How to Control Your Anxiety Before It Controls You
Anxiety disorders can keep people from living a joyful and fulfilling life. Luckily, there is help. If you are struggling with managing your anxiety, keep reading for some tips on taming anxiety.
Table of Contents:
Signs you may be struggling with anxiety
Healthy ways to distract yourself from anxiety
Tips for taming anxiety
How to deal with anxiety
How to reduce anxiety in the moment
Signs You May be Struggling with Anxiety
It's normal to feel anxious from time to time. Perhaps you get a bit nervous speaking in front of people or going on a job interview. For some people, anxiety becomes a frequent and forceful occurrence that completely takes over their lives. Since anxiety comes in many forms, it can often be difficult to tell if what you're experiencing is "normal." If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may want to speak with a therapist who can help you cope with your anxiety.
General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive worry. People with GAD worry too much about everyday things, both big and small, but what constitutes too much worry? With GAD, people are often plagued with persistent, anxious thoughts most days of the week. This anxiety can become so overwhelming it interferes with their daily life. If you are worrying to a degree that you have trouble doing daily tasks and are suffering with your emotions, it may be time to speak with a therapist.
Sleep issues such as falling asleep or staying asleep have been associated with a variety of health conditions, both physical and psychological. It's normal for people to have trouble sleeping from time to time. Perhaps you find yourself tossing and turning before a big meeting or presentation; however, if you find yourself night after night lying awake, anxious about specific problems or even about nothing in particular, it may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders can often be accompanied by persistent muscle tension. Do you find yourself clenching your jaw or balling your fists throughout the day? You may have lived with this chronic muscle tension for so long you don't even realize it anymore. While exercise can help relax muscles, therapy can help you get to the root cause of anxiety.
Panic attacks can be a frightening experience. You are suddenly gripped with an overwhelming feeling of dread and fear. These are often accompanied by physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, racing heart, dizziness, and sweating. It's important to note that everyone who has an anxiety disorder will not experience panic attacks.
Healthy Ways to Distract Yourself from Anxiety
Anxiety is a natural dialogue between our mind and body. It's a red flag that something might be going on in our surroundings that requires our attention. For most of us, anxiety is an uncomfortable but fleeting feeling that pops up on occasion during particularly stressful times. For some, anxiety may be more present and color more of their daily life and for others, anxiety is a constant nightmare they can't wake up from. Depending on your level of anxiety, there are some healthy coping strategies you can use to manage it.
Mind Your Mind
How often are your aware of your own thoughts? Our thoughts tend to bubble up from our subconscious without much control from our conscious mind. For those experiencing anxiety, many of these thoughts will be negative, frightening, and not based in reality. Start to pay attention to the thoughts behind the feelings. Instead of thinking the worst will happen, challenge the thought. What is the realistic likelihood the worst will happen? The more you do this, the more you will retrain your mind to process life differently.
Remind Yourself What Anxiety Is
Beyond frightful emotions, anxiety often comes with physical sensations like tightness in the chest, rapid heartbeat, and shortness of breath. In other words, it can feel like you are dying but you're not. You are having a physical response to an irrational fear or thought. Remind yourself of the dialogue your mind and body are having and know that, in reality, you are okay.
Learn Your Triggers
Once you learn to pay attention to your thoughts you can remain calm knowing that you are having a natural reaction to what you perceive as a threat. Observe your surroundings to find the potential trigger that activated your reaction. If there are other people in the room, notice their reaction to your trigger. Do they seem uneasy or concerned? Chances are they don't because the threat is not real. Store this information away so eventually yousubconscious will stop thinking of the trigger as a threat.
Slow, deep breaths have been shown to instantly calm a person. Your heart rate will slow, your muscles will relax, your entire body will return to a normal state of being. Don't underestimate the power of just taking a moment to breathe.
Tips for Taming Your Anxiety
It's rare that any of us will get through life without experiencing anxiety at some point. Whether it's over something big or insignificant, anxiety stops us from living a normal life full of joy and potential. Here are 5 ways you can begin taming anxiety:
Recognize You Are in Control
When you are in the grips of anxiety, it feels very much like it has total control over you but the reality is, you are in control. While external events can trigger our emotions, ultimately, we have the choice whether we feel those emotions or not. So the good news is, you don't have to suffer with anxiety, you simply have to decide to show it who's really the boss.
2. Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is very helpful to relax in stressful situations. While breathing, focus on breathing into the belly while keeping your shoulders down and relaxed. As opposed to expanding your chest, focus on letting your abdomen expand while inhaling.
3. Move Your Body
Exercise is a great way to alleviate the muscle tension that goes along with chronic anxiety. Plus, exercise releases feel good chemicals in your body. Don't sweat it, you don't have to do a grueling workout at the gym to gain these benefits. Just a half hour a day walking, biking, swimming, or yoga can significantly help you reduce your anxiety.
4. Start a Gratitude Journal
Get into the habit of writing down three to five things you are grateful for each night before retiring. This is a simple way to train your mind to focus on all of the good things that surround you.
5. Speak with a Professional
The cure for any physical or psychological ailment is to get to the root cause of it, not simply manage the symptoms. A therapist can help you access your inner world to uncover what is triggering your fear and also offer coping tools and strategies.
How to Deal with Anxiety
When you live with anxiety, life is normal one second and the next, you feel your chest tighten and your heart begin to race. You may begin to hyper focus on future events and find yourself getting lost in "what-ifs." To make matters worse, you may then begin to berate yourself for allowing panic to get the best of you and begin to believe that all of those "what-ifs" are indisputable facts. Luckily, there are tools and techniques you can use to manage your anxiety effectively.
Accept That You Are Anxious
It's important to always remember that anxiety is just a feeling. Like all feelings, it can go as quickly as it came. You are having an emotional reaction to a string ofthoughts. Accept your anxiety because trying to pretend it's not happening will only make matters worse. Let's be clear, by accepting your anxiety, you are not resigning yourself to a life of eternal misery. You are not throwing in the towel and trying to suddenly like your anxiety. You are simply living a more mindful existence, being in the moment, and accepting whatever is in the moment with you.
Question Your Thoughts
When experiencing anxiety, your mind begins to throw out all sorts of outlandish ideas at you, hoping some of them will stick. These thoughts are intended to keep the anxiety going. Before you take any of these thoughts as reality or truth, question them. For instance, if your mind throws things out like "no one here likes me." "I probably left the stove on." Question these thoughts. Are you truly not liked by everyone around you? Most likely not. Do you usually leave home with the stove on? Probably not. Always question your thoughts. You will usually find the majority aren't very realistic or probable.
Picture somewhere serene that brings peace and calm. Maybe this is your grandparents' old house or a hike you went on before. Maybe it's that beach house from your last vacation. Just picture it in your mind's eye and really put yourself there. See it, smell it, feel it. Feel how calm it feels to be in this space that is comforting and safe. Use these techniques the next time you experience anxiety. They should help you feel much calmer, much sooner.
How to Reduce Anxiety in the Moment
Anxiety is highly treatable; however, only a small percentage of those with anxiety seek treatment. There are proven strategies you can do that don't cost a penny and take little time. In fact, you could do any of the following strategies on your lunch or coffee break.
When we are stressed or anxious, we tend to over-breathe or under-breathe.This can cause dizziness and hyperventilation. As mentioned before in this post, deep breathing is a powerful way to gain control over your breath and reaction to panic. Studies show taking slow, deep breaths soothes our nervous system and increases brain activity. Try it for yourself and notice the feel of calm settle over you.
Try Listening to Meditation
One way to get your mind to settle down is to meditate. Sit quietly, eyes closed, and begin to listen to the ambient sounds in the room. What do you hear? Just be aware of all the sounds and try and expand that awareness to hear as much as possible. This form of meditation can be fun and effective, because you can't possibly listen and think at the same time.
Take a Walk
Nervous energy needs to go somewhere-it has to be burned. Taking a 15-minute walk around the block can be a great way to get rid of this energy while breathing deeply. As a bonus, your body releases feel good chemicals when you exercise.
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.
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 attacks comes on. Simply tell yourself that you are experiencing anxiety but that you are okay. If you or someone you love suffers from anxiety and would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.
If you are ready to stop struggling with anxiety please reach out!
If you are in Houston, New York, or California and you would like to explore treatment options for managing your anxiety, please contact me and schedule a free consultation today. Let's work together to start taming your anxiety.