Anxiety is a pain in the rear, and unfortunately, anxiety disorders are extremely common.
If you wonder if you have anxiety–you probably do.
Around 40 million Americans are estimated to have some kind of anxiety disorder.
It totally sucks…
Whether or not you have received a diagnosis, almost everyone deals with anxiety at some point in their lives, and some people are naturally more prone to it than others.
Though none of these tips are intended to replace professional help, here are some practical techniques that can help you kick anxiety to the curb and relieve its undesirable effects.
It may seem like the simplest one, or the one you hear all the time, but there’s a reason for it: breathing is one of the most effective physiological ways to regulate anxiety.
Ok, most anxiety.
If you hear a strange noise it’s always better to call 911 or deal with it yourself with a home defense option.
Doing yoga won’t make the boogey man go away.
But for all the other stuff, like fear about public speaking, or dealing with relationship issues–deep long breaths are a must!
When you’re anxious, your sympathetic nervous system switches into “fight-or-flight” mode and starts releasing stress hormones. The symptoms are palpable: quickened heart rate, shortened breathing, and constricted blood vessels.
It’s difficult to feel less anxious when your body is physically manifesting stress, and since mind and body are connected, one of the best ways to combat the body’s fight-or-flight response is through deep, controlled breathing.
(Exercise is good here too–because it forces you to use better breathing techniques!)
There are a variety of different “breathing techniques,” but a good rule of thumb that doesn’t take much forethought is to take deep, even breaths in and out, inhaling as deep as you can and exhaling as slow as you can.
This will help bring your heart rate down and induce a calmer, more controlled state of mind.
Your body will thank you!
Bring Yourself Back to the Present
When we’re anxious, our minds race ahead, thinking about the future and speculating about things that may not even be likely to happen. Anxiety is future-focused, and worrying about the future doesn’t help you control it.
In contrast, the one thing you can control is how you feel in the present moment, the here and now.
When you feel anxious or stressed, an important key is to bring yourself back to the present–a technique often referred to as “mindfulness”–and focus on where you are and what you’re doing right here, right now.
Here’s a trick:
Find 5 objects that have pointed ends.
Or 10 objects that are red.
Count the ceiling tiles or the floor tiles.
Then you can start to focus on being in the present.
In doing so, it’s also important that you acknowledge the positive, asking yourself questions like: Am I okay? Am I healthy? Am I safe?
Really take a second to evaluate your status.
Often, anxiety causes us to forget that in the moment, everything is okay. If things are not okay, then working through them in the present is still better than letting your mind assume the worst will happen.
By focusing on the here and now, you can tackle problems one at a time as they occur instead of worrying about unknowable outcomes.
Be Honest with Yourself
Damn, if this isn’t one of the hardest ones to do!
You know what happens–most times you’ve lied yourself into thinking your alright.
That your boss yelling at you is ok.
That not having enough money to pay the bills is just normal.
That you have to suffer through life.
But you know what all of those are?
Lies you tell yourself everyday that you put up with them.
A lot of people handle anxiety by trying to deny that they have it, thinking that if they just ignore the problem or the feeling, that it will go away.
This is misleading and it rarely works, even if the person does succeed in distracting themselves. If the problem goes unchecked or unacknowledged, then it is not likely to go away.
An important part of dealing with anxiety is to be honest with yourself if you have it, recognizing that it doesn’t make you weak or unfit–it’s the brain’s natural response to environmental stressors coupled with one’s mental patterns, and it can be helped.
Once you have identified the problem instead of ignoring it, you can take the necessary steps towards fixing it or alleviating it.
Most importantly, however, is not to be too hard on yourself for it.
Sometimes we don’t realize we are lying to ourselves. Sometimes we need someone to shake us out of our comfort zone.
Be honest with yourself about what you’re going through and what you need to do to help yourself. Everyone’s different in terms of what they need–some need to talk it out, others need to be alone–but everyone can benefit from self-reflection.
Dedicate Time to Think
Anxiety torments people by happening around the clock or at the worst possible times.
Laying in bed, driving the car, in a meeting at work, in line to pick up the kids.
