Anxiety Therapy

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Common signs of anxiety include:

– Feeling nervous, restless or tense
– Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
– Increased heart rate
– Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
– Sweating
– Trembling
– Feeling weak or tired
– Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
– Having trouble sleeping
– Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
– Difficulty controlling worry
– Urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety

THINGS TO DO RIGHT NOW

~ Grounding Techniques: Name 5 things you can see (say the names to yourself such as table, desk, lamp, etc.), 4 things you can touch (touch and feel the thing as you name it), 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.

Repeat this exercise multiple times and in whatever order works for you. Get creative with it and make this simple exercise of becoming more present through your senses your own! Getting out in nature can enhance the effectiveness of this tool.

~ Scale your anxiety on a 1-10: If 1 is no anxiety and 10 is the worst anxiety you’ve ever felt, where are you right now?

As a licensed anxiety therapist in Santa Monica, CA I’ve found most people only notice their anxiety when it’s at a 7 or 8 and at that point grounding skills like the one above are harder to implement. The goal is to develop awareness of your anxiety when it first starts to brew, so around 1-4 on the scale. You will remember TO USE the tool the calmer you are. This takes practice. Meditative techniques are one way to learn mindful awareness but there are others such as labyrinth walks, yoga, tai chi and other contemplative and breath-based movement.

~ 5-minute Meditation

I know. I know. You’ve tried meditation and it’s HARD. I get it; I struggle with meditation myself. When you are over a 4 in the anxiety scale you will want to do a walking meditation or even running can help in severe anxiety. I also encourage you to download Headspace or Stop, Breathe, and Think apps which have very simple, short guided meditations. The whole point of meditation isn’t to stop thinking, it’s to give you tools to anchor yourself in the here and now so you are no longer a victim to “monkey mind.” Pretend your breath is your favorite show on Netflix and watch it! Again, make these practices your own. Awareness of your breath needs to become the backdrop to your life from which all else flows. The more you practice this, the more centered you will feel. As an experienced anxiety therapist having spent over twenty years practicing yoga, I can promise you that awareness of your breath and an ability to connect with your breathing during times of stress is the most important tool to combat anxiety. Use it! It’s always with you.

Common Signs of an Anxiety Attack:

– Numbness and tingling
– Dizziness
– Pain in the chest
– Headaches
– A tense neck
– An upset stomach
– Nausea
– Shortness of breath
– Shooting pains in the face
– Heart palpitations
– Weakness in legs
– Problems sleeping or resting

THINGS TO DO RIGHT NOW

~ Retrain your breath.

Breathe in through your nose for 5 seconds
Hold for 2 seconds
Breathe out through your mouth for 7 seconds

As an anxiety counselor and yoga therapist what I’ve noticed over the years is most of my clients with panic attacks have very shallow breathing – meaning their breath is short and high in the chest. When they get stressed, their breath is already shallow so it moves quickly from there to hyperventilation. This can be very scary. To counteract this tendency, I like to teach fuller ways of breathing that engage the diaphragm, the muscle at the base of the rib cage.

The easiest way to do this is to lay down on the ground., get comfortable and place your hands on your stomach. Begin to feel the breath under your hands. You know you are breathing fuller breaths when you can feel the stomach rise and fall in concert with your inhales and exhales. Once you get a hang of this, try to fill the lungs with breath from bottom to top as slowly as you can. At the end of the inhale try to fill even your collar bones with air as if you are sipping that last bit of foam at the bottom of your latte.

This may sound odd, but there is an art to breathing and its importance as a grounding mechanism in your life is immeasurable. Many of the most advanced Yogis will say one’s breathing is a reflection of one’s mind. Therefore, by improving our breathing, we are enhancing our state of mind which is the foundation of all anxiety treatment.

Anxiety therapist Santa Monica, CA: Anxiety Causes

If you have been living with anxiety you know it is exhausting. You may not have any idea what is causing anxiety symptoms and that’s okay. Many people are unsure what might be triggering their minds to race and their bodies to respond as if they are having a heart attack. That’s what I’m here for. I will help you get to the source of your stress and give you the tools to manage it. If you are ready to take back control of your life and are looking for an anxiety therapist Santa Monica, CA, I hope you will reach out. I offer free 15 minute consultations so you can get an idea of who I am and what to expect from anxiety therapy.

Anxiety causes fall into two main categories: biological and environmental. Biological causes could be related to genetics, a result of a medical condition, or an imbalance in brain chemistry. Environmental causes include external events that create stress such as feeling overwhelmed at school or work, stress in a personal relationship or friendship, financial worry, or an emotional trauma such as a death in the family.

