In the years since my diagnosis, I've learned that anxiety is a physiological response involving hormones released in the body. If you have GAD, hormones will hit your system in a surge. They will also, however, draw back over time. Learning to feel the whole cycle—and appreciate the times when GAD is in remission—is an important part of living with anxiety. Though generalized anxiety disorder never goes away entirely, the more you understand the cycle, the better equipped you are to handle GAD symptoms.
How to Deal with Generalized Anxiety Disorder
1. Understand that anxiety will come and go throughout your life.
Anxiety is not a problem that offers any quick-fix solutions. When stressful things happen, I expect that my particular gremlin will poke his head out of the wave’s crest. Knowing what to do with him and that I’ve survived his visits before helps a lot.
2. Practice riding the anxiety wave.
I've learned the shaky feeling many people experience after a stress response or panic attack is a sign of the hormone wave receding. It's actually a good thing! We often fear the strange shaky feeling. We should be looking forward its arrival. If we understand what the shakiness means, we can enjoy that another wave is over and our strength remains from our place on the beach.
3. Listen for your symptoms.
It took me 39 years to realize that the nausea, light sensitivity, and migraines I'd been experiencing were the ways my generalized anxiety disorder expressed itself. Learning how to tune in to your symptoms will allow you to sense when anxiety is affecting you, and take actions to take care of yourself.
4. Experiment with treatment that works for you.
No approach works for everyone. Experimentation means trying to figure out what works best for you. In my case, I use medication, meditation, a moderate amount of reading and learning (I have to stop myself from overdoing it), and communication. What works for you? Share ideas in the comments section below.
5. Accept that though anxiety is part of your life, it doesn't define you.
These days, when the hormones hit, or I feel a migraine coming on, I accept it. Can the beach fight the wave? Knowing that the answer is no helps.
With treatment, you can bring your symptoms into check. But since you are predisposed to anxiety, when events happen in your life, you are more likely to have bigger anxiety responses than other people.