Ask Doug: Let’s talk about anxiety

Doug Berry
Doug Berry.

Hi Doug
I am a second-year student at Rhodes, studying journalism and English, and was wondering if you have any advice on dealing with anxiety in a practical manner? – Roxy

Doug responds

Good for you, what an exciting field of study to be in. 

The expectations placed upon students these days can be very high and the associated stress can cause a lot of problems for those on the front lines.

Depending on the extent to which your anxiety troubles you, there are several ways deal with it that may be of some use. Any attempt to better your own personal well being is always going to be practical, although not all as cost effective as others. In this light, I will try to give you a range of possibilities.

One option is T.R.E. (trauma and tension releasing exercises) which is a set of six simple exercises that help release tension in the muscles, which in turn reduces anxiety, by evoking a muscular shaking process in the body. The tremors, as they’re known, occur in a controlled and sustained manner. This shaking, called neurogenic tremors, begins to release deep chronic muscular tension held within the body. When tremoring occurs, it reverberates throughout the entire body travelling along the spine, releasing deep chronic tension stored in the body. 

When tension is released anywhere in the body, the brain registers a reduction in pain signals and produces new hormones of relaxation and comfort. Often, this release of tension is much like receiving a massage. As far as I 
know, there are several training facilities in the Western Cape and may be worth looking up. 

Focus on meaningful activities: When you’re feeling anxious, it’s also helpful to focus your attention on a meaningful, goal-directed activity. 

Ask yourself what you’d be doing if you weren’t anxious. Sometimes it can be difficult to focus on studying when you’re feeling anxious, but set yourself another task, one that is productive and meaningful. If for example, you have chores to do, do them and know that you’re being productive. The worst thing you can do when anxious is to passively sit around obsessing about how you feel. Doing what needs to get done teaches you a key lesson, namely that your anxiety doesn’t have to control you and your life. 

Guided relaxation and autogenic training are other options. Learning how to systematically take control 
of your anxiety by practising your own relaxation techniques can be very empowering. You can purchase audio recordings to assist in this or visit a counsellor or psychologist who will be able to teach you the skill to take home 
with you. If you choose this option, make sure to call around and ask if they can, before paying for an appointment. 

Exercise is another aspect that is often overlooked. Aside from the physical benefits to exercise, the emotional benefits can be great. When you’re feeling anxious, getting out on the road for a walk or a run can give you a chance to work through some of the more stressful thoughts that can plague you. Along with this, exercise helps us to produce serotonin, which is a chemical that is produced in our brains, which gives us a feeling of happiness and contentment or motivation. 
Whichever way you decide to go, know this: You can take control of your anxiety and it is up to you to assert this to yourself. The sooner you can get into the habit of making the changes you need to, the sooner you can begin to feel better.

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I’m always available if you need any further hints or tips.

Doug Berry, neurofeedback practitioner and registered counsellor

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