, let alone with anyone else. Knowing how to tactfully let friends and acquaintances know about what you’re going through can be a big help in preventing the relationship damage that anxiety can cause.
In order to be honest with others, it’s important to keep in mind the basics of an anxiety disorder. What is anxiety? What are its common manifestations and what are my personal symptoms? Anxiety disorder, simply stated, is a mental disorder involving a combination of fear, stress, excessive worry, anxiousness, phobias, and sometimes panic attacks.
Physical symptoms—though they vary significantly from person to person—can include heart palpitations, migraines, gastrointestinal issues, nausea, acne, and even excessive itching. There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety, and panic disorder.
Most of us have had the friend who always seems to cancel plans at the last minute. We may be fed up with all the times our friend has accepted invites and even conveyed excitement about an activity or get-together, only to cancel with a flimsy excuse, or simply not show up without notice. What we may not realize is that our flaky friend isn’t really flaky at all, but suffers from an anxiety disorder that sneaks up on them and keeps them from engaging in social situations.
If you find yourself disengaging from social interaction and have alienated friends in the process, being honest and upfront with them about your anxiety can go a long way in healing the relationship. Unfortunately, mental illnesses are still sort of taboo and frequently misunderstood in the United States. You may have friends that will never understand what you deal with, but real friends and caring family will find ways to support you.
For most people who experience the social phobia that comes with an anxiety disorder, the first instinct may be to hide the disorder rather than be open about it. Being open about anything may trigger anxiety, let alone the social anxiety itself. Hiding one’s anxiety can frequently lead to extended patterns of lying and unhealthy social distance, and may eventually lead to total social isolation.
Common forms of social sabotage associated with anxiety include:
If you have social anxiety disorder and find yourself stuck in a pattern of these or similar behaviors, consider cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT is focused on finding solutions to current emotional and behavioral dysfunctions rather than digging up root emotional causes, which may help you mend your social life with confidence.
Anxiety disorders can be complicated to diagnose, and even more complicated to effectively treat. One way to be proactive in alleviating anxiety symptoms is to identify elements of your daily lifestyle that may contribute to anxiety, and make changes where possible.
Most of us make lifestyle choices that contribute to anxiety and stress. Anxiety disorders usually aren’t curable by changing environmental factors, but making careful lifestyle adjustments can certainly help to reduce daily anxiety.
Poor sleep patterns can increase anxiety significantly. Getting more sleep may be difficult for many who suffer from anxiety disorders, but having a goal of getting eight to nine hours of sleep each night can be a huge help.
Work stress is another common anxiety-inducer. It can be difficult to manage stress at work when there are so many factors beyond your control. Still, there’s a few simple measures one can take to decrease work anxiety. Keeping track of typical work stressors, engaging in meaningful ways with co-workers, establishing healthy boundaries with co-workers, practicing relaxation techniques, and being open with supervisors about anxiety issues are all things to keep in mind when trying to reduce work-related anxiety.
Making changes in one’s home life can also be crucial in meaningful anxiety reduction. New parents with anxiety can find it particularly difficult to cope with growing home and family responsibilities. If clutter or disorganization at home is a trigger for your anxiety, make plans to remove clutter and arrange your home so it’s a safe space to alleviate the burden of anxiety.
Not all lifestyle choices should be eliminated or changed just because they are stressful. One alternative approach to dealing with daily anxiety is exposure therapy—a treatment method designed to eradicate specific phobias by systematic exposure. If you find yourself unable to cope with an essential element of daily life, consult a licensed therapist to see if exposure therapy might work for you.
In addition to traditional therapy and clinical treatment, many who suffer from anxiety have found that meditation is incredibly helpful in alleviating symptoms. Meditation has a lot of different definitions and varieties. In the broadest terms, meditation is the practice of putting one’s mind in a deeply calm, silent, but also thoughtful and alert state. Meditation, when practiced properly, has the potential to release stress-related hormones and increase parasympathetic activity.
