Connections Spring 2018: Anxiety

From Our CEO

Anxiety is a normal feeling when we face a stressful or dangerous situation such as a test, a wedding, a presentation, an interview, etc. However, when you live with an anxiety disorder, it’s living with an ongoing feeling of worry, nervousness or unease for extended periods of time without being able to identify a cause.

According to The National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18 and 54 are impacted by anxiety disorders in the United States.

In this edition of Connections, we take a closer look at anxiety with the hope to deepen understanding, because understanding leads to compassion. Compassion leads to more people not being afraid to seek the help they need. The only way we can fight stigma is through understanding.

I also want to take this opportunity to share with you that on March 15, 2018, Carrier Clinic and Hackensack Meridian Health announced a letter of intent to explore a partnership to deliver unsurpassed behavioral healthcare to the region.

We expect to continue to treat, supervise and educate our patients, residents, and students with the highest level of compassionate care. I encourage you to visit for updates as we move through this process.

Donald J. Parker
President & CEO

You have the power

Everyone experiences occasional stress and anxiety.

Sometimes, life is stressful. Implementing the right set of coping skills improves your emotional wellness, helping you to move through life’s difficulties with better control of your emotions and actions. Whether the coping skills are problem-focused—analyzing and working through the problem itself, or emotion-focused—dealing with your own internal feelings, it’s important to embrace and apply positive behavioral actions to deal with life’s occasional problems. Emotional wellness helps manage stress and anxiety. That’s important because the more serious the threat is, the longer the condition lingers, and the stronger the intensity, the more susceptible a stressful situation is to evolve into a serious mental health problem. You have the power. Use it!


One of the most harmful coping mechanisms is the general avoidance of the situation itself. Attempting, mentally or physically, to avoid, deny or displace what is perceived as the threat often manifests into harmful, unhealthy habits such as:

  • Yelling at someone
  • Self-medicating
  • Pacing
  • Overeating or under-eating
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Drinking lots of coffee
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Sleeping too much or too little


Fully facing the problem or situation, working to solve it or x it, can involve changing or adopting a new perspective. Often, reframing the issue into an opportunity to grow emotionally or spiritually is beneficial. Helpful coping activities include:

  • Taking action on something you’ve been avoiding
  • Setting priorities and learning to say no to keep tasks manageable
  • Meditating
  • Asking a friend for help and support
  • Spending time in nature
  • Getting the right amount of sleep
  • Listening to music
  • Aerobic exercise

Anxiety Disorder.

The most common of mental illnesses.

Having occasional anxiety is normal. It’s a natural response to stress. When the anxiety becomes unmanageable and the intensity becomes severe, and/or when symptoms are not proportional to the circumstance, linger, and increase in intensity and affect one’s ability to live normally, that anxiety becomes an anxiety disorder, a mental health condition needing attention.

Anxiety disorders are treatable.

Whether seeking treatment for yourself or a loved one, it’s important to be educated on treatment options. Since some types of anxieties develop co-occurring, more serious mental disorders along with physical illnesses, addressing them early is a primary goal.

It’s important to identify the cause of the anxiety. Genetics, medications, substance abuse or environmental influences might be the cause, making a self-administered treatment program impractical. Often family, marriage, financial, business and personal circumstances create and perpetuate the anxiety. Finding and, if possible, correcting the root cause can help. If you realize that the causes can’t be easily identified or addressed, professional care is then needed.

Since different anxiety disorders can have their own individual set of symptoms, each disorder needs its own treatment plan. Talking to your physician and/or a mental healthcare professional is the first step toward addressing an anxiety disorder.

Often a combination of support programs administered from professional, family and individual activities can steer an anxiety disorder into submission. Learning more about what triggers anxiety and working to eliminate those situations through coping strategies will allow all of us to live fuller, more meaningful and more enjoyable lives.

