If you suffer from anxiety, you know how awful it can feel. Your heart races, you start to sweat, and you feel like you just want to run. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness in the United States affecting roughly 40 million adults. While anxiety can feel debilitating, there are ways you can manage it.
Slow Your Breathing
When we feel anxious, we go into a “fight or flight” response where our breathing becomes quicker and shallower. However, this way of breathing, in turn, makes us feel even more anxious and it becomes a vicious cycle.
To help, when you feel the anxiety start, focus on your breath and begin to slow it down. Breathe in slowly and deeply for a count of 5, hold for a count of 5, then exhale slowly for a count of 5. Repeat this cycle three to five times until you feel yourself begin to calm. If a 5 count is too long, do what you can and think of slowing and deepening with each breath.
Many of us depend on caffeine to get us going, but drinking or eating anything with caffeine in it can exacerbate your anxiety. Studies have even shown that caffeine can even trigger an anxiety attack, so try and avoid or greatly limit consumption. That includes coffee, tea, energy drinks, and yes even chocolate!
Studies have shown that just 20 minutes of exercise can reduce symptoms of anxiety. Not only does exercising make you feel good about yourself, it actually floods your body with feel-good endorphins, which can totally turn your mood around. Try to get into a regular exercise program to reduce anxiety and use it to help get rid of the anxiety jitters when they hit.
Make a List
One of the worst parts of feeling anxiety is the feeling that you are out of control. One simple exercise to turn this around is to make a to-do list of small, easy-to-manage tasks. Crossing these tasks off your list will actually empower you and make you feel in control again. You can also use a to-do list to help you organize longer-term projects and feel in control as you check off steps towards getting them done.
Remind Yourself of Reality
When the plane of a nervous flyer hits turbulence, that nervous flyer must remind themselves that the plane is okay, and it is just a normal occurrence to hit turbulence. People who experience anxiety may also have to remind themselves that they are actually okay when an anxiety attack comes on. Tell yourself that you are experiencing anxiety but that you are safe, you are not going to die.
It can also be very beneficial to talk to someone about your anxiety issues. A therapist will be able to offer more tools and advice on how to cope and manage your anxiety.
If you or someone you love suffers from anxiety and would like to explore treatment options, please contact me to schedule a consultation session either in my office or by secure video.