Anxiety and a Poorly Maintained System

anxiety and a poorly maintained systemIf your clients are like most people, they pay more attention to the maintenance of their car than their bodies.

This situation is unfortunate because the human body is a more sensitive and complicated system than anything on the road today.  Without proper upkeep, you can surely expect premature wear and tear, unusual sounds and sluggishness going up hills (yes, I’m talking about the body).

Your clients can also expect a host of psychiatric concerns over time, specifically anxiety.

The Spread of Anxiety

Anxiety takes hold and spreads in a poorly maintained and unbalanced system.  And when it comes to system neglect, there are a number of culprits.

The biggest ones are lack of sleep, excessive use of caffeine and lack of exercise.  If left unchecked for too long, these “big three” can lead to increased emotional and physical strain.  In turn, this increases worry, stress, feelings of being overwhelmed, fear, panic and numerous other anxiety related symptoms and problems.

Overall satisfaction with life drops, health problems start to occur and in some cases, depression sets in.  And in very severe cases, your client’s level of functioning will drop to the point where he or she can’t go to work, schoo, or even out to buy groceries.

Restoring Balance

Reversing the effects of prolonged wear and tear on the body takes effort, a willingness to manage some mild discomfort and persistence.

This will require your clients to make some relatively minor adjustments to their daily schedule.  Most of the people I’ve worked with in the past who needed help restoring balance to their system needed a “push” in the right direction.

For some it can be overwhelming regarding how and where to start.  And be realistic, humans are creatures of habit and resistant to change. That is why it is important to set your client’s up for success and be supportive throughout their journey.

Below are some key tips you can pass on to your clients in order to help them reset their “check engine light” and kick anxiety to the curb.


One of the worst things your clients can do is go to bed with stress.  Unless they leave the day’s stress in the day where it belongs, their body and mind will keep them from resting fully. 

One simple technique they can do is write down their thoughts and feelings about what’s been bothering them prior to bedtime.  In Barry Krakow’s book, “Sound Sleep, Sound Mind: 7 Keys to Sleeping through the Night,” he describes how this simple activity can clear the way for restful and restorative sleep.

Alternatively, talking with a friend or loved one about the day’s stress can be effective.  However, you will need to remind your client that it should not be with someone with whom they tend to argue. The last thing you want to happen is create new stress before bed.


Moderation is key when it comes to caffeine use.  In moderate doses, caffeine is considered safe and causes no noticeable problems in the average person.  So, what is considered moderate?  Moderate is somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 to 400mg per day. This amount equates to around two to four cups of coffee.

However, in people prone to anxiety, even small amounts can induce worry and outright panic.  If your client tends to be overly anxious or sensitive to caffeine, instruct them to be careful when getting their morning or afternoon fix.

And related to the discussion above, it can mess up their sleep.  If your client is ready to quit or cut down you can tell them about the 50% rule.  In essence, they can reduce their caffeine intake by half each week until they are able to stop completely.  Slowly weaning themselves off the morning eye opener helps them avoid withdrawal effects, which can be severe for some.


Exercise can be as effective at relieving anxiety as medication and talk therapy.  If done regularly and in moderation (too much exercise can weaken the immune system and cause injury), anxiety doesn’t have a fighting chance.

This step is easy enough for some as they may already have an exercise plan or routine in place.  For others, however, it requires blocking out some time four to five days per week and sticking to a routine.

Health experts report that approximately 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week can provide both emotional and physical health benefits.

For many of your clients, controlling anxiety will not be that difficult.  It requires some basic changes to their daily routine.  Encourage them to start small and go after specific and concrete goals. The big three is a great place to start.  With some sustained effort and perseverance they will certainly get the most out of their warranty.

*This article is based in part on a chapter in Dr. Moore’s book titled, “Taking Control of Anxiety: Small Steps for Getting the Best of Worry, Stress, and Fear.”

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Anxiety and a Poorly Maintained System

Bret Moore, Psy.D.

Dr. Moore is a board-certified clinical psychologist and prescribing psychologist in San Antonio, TX. His recent book Taking Control of Anxiety: Small Steps for Getting the Best of Worry, Stress, and Fear was developed as a self-help guide for people struggling with anxiety and for therapists to use with their patients. Dr. Moore is also coauthor of the Handbook of Clinical Psychopharmacology for Therapists-Ninth Edition and Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology Made Simple-Fourth Edition.


APA Reference
Moore, B. (2016). Anxiety and a Poorly Maintained System. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 1, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 20 Apr 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 20 Apr 2016
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