Studies show that, during meditation, both the frontal and parietal lobes slow down. With repetition, meditation’s calming effect on the brain can lead to better focus, less stress, and reduced anxiety. Meditation actually relieves neural pathway connections in the brain’s “Me Center”. The Me Center is largely responsible for the sensation of fear that arises from stressful situations. Meditation reduces the Me Center’s neural connections and alleviates anxiety in the process.
There’s a lot of different ways to use meditation in treating anxiety. One of the main reasons people practice meditation is to let thoughts naturally move by without getting stuck in them. Many of the negative lingering thoughts associated with an anxiety disorder can be handled more effectively with meditation. Sometimes, anxiety manifests itself as anger, which meditation can also manage effectively. Finally, meditation allows a person to handle the chaos of daily life. Anxiety disorders are easily triggered by chaos. Much of meditation is about centering the mind so external chaos isn’t as harmful.
If you have an anxiety disorder and haven’t tried meditation yet, give this step-by-step meditation beginner’s guide a try:
Once you’ve mastered the basics of a short meditation session, you can try drawing out your meditation and begin researching specific techniques and methods.
For many anxiety disorders, diet can be a huge contributing factor in magnifying symptoms. Fast food, high-sodium foods, trans fats, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and sometimes even tofu are all foods that can contribute to a person’s anxiety levels. Knowing what foods to avoid, as well as what to seek out, can make a big difference for someone with an anxiety disorder.
There are hundreds of dietary choices one can make, or at least experiment with, to reduce anxiety. Ultimately, individual dietary restrictions will affect what you can and can’t do, but there are few surefire diet dos and don’ts for people with anxiety disorders. Cutting back on caffeine and significantly reducing, if not eliminating alcohol consumption can be a big help in reducing anxiety symptoms. Conversely, probiotics, antioxidants, magnesium, and herbal teas should all be components of an anxiety-reducing diet.
Many who have anxiety disorders are disappointed by conventional treatment methods. As vitamins and supplements, essential oils, and other natural remedies are seeing a boom in the alternative medicine market, so is medicinal cannabis. Because they’re largely absent of THC (the psychoactive compound of marijuana) and legal in all fifty states, CBD and hemp oil products in particular have proven popular, and frequently effective in treating anxiety.
No mental illness is particularly simple to treat. Anxiety disorders are so diverse that they can be particularly tricky. Anxiety is traditionally treated with a personalized plan that likely includes cognitive therapy, pharmaceutical medications, and contributing alternatives. However, a growing cultural distrust in traditional treatment methods has led to a surge in popularity for CBD anxiety treatment.
Cannabidiol (CBD) the non-psychoactive compound of cannabis that regulates the body’s endocannabinoid system to produce a wide variety of therapeutic results. Though there’s no guarantee that CBD oil will alleviate anxiety, the anecdotal evidence is overwhelmingly positive. The clinical studies that have been done on CBD oil demonstrate a clear potential for treating anxiety effectively. Most CBD oil is legal, readily available, and doesn’t produce any undesirable side effects. CBD has been known to inhibit the effects of other medications (which may be either a good or a bad thing), so it’s always a good idea to consult with a physician before adding any medication to your treatment.
There are three different types of CBD oil that you may want to try for your anxiety. There’s pure CBD oil, a high CBD concentrate that’s usually THC-free. There’s also CBD hemp oil, which is made from hemp and generally has a low THC count. Lastly, there’s CBD oil with THC, designed to alleviate stronger symptoms. CBD oil with THC isn’t legal everywhere, and may not be preferable for all anxiety patients, as THC has been known to counteract the benefits of CBD.
Jae Nichelle’s performance of ‘Friends with Benefits’ went viral because it’s broadly relatable. Nichelle is one of many who deal with the crippling effects of anxiety on a daily basis. Sometimes anxiety is so overwhelming that relief seems impossible, but breaking tired routines and approaching new anxiety treatment options with equal parts enthusiasm and temperance is always on the table. For all mental disorders, it’s always important to consult with a licensed physician before making any drastic changes to a treatment plan.