Living with anxiety isn't a straight and clear path. Plagued by tension, worried thoughts, and a whole host of physical reactions, people who fall victim to anxiety experience something more akin to a theme park ride.
With severe anxiety, symptoms are debilitating on a regular basis to the point that performing daily activities is nearly impossible. In such cases, the best course of action is to seek professional help and treatment. Currently, the most common treatment for anxiety is cognitive-behavioral therapy.
If you feel you have mild to intermediate levels of anxiety, there are ways to halt the progression and to nip an anxiety attack in the bud. Here are five great tips for managing anxiety:
1. Manage your Body
- The first step toward handling anxiety in a healthy way is caring for yourself in a healthy way. Do your best to maintain a healthy diet, but don't stress about it when you slip. Nobody's perfect!
- As often as you can, get a healthy and restful night of sleep.
- Avoiding alcohol, nicotine, sugar, and caffeine can help your body be more immune to the physical side effects of anxiety.
- Exercise comes with a long list of health benefits, and even 30 minutes a day boosts endorphins that can help reduce stress and anxiety.
- Finally, in moments of anxiety make sure to breathe. Being aware of and concentrating on your breathing can bring you back "down to earth" and calm your nerves.
2. Manage your Brain
- When you're facing anxiety head on, get your brain back on track. One trick is to simply distract yourself by finding a different activity to engage in, perhaps connecting with friends and family, or even just adjusting your focus towards other thoughts or plans.
- Another option is to "watch the movie." Try stepping back from the situation and your thoughts and watching it from a distance like it's a movie. The distance may help you see everything more clearly and without judgment.
3. Think about it.
- It may sound counter-intuitive, but take some time to meditate on your anxieties. What triggers your anxiety? Is there a pattern? Maybe your anxieties can be easily avoided.
- On the other hand, it might be better to allow yourself to worry, but only once and in the correct way! Pick apart your worry, analyze it, set a time limit, and then be done with it. If you start to worry again, tell yourself, "Stop! I already worried about that today!" You'll be surprised what a little self-regulation can do to decrease your worry.
4. Attitude Check
- When you feel yourself climbing the first hill of an anxiety roller coaster, bring yourself back down by making a conscious effort to replace your negative thoughts with positive ones. Understandably, this is easier said than done. But whenever you can bring humor into the equation, it will ease the stress and the negativity. Laughter is the best medicine, even for stress!
5. Get Social
- You don't have to face your anxiety alone. Open up to your friends and family and let them know how you feel and particularly how they can help you in times of anxiety. They may not realize the stress you truly feel in an anxious situation. Think about what specific support from them you might need and communicate it.
- If you have a close-knit social group, spending time with them can help alleviate anxiety and stress.
- Finally, seeking the services of a licensed psychologist or therapist may provide a more structured setting for communicating your anxieties and releasing stress to help you get off the wild roller coaster ride of anxiety.