5 Ways to Effectively Manage Anxiety
Behavioral Health and Trauma Recovery Services, P.C., wants to help you cope with your daily worry and anxiety. Anxiety is characterized by recurring and intrusive worry thoughts and concerns, feelings of fear or panic, as well as physical symptoms, such as that awful feeling you experience when your heart races, your breathing becomes labored, you start to sweat or feel cold and clammy, you feel dizzy, and you just want to run.
You may have adopted over the years creative ways to effectively manage your anxiety or worry. However, with the current state of affairs, to include COVID-19, the recession, political unrest, social injustice, rampant wildfires, and more, you may find it difficult at times to manage your anxiety and worry as effectively as you once did.
Anxiety affects roughly 40 million adults. While anxiety can feel debilitating, there are ways you can manage it.
FIVE WAYS TO MANAGE ANXIETY
1. Slow Your Breathing
When we feel anxious, our breathing becomes quicker and shallower. This way of breathing prevents adequate intake of oxygen, breathing becomes more labored, which in turn, makes us feel even more anxious. 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. Place one hand on your chest, and one hand on your belly. Try to breathe in by keeping your chest and shoulders still, and only move your belly in and out, this is called diaphragmatic breathing. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, then exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of 4. Repeat this cycle two to three times until you feel yourself begin to calm.
If you do this correctly you will be transitioning your nervous system from a Sympathetic Response (Fight/Flight/Freeze) to a Parasympathetic Response (Rest/Digest).
2. Limit Caffeine and Improve Nutrition
Drinking or eating anything with caffeine in it can exacerbate your anxiety. Studies have even shown that caffeine can trigger a panic attack, so try and avoid or greatly limit consumption. Please, no energy drinks! Also be mindful of what types of food you put into your body; as food digests in our system it can impact our mood and assist with mood stability or contribute to mood swings.
Studies have shown that just 20 minutes of exercise can reduce symptoms of anxiety. Why? Exercise gives us a natural dump of chemicals in our brain that we may be depleted in due to anxiety, such as Dopamine (feel-good) and Serotonin (calming). You likely have noticed that although it may be difficult to initiate exercise, you probably experienced improved mood post a work out.
4. Make a List
One of the worst parts of feeling anxiety is the thought 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. This also takes away the anxiety of trying to remember everything that is circling around in your head.
5. Remind Yourself of Reality
There will likely be times that you will need to take a step back and identify if your thoughts are irrational or extreme. If this is the case, it will be helpful to challenge those thoughts. Are you catastrophizing and playing out the worst case scenario? Are you fortune telling and making assumptions about what the future holds? Is this really the “worst” thing that could happen or is it really that “horrible”? Our thoughts influence our emotional responses, so start “thinking about your thinking” because this is the foundation for decreasing your anxiety.
THERE IS HOPE
There is hope, because you can take control of your anxiety, instead of your anxiety controlling you! It is good to have some worry and anxiety about life events, as this fuels us to action. However, in therapy you will learn how to set boundaries around your worry thoughts and learn specific skills training to cope with daily life events.
To learn more and get started with counseling services, please contact us today, we would love to hear from you!