Emotions

How to cope with anxiety

Anxiety is our body’s natural response to stress.

Do you ever get a faster heartbeat or sweaty palms in a stressful or overwhelming situation? That’s anxiety.

Everyone experiences anxiety for different reasons and identifying your triggers is the first step in coping with mild anxiety or even an anxiety attack.

It can take time to discover your own triggers, but there are some quick and easy ways to deal with or ease anxiety.

Five quick ways to cope with anxiety

If you find that anxiety sometimes disrupts your concentration or routine, there are some ways to quickly deal with the situation.

If it is a specific situation that usually causes your anxiety, your symptoms may not last for long and will likely calm down after the particular situation.

1 – Question your thought pattern

Thinking negatively can cause you to alter the severity of a situation, thinking it is worse than it actually is. Question these negative thoughts, ask yourself if they are true and legitimate, and take back control of the situation.

2 – Practice mindful, deep breathing

Try controlling and slowing your breathing pattern by breathing in for four counts and breathing out for four counts. Do this for around five minutes.

Controlling your breathing this way can help slow your heart rate and calm yourself down.

The 4-7-8 technique can also be used to help ease anxiety. Make yourself comfortable and then breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale for eight seconds. Do this a total of four times.

3 – Use aromatherapy

Aromatherapy can help activate particular brain receptors and help ease anxiety.

Some scents, such as lavender, chamomile, and sandalwood, can be soothing whether they are in oil, incense, or a candle form.

4 – Go for a walk or do 15 minutes of yoga

Removing yourself from a stressful situation can help relieve anxiety.

Going for a walk or practicing yoga can help you clear your mind by focusing on your body and can help relieve your anxiety.

5 – Write down your thoughts

Removing any anxious thoughts from your mind and putting them down into words can make situations less daunting.

These suggested methods to deal with anxiety quickly are particularly helpful for people who experience anxiety sporadically. They can also benefit people with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) if they need a quick fix.

However, if you think you have GAD, quick fixes should not be the only way you cope with your anxiety. In this instance, long-term strategies are suggested to ease and prevent anxiety symptoms.

Six long term ways to cope with anxiety

If you deal with anxiety regularly and you find that it affects your daily life, you need to adopt treatment strategies to keep it in check.

This can be a combination of methods, such as therapy and meditation, or simply just removing or resolving your anxiety trigger.

It is best to discuss your options with a mental health professional who may suggest a new strategy you had not considered, especially if you do not know where to start.

1 – Identify and learn to manage your triggers

Identifying your triggers can be something you do on your own or with a therapist. Your triggers might be obvious to you, such as drinking alcohol or smoking, or they can be less obvious.

Long term triggers can take longer to pinpoint considering they could include a due date, a person, or a situation. This may be where you need extra support, such as a therapist.

After discovering your trigger, try to limit your exposure if possible. If you cannot do this, for example it could be a stressful work or living environment that you cannot remove yourself from, other coping mechanisms may be suitable.

Common triggers include:

  • a stressful job or work environment
  • driving or travelling
  • genetics — anxiety could run in your family
  • withdrawal from drugs or certain medications
  • side effects of certain medications
  • trauma
  • phobias
  • some chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, or asthma
  • chronic pain
  • having another mental illness

2 – Take part in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT encourages people to learn different ways of thinking about and responding to situations which cause their anxiety.

A therapist can help you find ways to change negative thought patterns and behaviours before they escalate.

3 – Adopt daily or routine meditation

Although it may take some time to mindfully meditate successfully, frequent mindful meditation can help you train your brain to ignore and control anxious thoughts if they arise.

If you find it difficult to sit still and focus on meditation, try practicing yoga first.

4 – Try supplements or changing your diet

Consuming certain supplements or food over a certain amount of time has been shown to help reduce anxiety.

These include:

  • lemon balm
  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • ashwagandha
  • green tea
  • valerian root
  • kava kava
  • dark chocolate (in moderation)

This is a long-term strategy because it can take up to three months for your body to react to these supplements.

If you are already on other medications, discuss these herbal remedies with your doctor.

5 – Keep your body and mind healthy

Regular exercise, balanced meals, sufficient sleep, and staying in touch with people who care about you are great ways to reduce your anxiety and symptoms.

6 – Ask your doctor about medications

If your mental health practitioner believes that your anxiety is severe enough, there are numerous directions you can go in, depending on your symptoms. You should always discuss your concerns with your doctor.

When is anxiety harmful?

Anxiety is often referred to as the feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, in response to an event with an uncertain outcome.

Everyone suffers with anxiety at some point in their life because it is the brain’s response to perceived danger, real or not.

Discovering what sort of anxiety you are dealing with can be difficult because everyone reacts to danger and situations in different ways.

Sometimes anxiety can be more severe than feelings of worry and develop into anxiety attacks that initially feel manageable but build up over a few hours. These are different from panic attacks which occur out of the blue and gradually subside.

Common mental and physical signs of an anxiety attack include:

  • feelings of danger, panic, or dread
  • nervousness or restlessness
  • rapid heart rate
  • sweating
  • trembling or chills
  • tiredness or weakness
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • difficulty focusing

People can experience anxiety and panic attacks simultaneously. The previously mentioned quick coping strategies can also help alleviate panic attacks.

Other ways of coping with a panic attack include focusing on an object, repeating a mantra, closing your eyes, and going to your ‘happy place’.

Common mental and physical signs of a panic attack include:

  • a fear of dying
  • feeling like you’re losing control
  • a sense of detachment
  • heart palpitations
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pains or tightness
  • nausea
  • feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • numbness or tingling in your extremities
  • feeling hot or cold.

What causes anxiety?

If you notice no difference after using quick ways to cope with anxiety, it may be best to seek professional help. This is especially true if you believe you have GAD and it is interrupting your daily life and causes physical symptoms.

A mental health professional can help you identify your triggers, help you maintain long-term coping strategies with the use of behavioural therapy, medications, and more.

For example, if your anxiety originates from trauma, a therapist may be the most beneficial coping strategy. However, if your anxiety is due to your brain chemistry, medication may be the best way to manage.

Anxiety might be a part of your life, but it should not dominate your daily life. There are ways to manage and cope with even the most severe anxiety disorders.

Finding a treatment that works for you will help make life more enjoyable and less overwhelming.

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