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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Column: Treating anxiety

Some shake

After a shitty second week of this winter quarter, I thought I’d give a little bit of advice on some ways to treat anxiety and stress.

Of course, I am not at all a professional on the subject, but I have suffered from a nervousness and panic disorder for a while now. I simply hope that by sharing some of the techniques that help keep me calm, I can help others who suffer from the same problems and who feel like they’re running out of options.

Personally, anxiety feels like a hot wave of pain and confusion that usually begins in my head before spreading to my chest and the rest of my body.

Sometimes it only last a few seconds, but, as was the case for me last week, it can also literally last for days.

As odd as it might sound, it got to the point that I had to completely avoid the Unitrans buses and instead I chose to walk the couple miles to and from school every day.

I had to do this because even sitting in a slightly crowded bus would trigger my anxiety: my head would get sore, my heart would get heavy, my hands would get cold and I would have to force myself to put up with this extreme discomfort until the end of the slow and miserable bus ride.

Since I usually ramble about the fun effects of weed, I thought it would be important that I point out that all of last week I avoided ingesting any of it because, personally, it would only make my anxiety worse.

Even though I love to smoke, I also strive to be a responsible and healthy adult, so I could not ignore the fact that this was something that was not mixing well with my condition.

Even though some would actually recommend pot to help with anxiety, as a freethinking adult I accepted that it was not the treatment for me. Everyone is different, and on your journey to healing yourself you’re going to come across a lot of methods that may or may not help you. It is up to you to listen to yourself, and not just to others, because only you can truly feel what works and what doesn’t.

On that note, if weed is honestly something that helps calm your head, then I wholeheartedly encourage you to smoke on.

Breathing exercises (especially while stretching) have been the most helpful in treating my own anxiety. While it might sound too simple, taking long, deep breaths usually relaxes my body and releases some of the steam that seems to build up my head.

“Tapping” is another helpful technique that simply requires you to massage or tap different parts of the body (on the forehead, between the eyebrows, for example) while verbally repeating some positive reinforcements.

While it sounds cheesy, this exercise actually reminds the body of its resilience and strength while making it more alert to whatever problems you tell it you’re facing. One good reinforcement is “Even though I’m having a hard time, I still love and accept myself.” Though, the more specific you are to your situation, the better.

Chewing gum and hot herbal tea also have an immediate comforting effect on my nerves and are also great for relaxing the stomach.

Music also has a soothing effect on the body, but I would recommend that you avoid using earphones. Personally, using earphones while anxious only makes me feel even more trapped, so I prefer to just let the music (or the TV) fill the room.

I understand that running out of options to calm your anxiety is one of the worst feelings in the world. While I prefer natural relaxation methods, if none of these work for you, there are plenty more chemical options that a doctor can prescribe to help you out.

Last week I was prescribed Ativan, and while I have not had to use it, I feel comforted knowing that I have it in case my anxiety ever gets unbearable.

While there is unfortunately a bit of a stigma against these kinds of medications and the people who need them, you should not be ashamed about bringing it up with your doctor.

Finally, while I wouldn’t plan on using medications permanently, everybody is different, and I would never deprive anyone of the only thing that’s keeping them alive.

LEO OCAMPO feels a lot better after sharing all this and invites you to do the same at gocampo@ucdavis.edu.

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