If you suffer from anxiety, you know that awful feeling when heart races, you start to sweat, and you feel like you just want to run. 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 symptoms related to your anxiety.
Slow Your Breathing to Reduce Anxiety
When we feel anxious, our breathing becomes quicker and shallower. This way of breathing, in turn, makes us feel even more anxious. It’s a vicious cycle.
You can practice various deep breathing techniques to help your body and mind slow down. Exhales physically relax your body, so focusing on slowing down your exhales can help you feel more calm in the moment. Try some of the exercises in the video below for practice with slow breathes for anxiety reduction.
Drinking or eating anything with caffeine in it can exacerbate your anxiety. This is because caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, which amps up our body and heart rate. When we are feeling worried, our body is already in this heightened state and anxious thoughts can add fuel to the fire to so speak. Studies even suggest that caffeine can trigger a panic attack, so limiting or avoiding caffeine might be helpful.
Studies have also 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 positively affect your mood. Additionally, anxiety often gives us increased energy and exercise can give us something to do with this increased energy rather than allowing it to sit in our bodies.
Make a List
One of the worst parts of feeling anxious is the feeling that you don’t have 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 can actually empower you and make you feel in control again. Taking control back can be an important step in reducing anxious feelings.
Remind Yourself of Reality
When a nervous flyer hits turbulence while riding in an airplane, 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 feelings of worry or panic start to set in. Simply tell yourself that you are, okay, you are not going to die and these feelings will eventually pass. If there is a specific event or situation that is causing worry, it can also be helpful to think through how you will feel when this event or situation has passed and focus on those positive feelings to replace the anxious thoughts.
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. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.
Modern Change offers therapy for anxiety in Durham, NC.
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