We all get nervous and anxious—that’s a part of life. But approximately 40 million Americans(link is external) suffer from an anxiety disorder as defined by the DSM.
Symptoms include not only the classic “excessive and intense worry or anxiety over events and/or situations” but also physical symptoms such as restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, body aches, trembling, insomnia, sweating, nausea, diarrhea, shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat.
Anxiety disorders are a category of mental disorders characterized by feelings of anxiety and fear,where anxiety is a worry about future events and fear is a reaction to current events.These feelings may cause physical symptoms, such as a racing heart and shakiness. There are various forms of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, a specific phobia, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. While each has its own characteristics and symptoms, they all include symptoms of anxiety.
According to Schacter, Gilbert, and Wegner’s book Psychology: Second Edition, generalized anxiety disorder is “characterized by chronic excessive worry accompanied by three or more of the following symptoms: restlessness, fatigue, concentration problems, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbance”
Relaxation techniques – When practiced regularly, relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, controlled breathing, and visualization can reduce anxiety and increase feelings of relaxation and emotional wellbeing.
Adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Physical activity relieves tension and anxiety, so make time for regular exercise. Don’t use alcohol and drugs to cope with your symptoms, and try to avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine, which can make anxiety worse.
Transcendental Meditation or TM,is one of the most popular meditation programs to date and is known to be effective for stress relief and relaxation. It was founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi back in 1958.
According to a report published in theJournal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine(link is external) , a metaanalysis of TM analyzed 16 trials and 1,295 participants(link is external) . The conclusion was that TM worked better in reducing severe anxiety than psychotherapy or other relaxation techniques. Medication was not addressed.
Participants with anxiety levels in the 80th to 100th percentile range who practiced transcendental meditation were able to reduce anxiety to the 53rd–62nd percentile range—approaching a 50% reduction in symptoms.
More importantly, though a decrease in anxiety began within the first two weeks, the results were sustained out to three years. This opens up a fascinating field of study as to the mechanism of action and why it is sustained. As a bonus, TM also produced lower blood pressure, better sleep, improved family life, less substance abuse and a better employment situation.
The good news is that it’s not magic and you do not need to take a class,although instructors are recommended. TM is a simple technique that can be easily learned and takes only 15 to 20 minutes twice a day.