5 Ways to Effectively Manage Anxiety

If you suffer from anxiety, you might know that awful feeling when heart races, you start to sweat, and you feel like you just want to run. But anxiety is not just panic attacks. Other signs of an anxiety problem include upset stomach, headaches, difficulty sleeping, and trouble relaxing to name a few.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 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, our breathing becomes quicker and shallower. This might feel like holding your breath or not being able to get a full, deep breath in. It also might feel like hyperventilating, especially during a panic attack. This way of breathing, in turn, makes us feel even more anxious. Your brain gets the message from your breath that it should be anxious, so it sends out more anxiety chemicals. It’s a vicious cycle.

When you feel the anxiety start to come on, start to focus on your breath and begin to slow it down. Breathe in slowly and deeply for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, then exhale slowly for a count of 4, and again hold for a count of 4. Repeat this cycle three to five times until you feel yourself begin to calm.

Limit Caffeine

Drinking or eating anything with caffeine in it can make your anxiety worse. Studies have even shown that caffeine can even trigger an anxiety attack, so try to avoid or greatly limit consumption. Generally, tea has less caffeine than coffee, so you might try switching to tea.

Just remember to make the transition slowly if you are used to a large amount of caffeine. Going off caffeine “cold turkey” can make you experience headaches, tremors, and irritability. These symptoms, while temporary, can be similar or sometimes worse than the anxiety you are trying to manage in the first place. But if you start to limit your caffeine intake gradually, you should be able to limit these detox symptoms, also.

Exercise

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.

Don’t stress too much about what kind of exercise or think that it has to be really intense to help with your anxiety. Even a brisk walk is found to give the benefits of mood management. Studies recommend doing this at least 3 times per week and have found the benefits as good or even better than anti-depressants for mild to moderate mood/anxiety management.

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.

If you start to get overwhelmed with how long your list is, go back through and prioritize. Try to identify 1-3 items that really must get done, remove the items that can be postponed to another list so you don’t have to see them, and then work on crossing off your list.

Remind Yourself of Reality

When a nervous flyer is riding on a plane that 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.

Simply tell yourself that you are experiencing anxiety but that you are, basically, okay, you are not going to die. Repeating this or something similar over and over like a mantra until it feels true, can also help. You should be prepared to understand that telling yourself you are okay when you are experiencing panic won’t feel true at first due to the intensity of your anxiety. But just because something doesn’t feel true, doesn’t necessarily make it so.

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 be in touch. We would be happy to discuss how Hope For The Journey might be able to help.

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