I Feel Anxious: Coping Strategies for Managing Anxiety
In today's fast-paced world, anxiety has become an all too familiar feeling for many of us. Whether it's the stress of work, personal relationships, or the challenges of daily life, anxiety can affect us all. Yes, I'm talking about that 'elephant sitting on your chest' feeling that leaves you wondering how you are going to get through the day. That's why having healthy and practical coping strategies in place is not just beneficial—it's essential. These strategies can empower us to navigate the unexpected and ever-changing world around us, while still maintaining our mental and emotional well-being. In this article, we'll explore some effective techniques to manage anxiety, helping you build a resilient foundation for a happier and healthier life. So, let's take a deep breath together and dive in.
Coping Strategies for Daily Life
Practice deep breathing techniques when you feel anxious. For instance, if you're late and rushing to get to work, get caught behind a slow poke who makes you break hard and spill your coffee on your new work pants (yes, that day was a struggle), you can practice deep breathing!
Inhale for a count of four, hold for four, and exhale for four. This can help reduce stress and promote calmness. It doesn't have to be a super stressful event to use this technique. Maybe you are worried about having to go out to supper with new acquaintances, take time to deeply breathe before heading out the door and even when you arrive. It is discrete and you can utilize it at any time; you never have to worry about forgetting it at home because your breath is with you at all times!
What exactly is mindfulness? So, mindfulness is a fancy way of saying that you are being intentional about living in the present moment. So often when we are filled with anxious thoughts, we are not focusing on what is in-front of us; we are too fixated on the worry at hand to appreciate the beauty of the 'here and now'. "Take time to smell the roses". As cliche as that statement is, it holds a lot of truth; by being mindful of life's simple awe inspiring moments, it can be enough to help break the flow of anxious thoughts overtaking us.
Okay, so what does being mindful really look like? An example would be taking a moment to appreciate the smell of the cool morning breeze when taking your dog outside. Another mindful practice could be while eating. Focus on the taste, texture, and aroma of your food. Being sensitive enough to notice small things that occur daily can change your perspective and ground you in the present moment. Being mindful may take time and practice, but I'm sure you will find that with enough effort you can make a difference in reducing your anxiety.
Now, I understand that not everyone can be a professional body builder or olympic athlete (To be honest, it's hard enough to muddle through a jog around the track a few times). But, the point of incorporating physical activity is to find something that works for you. Getting your body moving helps to release our 'feel good hormones' called endorphins. These endorphins help to boost your mood and ward off anxiety.
Not quite sure where to start? Take a 15-minute walk during your lunch break or do some stretching exercises when you wake up. Again, it doesn't have to be anything super strenuous but enough for you to feel as though you got your body warmed up and moving. A good rule of thumb is to challenge your body, but don't supersede your limits.
Stimulant is an overarching term that describes substances that increase the activity of the central nervous system. In short, it is a substance that excites the brain and when people consume it they may feel more 'focused and alert'. They are used for a variety of reasons and may even be part of your daily routine.
Many of these stimulants are found in beverages or foods that we consume. A few of the most common stimulants are caffeine and nicotine. Maybe it's time to reconsider that daily Scooter's visit? By being aware of what you consume throughout the day it can help you identify whether or not stimulants are to blame. Some people may find that by limiting their intake of stimulants, feelings of anxiety decrease.
Talk It Out
Sometimes the best solution is to reach out to someone you trust and give them a low-down of what is going on in your mind. Talking to another person about the thoughts, emotions, and feelings that you may be experiencing can be valuable for a multitude of reasons. It can provide emotional relief and allow for fresh perspectives to be given on your current concerns. Giving your feelings a voice and being vulnerable enough to 'let it all out' can be healing.
When speaking aloud to a trusted friend or family member, we are better able to break down our feelings of anxiety into smaller parts. By viewing it in smaller pieces, we are better equipped to digest the feeling. A concrete example of this would be like attempting to eat a watermelon whole, all in one bite. It's far easier to chop up the melon, cut away the rind, and dice it up into bites.
When to Seek Professional Help
While self-help strategies can be valuable, it's important to recognize when professional assistance may be necessary:
Severe Symptoms- If your anxiety symptoms are severe and overwhelming, such as panic attacks, intense phobias, or overwhelming dread, it's time to consult a therapist.
Impaired Functioning- When anxiety significantly interferes with your daily life, making it challenging to work, study, or maintain relationships, professional guidance is crucial.
Persistent Anxiety- If you've been struggling with anxiety for an extended period, say six months or more, and haven't seen improvement despite your efforts, consider seeking therapy.
Coexisting Conditions- If anxiety accompanies other mental health conditions like depression or substance abuse, professional treatment can address these complex issues.
Suicidal Thoughts- If you have thoughts of self-harm or suicide, do not hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional or a crisis hotline immediately.
Managing anxiety in everyday life is possible through practical coping strategies like deep breathing, mindfulness, and physical activity. However, it's equally important to recognize when professional help is needed, especially in cases of severe symptoms, impaired functioning, or persistent anxiety. Seeking therapy is a proactive step towards regaining control of your mental and emotional well-being, and it's a sign of self-care and strength.