RD CLAS­SIC: Es­cape From Cuba

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switch­ing from one thing to an­other are as­so­ci­ated with poorer at­ten­tion, cog­ni­tion and mood).

There’s also some ev­i­dence that what you eat may play a role in your abil­ity to calm your mind. A 2015 study in the jour­nal Psy­chi­a­try Re­search found that eat­ing foods high in pro­bi­otics (pick­les, ke­fir, sauer­kraut) may pro­tect against symp­toms of so­cial anx­i­ety.

And a 2011 U.S. study found that fare high in omega-3s (such as fatty fish) has been linked to lower anx­i­ety.

Stay­ing the Course

Al­though you can re­duce—or even over­come—GAD, maintaining solid men­tal health re­mains a life­long process. Mark Vir­gin, a 54-year-old lawyer in Van­cou­ver, was di­ag­nosed two years ago and sees his psy­chol­o­gist twice a year for check­ups. “I still suf­fer from anx­i­ety, but now I’m equipped with cop­ing mech­a­nisms,” he says. Vir­gin tries to med­i­tate daily. He’s also re­duced his cof­fee and al­co­hol con­sump­tion and stays com­mit­ted to an ex­er­cise reg­i­men.

Afraid of how the stigma as­so­ci­ated with men­tal ill­ness might af­fect his work and re­la­tion­ships, Vir­gin ini­tially at­tempted to mask his symp­toms, un­til they be­came crip­pling. He would worry about po­ten­tial is­sues— usu­ally work re­lated—and build up im­prob­a­ble, worst-case sce­nar­ios in his head. “It got to the point where I was hav­ing a hard time leav­ing my home—and I’m a pretty ex­tro­verted per­son,” he says.

CBT helped Vir­gin rec­og­nize the im­plau­si­bil­ity of the cat­a­strophic nar­ra­tives he had been con­struct­ing. One of the strate­gies he found to be most use­ful was writ­ing out the sce­nar­ios, then read­ing them back. “I was sud­denly struck by how dis­pro­por­tion­ate what I’d con­structed was to re­al­ity,” he says.

Vir­gin now speaks openly with co-work­ers and friends about his ex­pe­ri­ence, with the goal of en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers to ad­dress their symp­toms. He also serves as the board pres­i­dent of Anx­i­etyBC. “I de­cided to share to try and de-stig­ma­tize it,” he says. He hopes that di­a­logue will al­low oth­ers to speak freely and learn about treat­ment op­tions. “It’s ex­cep­tion­ally lib­er­at­ing when you fi­nally have the tools to man­age this dis­or­der.”

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