Sometimes anxiety leads us back to our upbringing or the way we were parented. We can all recall events from our past that may have contributed to our stress level as a child or young adult. Sometimes we remember these events fully and sometimes we do not. Exploring the past in therapy can sometimes help us recall important things we forgot and allow us the opportunity to work through them more consciously. Oftentimes, clients describe past events and are subsequently surprised it can be considered “trauma” having significant, even catastrophic effects in adulthood.

Many people have dealt with adverse life events by “just getting through it.” These feelings don’t just go away, they stay frozen in the nervous system waiting to be massaged through like a knotted muscle. Therapy can help you feel these feelings more fully and release the symptoms that served as a red flag warning. Many clients have seen a decrease in anxiety when allowing themselves to feel grief, sorrow, or anger from years ago. This process will help you gain compassion for yourself and others. I like to call this work the “reparenting” phase of therapy. By attending to our emotional needs, we are able to be our own best parent and move from “That’s just how it was” to “Wow, that was really tough and I’m proud of myself for surviving it.”

Adults who were neglected or abused (emotionally, physically or sexually) as children are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder than someone who was not. Sometimes this anxiety becomes so severe it can be defined as posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not appear until months or years later. This is what makes some people’s anxiety so bewildering and they may not make the connection between past abuse and current anxiety.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF PTSD?

1. Reliving the event/ Flashback: You may have troubling memories or even nightmares. You even may feel like you’re going through the event again.

2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event: You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.

3. Having more negative beliefs and feelings: The way you think about yourself and others may change because of the trauma. You may feel guilt or shame. Or, you may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy. You may feel that the world is dangerous and you can’t trust anyone. You might be numb, or find it hard to feel happy.

4. Hyperarousal: You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. Or, you may have trouble concentrating or sleeping. You might suddenly get angry or irritable, startle easily, or act in unhealthy ways (like smoking, using drugs and alcohol, or driving recklessly.

If you think you might have PTSD, I invite you to reach out for help. PTSD can be treated and managed if not cured altogether. As an experienced Santa Monica anxiety therapist, I will work with you in addressing all your symptoms particularly the ones that are the most disruptive to your life. From here we will consider the best way to treat your condition and possibly employ a combination of modalities as mentioned below. The point is to get your life back as soon as possible!

Frequently asked questions answered by Stefani Reitter, LMFT – Anxiety therapist Santa Monica, CA:

Will therapy work?

That’s a great question! Therapy is proven to be effective in treating anxiety and it works even better if you are motivated and committed to the process. What this means is when you feel doubts in yourself or the process, tell me! You may even doubt me, your therapist! That’s normal and something I invite all clients to share so we can process it. The most effective part of therapy is the therapeutic relationship itself and like any relationship it takes time and effort to build. The more you communicate the more I will know how to help you. Therapy for anxiety isn’t a quick fix but you will start to feel better even as soon as your first session.

What methods are used to treat anxiety?

There are a variety of popular anxiety counseling techniques but the ones I find most effective are Mindfulness techniques, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Psychodynamic Therapy. I tailor these research based modalities to address individual client needs and will oftentimes use them in combination. Mindfulness techniques teach breath and body awareness and are the foundation of spritual practices such as yoga and meditation. Psychodynamic therapy is a way of exploring events in one’s past, usually childhood, which could have contributed to the anxiety you are experiencing today. CBT looks at the thoughts you are currently having and how they form a belief system that may or may not be realistic. CBT techniques offer ways to “restructure” your core belief system to promote security and wellbeing. Engaging in therapy can easily become part of a healthy lifestyle, just like good nutrition, exercise, and regular doctor visits. Sometimes it’s hard to take that first step and just pick up the phone. I promise whatever you are feeling right now, most people feel before reaching out for help. You are worth the effort and your life can get better – a lot better.

How long does anxiety therapy take?

Another great question! It is hard to pinpoint exactly how long your individual process will take but I usually ask clients to give 3-6 months of weekly therapy before their anxiety symptoms will decrease significantly if not altogether. If you have trauma, it could take longer, usually up to a year.

Anxiety therapist Santa Monica, CA:

I am confident I can help you put anxiety in your rearview mirror for good. If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery please contact me. I available weekdays, evenings and even on the weekends. I offer in person sessions, phone and video session – so where ever you are therapy isn’t far away.

Other pages I recommend:

Relationship Therapy
Depression Therapy