In the last few years, Hong Kong has been having a hard time. As shutdowns begin again, we are reminded of exactly where we were in January 2020. It's strange to think that we're here again, but even stranger is the fact that most of the rest of the world has moved on and yet, here we are again.
Here are my top tips for regulating your nervous system, which I have found to be effective as a Hong Kong psychotherapist to treat post pandemic anxiety.
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Considering the environmental stresses of living in Hong Kong, it is not surprising that many people experience persistent anxiety and worry. Anxiety is a normal reaction to stressful situations; however, if your anxiety interferes with your ability to carry out daily activities or prevents you from living a fulfilling life, it may be helpful to seek help from a mental health professional. You don’t need to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder to get assistance in developing tools to use in stressful situations and make life easier.
C.B.T. – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Your Nervous System
The sympathetic nervous system is one of two divisions of the autonomic nervous system. The other division is the parasympathetic nervous system. When a person feels anxiety, the sympathetic nervous system jumps into action and prepares the body for fight or flight. This response is necessary when a real danger is present, such as being chased by a lion. However, when no real danger exists, the sympathetic nervous system reacts as if one does and prepares the body to run.
When anxiety is triggered, it can be helpful to engage your parasympathetic nervous system and use logical thinking to calm down and access the part of your brain that knows there is no real danger present. There are many ways you can do this, depending on what works for you. For many people, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be very effective in reducing feelings of anxiety, but there are many other methods as well
As part of my counseling approach, I teach you this, and I am happy to see you in my office. However, here are some simple things that you can do in the meantime to help manage your anxiety.
One of the most basic ways to deal with anxiety is deep breathing. Deep breathing actually works, and it can be done at any time—even when you are feeling stressed—so long as you begin as soon as possible. There are many different ways to breathe that may work for you, so find one that works best for you. Try not to move your chest while breathing; it can increase feelings of anxiety.
If you are unable to breathe deeply or do not like the sensation of doing so, you can try progressive relaxation. Start by tensing one muscle group and relaxing it; then do the same for all other muscle groups in your body. Focus especially on your face and neck as you relax each area.
A simple way to reduce mild anxiety and depression is to exercise and avoid alcohol. Even a short walk can trigger the release of endorphins, which help you feel better. Exercise also helps you sleep better, something that can be challenging when feeling stressed or anxious.
You can also ask yourself questions. Is your fear rational? Is it likely to happen? Have things like this happened before? If so, how did they turn out? What will you do if the worst-case scenario occurs? Instead of asking yourself “what if” constantly, try answering with “so what?” Maybe that worst-case scenario won’t be so bad after all.
If you or someone you know experiences persistent anxiety, it may be due to an anxiety disorder. Symptoms include excessive worrying, feeling agitated (racing pulse, sweaty hands), restlessness (feeling on edge, having an urge to move), fatigue (a surprising one as anxiety is generally associated with hyperactivity), difficulty concentrating, irritability, having tense muscles, trouble falling or staying asleep, panic attacks, and irrational fears (phobias). If any of this sounds familiar, consider treatment options so you can feel better.
Anxiety can make life uncomfortable for those experiencing it, and an anxiety disorder can make life difficult for those who have it. If you are having difficulties with anxiety, please feel free to reach out to discuss the situation. We can review what is going on, go over treatment options that could be useful, and potentially make life a bit easier. After all, who doesn’t want life to be a bit easier?