Learn how to tame anxiety

Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety from time to time. Anxiety can be described as a sense of uneasiness, nervousness, worry, fear, or dread of what's about to happen or what might happen. While fear is the emotion we feel in the presence of threat, anxiety is a sense of anticipated danger, trouble or threat.

Feelings of anxiety can be mild, intense or anywhere in between, depending on the person and the situation. Mild anxiety can feel like a sense of uneasiness or nervousness. More intense anxiety can feel like fear, dread or panic. Worry and feelings of tension and stress are forms of anxiety. So are stage fright and shyness meeting new people.

It's completely normal to worry when things get hectic and complicated. But if worry becomes overwhelming, you may feel that it’s running your life. If you spend excessive time feeling worried or nervous, or you have difficulty sleeping because of your anxiety, pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. They may be symptoms of an anxiety problem or disorder.

Anxiety is a natural human reaction that involves mind and body. It serves an important basic survival function: It is an alarm system that is activated someone perceives danger or threat. People who have had adverse childhood events (ACEs -- to learn more visit: acestoohigh.org), or previous trauma are often in a state of continuous hypervigilance, which can add to the intensity or duration of the reaction.

When your body and mind react to danger or threat, you can feel physical sensations of anxiety, such as faster heartbeat and breathing, tense muscles, sweaty palms, a queasy stomach and trembling hands or legs. These sensations are part of your body's natural reaction to overwhelming fear (often called the fight, flight or freeze response): a rush of adrenaline and other chemicals that prepare your body to respond to danger. The sensations can be mild or extreme.

The fight, flight or freeze response happens instantly when someone senses a threat. A few seconds later, if the brain decides the threat is not so bad, it “sends the all-clear signal,” the fight, flight or freeze response stops, and your nervous system relaxes. However, in people with a history of ACEs or trauma, the brain may remain in a high state of stress.

Fortunately, our brains are flexible. Diagnosis and treatment can help “rewire” the pathways of the brain to react more normally to stresses.

Anxiety disorders can be treated by mental health professionals or therapists. A therapist can consider the symptoms someone is dealing with, diagnose the specific anxiety disorder, and create a plan to help the person get relief. Part of that plan can include a course in stress management to learn to recognize and develop ways to tame anxiety before it becomes overwhelming.

Columbia Pacific CCO is collaborating with local mental health professionals and therapists to create mind-body wellness centers to care for anxiety and stress at our Wellness Centers, called the SPARK program. The program will be held for three hours, one day a week, for 10 weeks.

The program equips members with a wide variety of coping strategies, including skills for reducing stress, anxiety, disordered sleep and other concerns. The center uses evidence-based, whole-person strategies for measurable improvement in health, including nutrition, exercise, relationships, recreation, sleep and environment. Each session is held in a welcoming non-clinical environment.

The first Spark program to open is in Scappoose at Revitalize Wellness Center. The Spark program is free for Columbia Pacific CCO members. To join the program, you will need a referral from your primary care or mental health provider. To learn more about the program, please call Revitalize Wellness Center at 503-396-4807 or visit https://revitalizewellnesscenter.weebly.com/.

The Spark program will be expanding to wellness centers in Clatsop and Tillamook counties over the next few months. Stay tuned for more details.

More resources:

National Institute of Mental Health

Anxiety and Depression Association of America


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