Photography by: Ivar Teunissen
People with GAD can’t seem to get rid of their concerns, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than a given situation warrants. That’s because their nervous systems are constantly over-activated, even when there’s no external reason for it. “The anxious feeling you have is actually your body’s fear or stress reaction triggered by an inner story or stream of thoughts about something that frightens you,” says Jeffrey Brantley, M.D., founder and director of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, N.C. “In many cases, this story is about something that hasn’t happened or may not even be likely to happen. But the frightening thoughts are powerful enough to trigger the stress reaction, and you feel anxious.” That was certainly the case for Garcia, especially after having children. “I felt guilty for not being a stay-at-home mom, even though I knew I had to work,” she says. “And any time I got sick, I thought I was going to die and not be around for my children. I couldn’t sleep. I had heart palpitations and trouble breathing.” Then a panic attack landed Garcia in the emergency room. “I thought I was dying,” she says. Diagnosed with GAD, Garcia was prescribed anti-anxiety medication, but she wanted to explore other options that would help her get to the root cause of her worries and develop ways to conquer them. “I don’t have any issues with traditional medications for anxiety, but I wanted to take a more natural and holistic route to deal with mine,” she says. If you’re suffering from GAD, take a look at how prescription medications, along with the other approaches outlined here, can help you, too.