“Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Here are the other blogs in this series:
Anxiety and Dyslexia in Adults Part 1 – What is anxiety
Anxiety and Dyslexia in Adults Part 2 – What are the symptoms of anxiety
In the last two blogs I focused on what anxiety is and what the symptoms look like. Here I want to take time to dive into more of what we can do about it for a dyslexic or neurodiverse person.
I have not tried all of the things we are going to be considering, I have tried many of them. The ones I have tried I have found useful and worth my time and energy to do. The ones I have not tried I have had clients that have found great success from them and that is why I added them to the list.
“Understanding one’s own dyslexia is emphasized as being a crucial factor. Identifying, recognizing and understanding the causes, catalysts and etiologies of one’s anxiety is a key first step in helping to reduce anxiety levels. Speculation of future challenges, stressful situations and triumphs are great ways for dyslexics to plan ahead. In doing this, individuals may be able to predict and prepare for those anxious ridden moments.” International Dyslexia Association
One of the most common ways I start talking about anxiety with clients is I ask them to describe tests and forms. What it felt like to prepare for them, what it felt like to take tests and what was their behavior like. If just talking about tests makes you start to have heart palpitations, keep that in mind as you read on. Think how much easier it could have been if you would have had some of these tools in your daily common practice.
I wish I had had access to these when I was in elementary school. It would have helped to prevent me from carving out such deep neural pathways.
What can you do about Anxiety?
- Talk Therapy
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy
- Exposure Therapy
- Relaxation techniques
- TRE – Tension, Stress, and Trauma Release
- Biofeedback therapy
- Lifestyle Changes
- Learn PQ
- CBD or medical marijuana
Talk Therapy can help people with anxiety identify and combat anxious thought patterns.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy Is a talk therapy modality that can help calm the emotional center of the brain (the amygdala), and more rational parts of the brain can step in to debunk some of the anxious thoughts.
Exposure Therapy focuses on challenging anxiety through safe controlled experiences confronting the fears that are causing anxiety.
Relaxation techniques are tools to help calm the mind and body. This can include meditation, guided breathwork, body scanning, and physical movements like walking, yoga, or dancing. Meditation helps to slow down and ground you in the present moment in your body. Breathwork can also help with grounding. Through deep slow breathing you can slow your heartbeat and help your body move out of panic reactions. Body scans consist of moving your attention across the entire body slowly and intentionally relaxing and breathing into every muscle. This practice also helps ground you in your body and release muscle tension. For more persistent muscle tension and to start flushing out panic hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, more active physical activity like walking, dancing, and yoga can be helpful.
TRE – Tension, Stress, and Trauma Release Exercises is a sequence of exercises designed by Dr. David Berceli to help release patterns of muscular stress and trauma. This works by activating the reflex of shaking in a safe setting, so that it can be used to release tension in muscles and quiet the nervous system.
Biofeedback therapy allows people to take back control of some body functions that are affected by anxiety. This is achieved by using electrical sensors to collect data about your body, that you can use for example to identify certain muscles to relax. There are many types of feedback therapy that monitor different body functions. Brain waves can be monitored with electroencephalogram (EEG), breathing patterns with bands around the chest and abdomen, heart rate with finger sensors or electrocardiograph (ECG), muscle contraction with electromyography (EMG) sensors, sweat glands with electrodermograph (EDG) sensors, and temperature with sensors that measure blood flow to skin in hands and feet.