Examples of Anxiety Disorders

  • Social Anxiety. Characterized by strong emotional distress at being the center of attention, being watched, being in a social encounter that’s new or uncomfortable.
  • General Anxiety. The most common form of anxiety, people with this disorder are frightened, distressed and uneasy. When these symptoms appear without a reason, this disorder can become serious.
  • Phobias. Irrational fears of a variety of subjects: Arachnophobia (fear of spiders), Acrophobia (fear of heights), Agoraphobia (fear of crowds).
  • Separation Anxiety. Fear and distress of separating from one’s home or loved ones. Children are especially prone to this form of anxiety.
  • Panic Disorders. Characterized by sudden periods of intense fear or discomfort, the Panic Attack is triggered when there is no real danger or apparent reason.

Examples of Anxiety Treatments

Therapy. There are many different types of therapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Systematic Desensitization, Exposure Therapy. All aim to change thoughts and behaviors and increase confidence.

Support Groups. Friends and family that want to help a loved one need
to educate themselves on how to offer support and guidance. Support groups can be very instrumental in helping one feel less alone and more connected to a happy and productive world.

Medication. Anti-anxiety medications are designed to work quickly to slow down the brain activity between one’s body and brain.

Lifestyle Changes. Improve your overall mental health with exercise, meditation, yoga and well-balanced nutrition. This can define a new lifestyle or improve the one you have.

From the inside – out

Habits for a Healthy Mind and a Healthy Body

Whole-body wellness provides a strong foundation for managing stress. During mental distress, a healthy body helps minimize symptoms of anxiety and depression. In times of physical illness, a healthy mind supports effective problem- solving and a positive outlook. In fact, science has long shown a direct correlation between mind and body wellness.

For people who experience anxiety, lifestyle changes can help ease symptoms. Along with appropriate professional care, incorporating these habits into your life may reduce the severity of anxiety attacks:

  • Eat foods rich in anxiety-reducing nutrients. Choose leafy greens or whole grains for magnesium, cashews or egg yolks for zinc, Alaskan salmon for omega-3 fatty acids, and avocados or almonds for B vitamins.
  • 95% of our serotonin receptors reside in our stomachs. Since gut health directly affects brain health, include probiotic-rich foods like pickles, kefir, sauerkraut, or yogurts with live and active cultures.
  • Avoid substances known to increase anxiety, including alcohol, caffeine, and cannabis.
  • Address underlying mental and physical health conditions.
  • Practice slow, mindful breathing. Carbon dioxide has a calming effect on brain cells, and both it and oxygen levels increase with
    slower, deeper breaths.
  • Get adequate sleep to rest and repair brain neurons and maintain
    physical health. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours per night for adults and 8-10 for adolescents.
  • Exercise to release mood-enhancing endorphins. Whether a walk, yoga class or weight training, exercise keeps mind and body at peak performance.

With whole-body wellness, we are better prepared for whatever comes. Bonus – we’ll serve as an example for loved ones to make positive choices, too!

Carrier Profile

Psychiatric Acute Care Unit Director Jacqueline Bienenstock knows the value
of compassion in a crisis. As Carrier Clinic’s certified Mental Health First Aid Trainer, Jackie instructs participants in mental health emergency response. “These classes teach how to recognize signs and symptoms, and what to say,” she explains, “because not knowing this can be very uncomfortable. The person having the crisis is at their lowest point. You want to do everything you can to help them.”

A Carrier Clinic team member for 28 years, Dr. Bienenstock recently earned her Doctorate from Chamberlain University. Her dedication as a psychiatric nurse shows in both her clinical practice and administration of a staff of over 75 care providers.

In the First Aid course, attendees learn a 5-step approach to contain a crisis until professional care can be reached. Jackie points out, “in the medical eld we talk about CPR saving people’s lives; in the psychiatric eld and the addiction world, Mental Health First Aid is equal to CPR.”

To learn more about Mental Health First Aid, attend Dr. Bienenstock’s webinar on May 31st. Register at

5 Steps for Mental Health First Aid

You can help in a mental health crisis. Follow the ALGEE Action Plan:
A – Assess for risk of suicide or harm
L – Listen non-judgmentally
G – Give reassurance and information
E – Encourage appropriate professional help
E – Encourage self-help and other support strategies

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