Anxiety is a natural emotion that everyone feels at times. It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous or uneasy when something in our environment just doesn’t seem right. The capacity to feel anxious helped our ancestors survive life in a world where there were big predators. However, sometimes a person’s level of anxiety can exceed what is normal and healthy. In these cases, an anxiety sufferer may spend so much of their time feeling anxious, recovering from anxiety attacks, and avoiding things that make them anxious that there is little freedom and joy left in their life. If this describes you, consider using one or more of the following tips to reduce your level of anxiety.
Figure out what triggers your anxiety. Anxiety attacks can feel like they swoop down out of nowhere, but in fact they are caused by specific thoughts or experiences. Figuring out what makes you anxious is a first step in combating your anxiety. Keeping a written record of your anxiety triggers can help you understand better what is happening to you, as well as provide a helpful record for a counselor or other helping person.
Take steps to calm yourself. Many people find guided meditation and visualization helpful in fighting anxiety. In these exercises, someone talks you through the process of relaxation. There are many relaxation recordings available for purchase, and you can occasionally find them online for free. There are a collection of free relaxation recordings on the website of the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital web page.
- Exercise. As little as five minutes, five times a week of moderate exercise can have both physical and mental health benefits. People who exercise experience lower incidences of anxiety and depression than sedentary people.
- Talk to someone. Tell a relative or friend that you’re feeling overwhelmed, and let them know how they can help you. Counselors and other helping professionals can offer you expert advice. If you don’t feel you have anyone to talk to, or you want to remain anonymous, a supportive internet forum such as SF can help.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can make anxiety attacks worse. Soothing herbal teas such as chamomile and valerian may be a better choice. (But make sure you talk to your doctor before taking any herbal supplements, especially if you’re on medication.)
- Distract yourself. Many people find that quietly working with their hands helps calm their anxiety. Sewing, folding laundry, or adult coloring books may help you shift your focus from what is distressing you. Other people prefer listening to music or audiobooks. In some cases, an intense distractor such as holding ice in your bare hands for a short time can be helpful.
- Deep breathe. Anxiety attacks can make you breathe quickly and shallowly, which may make you feel faint. Concentrate on inhaling and exhaling slowly, breathing in through your nose for a count of five, and then out through your mouth.