Medication can be helpful in combating anxiety. It is usually prescribed alongside other therapy, often talk therapy. Some anxiety medications have risks of being habit-forming and are not for long term use. For longer term use antidepressants especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a popular choice. SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), antihistamines, beta-blockers, and benzodiazepines are also used to treat anxiety. SSRIs and SNRIs are taken daily regardless of anxiety level day to day, while antihistamines, beta-blockers, and benzodiazepines are taken as needed for acute anxiety symptoms. All medications come with side effects, and the various anxiety medication options are no exception. It is important to work with a prescribing doctor and therapist to identify which medications might be a good fit for an individual with anxiety.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy technique, developed by psychologist Francine Shapiro in 1989, used to help treat various conditions including PTSD, panic attacks, and anxiety. This therapy is based on the idea that rapid eye movements can help calm patients while accessing memories of trauma. A therapist will move their finger from side to side in front of a patient’s face for the patient to follow that movement with their eyes as they recall a traumatic event, alternatively, some therapists use bilateral toe tapping or musical tones. After recalling traumatic events therapists will prompt patients to shift to more positive thoughts such as picturing themselves in a place, they feel happy and safe.
Lifestyle Changes are an effective way to combat anxiety. This can mean participating in activities that create positive feelings about the self. These activities can be relaxation techniques, physical exercise, art, or any pastime someone enjoys for example long walks or reading. Lifestyle changes like reducing the use of alcohol, drugs, and caffeine– all of which can increase anxiety symptoms.
Learn PQ. Positive Intelligence (PQ) is a program developed by Shirzad Chamine focused on mental fitness. The program breaks down the different saboteurs– the negative voices in our heads– and helps identify each person’s top saboteurs so that they can intercept these thoughts, self-command to quiet those thoughts, and enable them to choose a Sage response. A Sage response is based in clarity and positive emotions and allows a person to move beyond the Saboteur thoughts.
CBD or medical marijuana – CBD and THC are cannabinoids found in the Cannabis sativa plant that attach to cannabinoid receptors in the brain. THC is what causes a high, while CBD does not. Both of these cannabinoids have been studied for the treatment of anxiety among other conditions. CBD has been shown to interact with receptors in the brain, including cannabinoid receptors and serotonin receptors, that can calm fear and anxious behaviors. CBD has been shown to reduce anxiety at all doses, while THC has only been shown to reduce anxiety at low doses while it increases anxiety at higher doses. There is a lot of controversy over the use of medical marijuana for anxiety, and THC particularly has been shown to have dependence risks, especially for those with Social Anxiety Disorder.
Have you thought about homeschooling when it comes to kids?
Don’t rule out homeschooling your child or tutors to help a young person gain some traction.
I have met many parents that at some point in their dyslexic child’s schooling they have made this happen. I have to say it did not look easy or fun. What they have told me is that it was very rewarding, and they were able to help their young person deal better with the anxiety of that time period and better prepare them for what was next. I am not advocating for it; I am pointing it out to show support for the many people who have and are doing it. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE
Ways dyslexic adults can ease anxiety
People with dyslexia will develop some skills to help them overcome the learning difficulties associated with being dyslexic. It’s a fact I see all the time.
Here are some ways to help ease anxiety in adults:
- Strategize – learn strategies to maximize success and minimize annoyance and failure.
- Exercise – engage in regular and vigorous exercise to reduce stress and improve brain power.
- Reduce the threat – recognize, report, and deactivate stress initiators.
- Education – learn how dyslexia affects performance at school, work, or social settings.
- Preparation – look ahead and anticipate problems that might be encountered with new challenges.
- Self-awareness – learn the skills of honest self-assessment, learn to give and receive constructive feedback
- Don’t give up – keep asking questions. Why?
The most important thing I have learned over the years is that there is no end period to my learning and using these tools. I need to practice them regularly. I need to create easy and fast ways to access them in the moment or the heat of an anxiety takeover attempt. I know I need to enroll the people around me in knowing what these tools are and if they see me not using them to gently help me navigate my way back over to them. My memory has been compromised by my neurology and so repetition is how I retain things like this. I know that I deserve to be happy and so do the people around me and being able to keep my anxiety at bay is the gift I give everyone and myself.
Don’t ignore anxiety. Become a curious explorer of your emotions and start to sort things out. There are more emotions than sad, glad, mad and happy. Your brain will thank you for doing the work.
You are doing better than you think, keep up the great work.
Business Owner, International Neurodiversity Coach, and Speaker