Anxiety can strike whenever and wherever- especially when you dont take any time for yourself.
You may not even know why you’re anxious, but you just can’t stop worrying. An effective way to combat this is to dedicate time to think about it.
It seems counterintuitive, but in reality, it works by forcing you to confront the anxious thoughts instead of letting them swirl around in the back of your mind.
It combines the mindfulness mentioned above with the honesty mentioned before: you’re focusing on the present, and you’re getting honest about what you’re thinking.
Of course, it’s important to make sure that you’re not giving into your anxious thoughts and fretting about worst-case scenarios.
This is not the time to freak the F out about the jeans you wore in middle school, and if you’ll have enough in your retirement account.
Instead, use the time to work through your thoughts and do a “fact-check”: maybe you’re nervous about a presentation, but your anxiety is telling you that you’re going to do terrible.
Try this instead:
Acknowledge that yes, you’re nervous, and yes, you might mess up, but that you also know what you’re talking about and that whatever happens, it will be okay.
Take Care of Yourself
This isn’t BS self care like the magazines try to sell you–this is legit, tailored, I want to take care of myself for real, items we are talking about.
This can include a lot of different factors, but it generally boils down to two main things: diet and exercise.
Imma repeat that.
Taking care of yourself is based off of FOOD AND MOVEMENT.
Studies have shown that substances like sugar and caffeine contribute to anxiety, so by watching what you eat and drink and how you feel afterwards, you can often decrease how anxious you feel, too.
Of course, another important key is exercise. Exercise lowers the body’s levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increases the body’s production of endorphins, which improve your mood.
This means it’s time to plan a good hearty meal and have some fun afterwards at a dance party or a good walk around the park!
When assessing your lifestyle, it’s important to find what works for you and makes you feel good: you don’t have to commit to a crazy diet plan or exercise regimen to be happier and healthier.
Just work on making better choices, pay attention to how you feel after you eat or drink certain things, and do the kind of exercise you enjoy the most, whether it’s walking, biking, yoga, or whatever.
An elimination diet could be very helpful here–in a nut shell you eliminate foods that you think might be causing an issue. Like how dairy causes inflammation in some people, other foods can cause anxiety.
Other important keys include drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, and–yes–taking time to relax and pamper yourself every once in a while. Sometimes, you need it.
Spend Time With Loved Ones
This is kinda self explanatory.
BUT NOT SOCIAL MEDIA
Not social media?
But that’s where my loved ones are!
Well… sorry charlie, but social media can increase depression and anxiety.
Anxiety often makes people want to avoid the company of others, and though it is important to get alone sometimes, there are also benefits to spending time with others, especially loved ones with whom you feel comfortable and safe.
Social media, in this aspect, can actually increase loneliness.
Having someone to physically spend time with, even if it’s just one person, helps the body release oxytocin, a natural stress-relieving hormone.
It also distracts you (in a good way) from whatever you’re worrying about and, if you’re doing it right, takes the focus off yourself and onto the people you’re with.
No one needs to feel alone or isolated by anxiety, so it’s important to have people to confide in or who make you feel happier and more secure.
And by reciprocating that sense of love and care towards others, you’ll do yourself a world of good.
Find yourself a buddy and get to spend some time doing nothing.
It will be SOOOOOO good for you!
Break out the ole joke book
They say laughter is the best medicine, and in this case, it can actually be true.
It’s hard to feel anxious when you’re cracking up, and studies have shown that it lowers your stress response and helps relax your muscles.
It’s kind of like it’s own form of deep breathing.
Like that time your friend told a joke and you laughed so hard you couldn’t breathe.
That’s the kind of deep breathing were looking for.
So next time you’re feeling anxious, watch a funny YouTube video or your favorite comedian, or go watch a comedy movie with some friends.
Now you’re not only laughing, but spending time with people and laughing together, too.
Things that are funny lighten the mood and may even help you to step back and assess your worries with a more lighthearted frame of mind.
People- it’s hard in the moment when anxiety strikes, but in reality, you’ve got some tools to help you feel less wound up.
Get back to feeling like yourself by taking care of your diet, getting active and finding more loved ones to share your time and laughs with.