Strategies for Managing Anxiety
Anxiety is overwhelming. Being productive and socializing normally can be all but impossible if you are feeling anxious. How can you move on with your life and let go of that terrible, tight ball of stress in in the pit of your stomach? Learn about some of the coping strategies for anxiety, and explore which ones may work for you.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural response to life’s stressful situations. It’s that nervous, uneasy feeling you might experience when you are especially worried about something. Feeling that emotion every once in a while, such as when you have an important deadline at school or work, is normal. It can be useful in these moments, giving us a sense of urgency and prompting us to be more productive.
Conversely, anxiety can be harmful if it gets out of hand. If your anxiety is paralyzing or all-consuming, you may stop working altogether, instead focusing only on how everything could go wrong. You might even catastrophize and think things are much worse than they actually are. You want to avoid that mindset as much as possible and take control of your own life. For some people, however, this is much easier said than done.
If you have an anxiety disorder, it can be impossible to rationalize your way outside of your own thoughts. You’ll feel incredibly anxious over situations that don’t necessarily warrant that emotion. For example, you might believe that getting a “B” on an assignment will prevent you from ever succeeding in life. Anxiety disorders prevent people from seeing a situation’s true scope. If you have an anxiety disorder, there are mental health professionals that can diagnose and treat your condition. Asking for help is not placing a burden on anyone; it represents taking an important step towards making your life more manageable.
The National Institute of Mental Health maintains a guide on anxiety disorders. If your anxiety is dominating your life, please look through and see if any symptoms match. Having a stressful childhood or a family history of mental illness can increase your risk. In any case, consult a professional if you believe you might have an anxiety disorder.
Ways to Manage Anxiety
There are plenty of ways to manage anxiety, but they are not all equally effective for everyone. Try out the following methods and see what works for you.
While chips or cookies might make you happy for a few minutes, not getting the necessary nutrients can affect your mental well-being Serotonin is one of your brain’s most important neurotransmitters; it manages your sleep, appetite, and mood. Ninety-five percent of serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract. What you eat has a large influence on how you feel.
In order to eat healthy, follow the following guidelines:
- Eat more colorful fruits and vegetables.
- Eat leaner protein, like turkey, chicken, or fish. Alternatively, incorporate beans, peas, nuts and seeds as protein sources.
- Be mindful of your sodium intake. Aim for no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.
- Cut out sugary beverages, and drink water instead.
- Reduce your processed sugar intake.
- Eat healthy meals regularly! Going too long without food will alter your mood as well.
Exercise isn’t just good for your body; it’s good for your mind as well. Regular exercise reduces anxiety and is associated with long-term stress reduction.
Aim for two and half hours of moderate exercise a week, but if you can’t get there, that’s fine! Any exercise is better than none at all, and once you build a routine, you’ll start to notice the mental clarity creeping into your life.
Yoga is a great form of exercise for anxious people in particular. It emphasizes mindfulness, meditation, and body awareness. It’s a great way to work out while de-stressing your body. Also, anyone can jump in and begin practicing yoga, no matter your experience level. There are plenty of beginner yoga poses!
Mindfulness is an awareness and acceptance of your thoughts, feelings, and environment. Practitioners of mindfulness do not believe in a right or wrong way to feel. Your feelings are always valid and telling you something, but what is important is how you move on from there. Feeling anxious at the prospect of going to a social event is not “wrong” of you. Accept your anxiety for what it is, but don’t let it stop you from living your life.
This sort of mindset can be freeing for some people. If you blame yourself, or practice circular thinking, mindfulness can free you from those constraints and allow you to be productive. Its emphasis on meditation allows you to recognize your emotions without shame.
Cultivate a Positive Attitude
A negative outlook only feeds anxiety. Instead of trying to find solutions or focusing on what life has to offer, people with negative outlooks may only see the bad. This reinforces circular thinking — “If I don’t do this, I’m a failure” becomes “If I’m a failure, I can’t do this.”
Having a positive attitude can help you learn to roll with the punches. Unlike mindfulness, it does not offer emotional validation. Instead, positivity focuses on the good and leaves the bad. Although practicing mindfulness can often lead into a cultivation of a positive attitude, they are two distinct approaches.
Talk With Your Friends
Socialization can be anxiety-inducing, but know that your friends want to help you. Discussing your problems with your friends does not make you a burden— that’s part of their job description! Your friends might think of solutions that you haven’t, and even just talking about your problems can be stress-relieving. Additionally, having a strong support system will help you calm down when your anxiety gets out of control.
Talk to a Mental Health Professional
If you think that you might have an anxiety disorder, you should talk to a mental health professional. They can diagnose and treat you, improving your quality of life. Also, they’ll be able to advise you on what sort of solutions might work best for you. Ultimately, what treatment works best for you will depend on your disorder, but talking to a mental health professional is the first step toward living a better life.
Consider Other Natural Remedies for Anxiety
In combination with some or all of the strategies above, you might want to consider natural remedies. Here are a few that are commonly used by individuals to aid in relaxation, or as part of a mindfulness exercise to calm down:
- Chamomile (tea).
- Hops; unfortunately, the sedative compound is removed during the brewing process, so you won’t get the benefits from beer.
- Valerian; be warned, it can make you sleepy.
- Passionflower; may also make you tired.
- CBD Oil. It’s been shown to reduce some forms of anxiety as well as alleviate variety of other mental health issues.
These supplements can be used to cope with anxiety. Before you begin taking any of these regularly, research any possible interactions and consult your doctor. Be especially vigilant if you are taking medication. Hops, valerian, and passionflower should not be taken in conjunction with any sort of sleeping medication. However, all of these supplements can help in managing your anxiety if used properly.
If you suffer from anxiety in your daily life, it can seem impossible that you’ll ever be rid of that feeling. However, with good coping mechanisms, a strong support system, and help from a competent mental health professional, you can shed your anxiety and take the next step forward.