Coping with Anxiety

Overcoming anxiety by understanding the sources of your worries, and moderate the disruptiveness of your emotions

Is anxiety robbing you of your life?

Anxiety, like many psychological states, has emotional, cognitive and behavioral components. We all experience anxiety. Some may be predisposed to worry and fret, while for others, anxiety can take the form of emotional storms. Sometimes anxiety can be so debilitating that it can interfere with personality and a normal social life.

We can all imagine that anxiety impacts relationships and social interactions. But it can also interfere with sleep, diet, health and daily functions. Anxiety caused by persistent worry, fear, and nervousness can deeply stress the body and mind, resulting in illness and disease. It can be particularly powerful and visceral because it activates the core nervous system, affecting cardiovascular, respiratory, motor and gastrointestinal systems, not to mention the psyche. Anxiety also impacts your mental acuity, causing you to lack focus and concentration at times of stress.

Normal, adaptive anxiety is based in fear; it’s the body’s natural alert mechanism. It is a psychophysiological response that is intended to keep you safe by making you wary of outside threats. A little anxiety can be a good thing, but clinical levels of anxiety may be caused by temperament, or be a part of another disorder such as depression, trauma, or other medical problem. When stress and anxiety interrupt or interfere with everyday living, you could have an anxiety disorder. So while it is worthwhile to treat anxiety as a symptom, it’s more important to uncover its cause.

Anxiety can take different forms

Anxiety is a broad-spectrum disorder with emotional, cognitive and behavioral components. Some anxiety may be less frequent or milder, like performance anxiety when speaking in public. Other anxiety disorders can be more severe and debilitating, such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which can take over your life.

Performance Anxiety

People with performance anxiety struggle with being the center of attention- even when they are aware of and prepared for the situation. For the most part performance anxiety can be normal and appropriate, but it could be a problem if extreme or persistent, as in Imposter Syndrome and could be related to fear of failure, fear of success, or other complex psychological concerns.

Social Anxiety

Social Anxiety is nervousness and self-consciousness around other people. In extreme cases, it may escalate to withdrawal and isolation, even agoraphobia.


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is an intense form of anxiety that involves recurrent intrusive thoughts or compulsions that can disrupt normal routines and function. People suffering from OCD often see that their compulsions are irrational, but nevertheless have trouble preventing themselves from acting on them.

Panic Disorder

Panic attacks are an uncontrolled escalation of anxiety that is not due to another medical condition, such as a heart attack, or side effects from drugs or substances.

Because panic attacks manifest in bodily, visceral experiences, people often confuse them for medical emergencies – a fear that is partly suggested by the physical experience, and partly exacerbated by the underlying anxiety and fear. Either way it’s a good idea to seek medical when you have the following symptoms:

    • Rapid heart rate.
    • Shallow breathing
    • Restlessness, nervousness, jumpiness
    • Tingling sensations in extremities
    • Profuse sweating
    • Excessive worries and fears
    • Gastrointestinal problems, stomach upset, reflux, etc.

How can I get help for anxiety?

Anxiety, which is based in fear, is one of the most difficult experiences humans can have. Therefore, it helps to approach it with a compassionate attitude. In our busy lives, many people reach for the quick fix – whether it is self-medication through substances such as drugs or alcohol; through distractions and busyness; or sometimes the mind takes over and masks anxiety with other problems, such as compulsive behaviors. These solutions have the potential to exacerbate the problem and impact your overall health and wellbeing, too.
Dr. Wu calls upon a variety of treatment methods depending on the needs of the patient:

Mindfulness Therapy for Anxiety

Mindfulness can be a powerful antidote to anxiety. It can interrupt the escalation of anxiety and literally reset the physiological experience of anxiety in the body and brain. Mindfulness serves to ground the client through present moment tactile and sense awareness. Aside from creating a calming experience on its own, it can redirect energy and focus. Through this careful method, clients will find that mindfulness helps them to de-escalate and self-soothe more easily and effectively during times of duress. Learn more about Mindfulness Therapy.

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy for Anxiety

Psychodynamic psychotherapy combined with mindfulness therapy helps a patient develop skills to recognize and regulate the disruptiveness of anxietherapy for anxietyty, and to feel more in control and less helpless. Through this process we may also track the symptom in the context of an individual’s life in order to understand why a person grows anxious, stressed out.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy may help you to see that your anxiety is simply the surface of deeper concerns you may not be aware of. These concerns may be unconscious, or they may be connected to something in your mind or your past in a way that is hard to remember or link. In therapy you may accelerate the process of understanding the patterns of your anxiety by, for example, noticing whether there is a pattern to how you find yourself in situations that make you anxious.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety

Another effective approach to anxiety is to ‘unlearn’ the basis of the stress; for instance, get to the bottom of irrational beliefs that are contributing to debilitating phobias or fears. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)  strives to identify distortions in thinking patterns that are creating feelings of anxiety.  Other goals of CBT include:

  • Coping skills to handle panic or anxiety.
  • Identifying and challenging negative thoughts and then replacing them with more realistic or positive thoughts
  • Containing anxious thoughts from snowballing – by keeping thoughts from getting bigger than the situation warrants.

Progressive Relaxation and Other Techniques for Managing Anxiety

Progressive Relaxation and other techniques of methodical relaxation help you to channel nervous energy into focused breathing and muscle release. Anxiety is a bodily experienced emotion. Just as the emotion can hijack your body, you can reverse that by getting your body to calm your emotions through muscle relaxation and deep breathing. There is no limit to the different techniques and strategies you could use to calm down your anxiety. It depends on each person and what works for them. Explore this on your own, or with a therapist. You may respond to music, exercise, a hot bath, aromatherapy, a brisk walk, a good meal, or simply taking a nap. Moving away from the source of your anxiety may work for you or facing what you fear and writing it down may be helpful.

Medicine for Anxiety

There are times when medications can help with anxiety. Depending on your symptoms, your physician may determine that a sedative or anxiolytic medication helps lessen severity and progression of anxiety. Be aware that some of these drugs may be habit-forming or lethal when combined with alcohol and other substances; talk to your doctor to learn more.

Do you live with anxiety? Learn how to manage your symptoms

Dr. Wu combines psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, and mindfulness and somatic awareness approaches to helping people manage anxiety. This includes helping people to find ways to tolerate and relax in the face of anxiety rather than reactivity that escalates it. It includes diminishing the power of anxiety through a deeper understanding of what is causing the disruption and discomfort in your life. It includes bringing the powerful energy of mindful presence which has been scientifically proven to alter the brain and physiology of negative mind states. She also helps her clients meet their own suffering with greater compassion, to break the cycle of negativism that besets all difficult mental conditions.

Contact Dr. Wu

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