Anxiety is a perfectly normal response to every day worries.
However, when anxiety takes on a more severe form, it can be debilitating and disruptive to your regular life. General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can lead to panic attacks with physical symptoms like shortness of breath, heart palpitations, giddiness and nausea. Sufferers often describe anxiety disorders as an overwhelming sense of dread and fear in ordinary situations. For instance, social anxiety disorder can result in wanting to avoid casual social interaction or eating/ drinking in front of others. While anxiety disorder is a cluster of several conditions, overall, therapy and counseling have proven effective for treatment.
When you say ‘therapy’ and ‘counseling’, most people envision a couch and talking. Lots of talking. What about dancing one’s way towards the path of healing? Or by performing a self-affirming, powerful monologue?
Alternative methods of therapy can be an effective complement to the conventional ones. While traditional therapy has a more standardized approach; unconventional therapy can be less restrictive and more inclusive of the individual’s interests as part of the healing.
Arts Therapy, sometimes referred to as ‘Creative therapy’ is a great example. It can be particularly helpful for individuals who feel more comfortable expressing themselves in non-verbal ways. Also, anxiety can make someone feel isolated and hinder the ability to open up about their feelings. As part of art therapy, the individual can create their own piece of art and then use it to channel their emotions. This could be a painting, a piece of writing or any other form in which the person chooses to express themselves. Creative therapy doesn’t need the person to be a trained artist. There are no rights or wrongs; only the freedom to bring emotions to the surface and learn to manage them effectively.
Mindfulness has been gaining increasing prominence as a therapy for anxiety and depression. Mindfulness is training one’s mind to be aware of its surroundings and to be present in the moment. With practice, mindfulness can instill the ability to perceive one’s surroundings for what they are and keep feelings of dread at bay. A day at a time, for a few minutes, focusing intensely on one’s immediate surroundings is a good start. How crisp does the air feel? How cool is the floor? What does the room smell like? By keeping your sensory channels open and perceptive, the mind can be trained towards mindfulness. It can take a while to learn, but one can start in their own living room. The best part is, anyone can do it, regardless of their age or level of physical fitness.
Music Therapy has also been shown to bring significant relief in several sessions. Using music to alter/ improve one’s mood can sound like obvious advice. However, in a therapeutic setting, music along with guided imagery can bring about personal breakthroughs. Classical music is widely recognized for its ability to induce profound mood changes and unearth reasons behind emotional upheavals.
These therapies are also beneficial for managing the physical symptoms of anxiety as they all have an overall calming effect and encourage self-expression. This can pave the way towards breaking barriers in everyday communication scenarios and overcome social anxiety.
Used in conjunction with counseling, medication and conventional therapy, some of these methods can equip individuals with a holistic way to manage anxiety as one would manage any physical illness.