Millions of people live with anxiety across the world. If you’re one of those sufferers, then you’ll know that life can be a struggle. Learning to control your anxiety is something that takes time, and it will be different for every individual. What works for one person may well not work for another. You should think of your anxiety management as something that you need to tend to over the long term. There will be times when you let your good intentions fall by the wayside, but if you integrate the right strategies into your life, it is possible to keep on going and minimise disruption to your life.
The worst anxiety symptoms are linked to poor breathing habits, so learning how to control your breathing in any situation is important. You can actually practice bringing your breathing under control quite easily. Try hyperventilating by breathing fast and hard and working yourself up. See what it does to your pulse rate and your temperature? Now slow your breathing back down, breathe deeply, and over successive breaths, control it until you are breathing normally. You’ll notice that you can bring yourself back to calm quite quickly.
When you next get into a situation that causes you anxiety, try and pay attention to your breathing. Remember how you brought yourself to calm? Replicate the technique you used, and you’ll start to offset your anxiety symptoms.
If you find yourself in a tense and anxious situation, seek a distraction. A good idea is to start talking to someone else who looks friendly. If you’re on your own, who can you call? If you want to, you could resort to social media. Acknowledge you feel anxious. Don’t be shy. Support is there, among your friends, family and colleagues – you just have to ask for it.
Positive thinking is not for everyone, but many do find affirmations to be extremely beneficial. Affirmation means repeating things to yourself that help you feel better. This can include things such as:
Doing some form of exercise will fill your body full of serotonin – the feel good hormone. Given that anxiety actually drowns you in adrenaline, you might as well use that to good effect by exercising. That’s why you see some people in movies take their feelings out on a pillow or by boxing when they’re upset! Exercise will force you to breathe more deeply and will distract you, so you’ll lessen your anxiety in a number of ways. Even a brisk stroll will benefit you!
The polar opposite to exercising is relaxing. Do the things that work for you. A bath, aromatherapy, curling up on the sofa to watch a movie or read a book. Yoga or meditation. Get a massage or bake. Don’t wait to do this, do it now before you’re overwhelmed by your anxiety.
Anxiety is usually caused by being afraid. Your mind recognises something to be frightened off (whatever that may be, a person, a thought, a situations) and causes a physical response. If you can control your fear, you will be able to control your anxiety. For starters, recognise the thumping chest or butterflies as a fear reaction. Name it – “Oh, I’m feeling a bit scared.” Then recognise your body is having a physical reaction to something that is scaring you. Finally, turn your thoughts around – “What do I have to be scared of? I can do this!”
Take charge of your thoughts as soon as you notice a physical reaction that makes you uncomfortable. Then practice your breathing and affirmations. The more you do this, the more efficient you will become at controlling your anxiety attacks.
All anxiety and panic attacks will end. Sometimes you can stop them yourself, other times they run their course and you have to ride them out. Keep as calm as you can.
Often our anxiety is caused by allowing the mind to spiral into negativity. We’re not controlling our thinking. You can try to keep the thoughts at bay, by distracting yourself, and you can dismiss triggers. Ask yourself if you really need to feel this way. Is your mind speaking the truth? Is it blowing things out of all proportion? Does it have any evidence that you can’t cope/can’t do this? Worrying is useful if it spurs you to take action and solve a problem. But if you’re letting worry control you, and your thoughts are spiralling out of control, you need to nip it in the bud and reassert yourself by dismissing the negativity and thinking positively.
Sometimes you don’t realise you’re doing it, so it is a case of catching those negative thoughts.
Keeping a worry journal is an excellent way to find patterns in your thinking. See if you can keep a journal for a week. Notice what makes you anxious. Write down when and where it happened, who you were with, what caused it and what helped you to feel better. Over time, you’ll start to see patterns and you can address specific elements of what it is that troubles you. You may also find that you’re blowing your thinking out of all proportion. You can use your journal to challenge the thoughts that you have when you start worrying.
Spend less time with people who make you anxious. You don’t need to feel bad or anxious, and if someone in your life makes you feel this way, you need to minimise contact with them. Failing that, can you make sure certain topics or situations are deemed off-limits?
As far as possible, live in the moment. There is no point in worrying about the future, and you can’t change what has happened in the past.
Embrace the knowledge that you have anxiety and try to understand all the elements that make up your individual challenge. Know what causes your physical reactions, and work on managing your thoughts. Don’t obsess, and don’t stop living. Keep trying and striving and focus on the positive.
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