How to Manage Anxiety
Everybody feels anxious from time to time. However, for some people, anxiety can become a serious problem that takes over their daily lives.
Anxiety can cause sufferers to avoid certain activities or situations for fear of triggering an attack. This can have a serious impact on their overall quality of life as well as relationships, work, and school. Fortunately, there are many different options when it comes to how to manage anxiety. In this article, we share some of the most effective techniques.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a common mental health condition. It is different from the anxiety that most people feel before taking a test or speaking in public.
People who suffer from anxiety can feel nervous, fearful, or on edge on an almost daily basis. Most of the time, their anxiety is caused by situations that others find difficult to understand.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, there are five major types of anxiety disorder:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Anxiety affects everyone differently. For some people, it can cause further problems such as insomnia and depression. Others may experience digestive issues, muscle tension, or fatigue.
In its most extreme form, anxiety may lead to panic attacks which can be scary and distressing, especially when they happen for the first time.
8 Ways to Manage Anxiety
There are plenty of different ways to manage anxiety. The hardest thing is finding one that works for you. However, if you try all of the techniques on this list, there’s a good chance one of them will help. You can also talk to your doctor or therapist about different options on how to manage anxiety.
One of the best ways to manage anxiety is to find out what is causing it in the first place. Therapy is an opportunity to do this as well as discuss your thoughts and feelings in a safe, non-judgmental place.
One of the most effective forms of therapy for anxiety is called CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). The aim of CBT is to identify and change unhelpful thinking patterns.
CBT is very much a partnership and your therapist will likely ask you to complete various activities between sessions. Doing this greatly increases the chances of your therapy sessions being successful, and is definitely worth the effort.
Many people find deep breathing very calming and it is a great way to manage anxiety in the moment, when things become overwhelming.
However, it is essential to breathe in the right way, otherwise you could fool your body into feeling more stressed. Rather than breathing shallowly into your chest, breathe deep down into your belly. You can place one hand on your lower abdomen and you should feel it rise and fall as you breathe.
Breathe in and out slowly, and try to lengthen your exhale if possible. Ideally, breathe in for a count of seven and out for 11, but if you cannot manage this, try four and six instead.
Alternatively, you can just take a moment to feel and pay attention to your breath, without trying to change it in any way.
Meditation and Mindfulness
Meditation and mindfulness are both popular ways of managing anxiety. Both of these practices help calm the mind, and can be very effective when performed on a daily basis.
Although they might feel unnatural at first, mediation and mindfulness do become easier with time. If you are a beginner, you might find it helpful to attend a class or follow a guided meditation online.
Exercise is great for anxiety in many ways. It can act as an excellent distraction and helps to burn off any nervous energy that has accumulated over the course of the day.
While some people prefer high-intensity workouts, a walk in nature or some gentle yoga can be just as effective. In fact, over-exercising can release extra stress hormones, so little and often may be best.
Massage therapy provides an opportunity to relax and unwind, while soothing the tense muscles that can often accompany anxiety. One of the drawbacks of massage therapy is that it can be expensive, but you can also learn some simple self-massage techniques to try at home.
It is also possible to boost the anxiety-busting effects of massage by using calming aromatherapy oils such as lavender, frankincense, or geranium. Just be sure to mix them with a plain carrier oil, and talk to a physician first to ensure that the oils are safe for you.
Acupuncture is the ancient Chinese practice of using tiny needles to balance the body and mind. While the idea of using needles will make some people nervous, others find it extremely relaxing, and similar to having a massage.
It appears that acupuncture works for anxiety by altering activity in the nervous system and releasing neurotransmitters to regulate the mood and emotions.
There are many different herbal remedies for anxiety. Although some of these have little evidence to back up their use, others are known to have calming effects. Some of the most promising herbal remedies for anxiety include passionflower, valerian, kava, and lavender.
Another herbal remedy which has recently become popular for anxiety is CBD oil. It is a compound which is extracted from hemp plants, and there is some scientific evidence to back up its effects.
Just be sure to consult your physician before using any herbal remedies to ensure that they are safe and appropriate for you.
Many people would prefer to avoid taking medication for anxiety, but for some it offers an effective solution where others have failed.
Drugs like antidepressants can be useful for managing anxiety on an ongoing basis, while beta-blockers or benzodiazepines can help with acute symptoms.
However, all of these medications come with a list of possible side effects. Discuss your options with a physician and decide whether the benefits outweigh the risks.