Chronic stress and anxiety can be completely debilitating. If you’ve lived with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) for any amount of time, then you’ll know how day-to-day worries can quickly spiral out of control and leave you feeling panicked and in need of help.
If you do suffer from GAD, then you should see a trusted medical professional who can get you the help you need and may refer you to therapists or offer other treatment options.
However, if you are unable to see a medical professional or feel as though you can overcome stress and anxiety yourself, then there are a few steps you can take to help you cope.
We’re living through a particularly stressful period, and thousands of people across the world are struggling to keep up. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), nearly one-third of American adults are so stressed about the pandemic that they are unable to make basic decisions like what to have for lunch. These stress levels aren’t healthy and can lead to a range of conditions.
Chronic stress impacts your physical health in a few different ways. Typically, folks who suffer from chronic, or long-term, stress might develop issues with their skin and dental health and may develop bruxism as a result of grinding their teeth. You could also suffer from a weakened immune system, as your body is constantly running at a stressed level.
When you’re caught in a cycle of chronic stress, it can feel impossible to get out. This is because stress is largely cyclical: your stress levels end up being the root cause of your stress, which makes it difficult to break the chain of stress and stressing out. However, there are a few stress management strategies that may help you.
Stress Management Strategies
As with most mental health conditions, you should seriously consider speaking to a medical professional who can help you with medically accredited treatment options. But, in the meantime, you can consider making a few easy lifestyle changes to improve your ability to manage stress.
Some of the best stress-busting activities include increasing the amount of exercise you do and avoiding unhealthy habits like drinking alcohol or eating junk food. Living a healthier lifestyle feels great in the moment, and can improve your long-term health which, in turn, helps regulate your stress levels.
You should also consider reaching out to a few trusted friends and telling them about the stress you’re feeling and how it’s impacting your day-to-day life. This isn’t a replacement for therapy but verbalizing your struggles can help you start to process the root cause of your stress, and friends who know you’re struggling are more likely to reach out and support you during difficult periods.
Coping with Anxiety
Feeling anxious is entirely normal and is something that everyone experiences at some point in their lives — particularly in the lead-up to stressful events like interviews or exams. However, for some folks, anxiety goes a step further and becomes something called “Generalized Anxiety Disorder” (GAD).
GAD impacts people in different ways and may manifest itself in panic disorder, phobias, or social anxiety. Folks who have GAD feel anxious more days than they don’t feel anxious and have a hard time stopping anxiety or anxious thoughts — one worry is usually replaced by another.
Coping with GAD is difficult and is something that you shouldn’t try to do alone. You shouldn’t feel bad or embarrassed about seeing a therapist, as taking proactive steps to improve your GAD is good for your health and will improve your relationships with other people. A good therapist will work closely with you to learn about your anxiety and will help you build resilience over time.
You can also engage in a little self-help for GAD. Typically, self-help for those suffering from GAD involves making healthier lifestyle choices, as this can improve self-image and restore feelings of self-efficacy. Everyone is different, but you might consider exercising more frequently by joining an exercise club or by taking yourself on walks. You can also investigate getting a dog, which may improve your mental health and help manage anxiety.
Coping with anxiety and chronic stress looks different for everyone. That said, many folks who suffer from anxiety or chronic stress have a common goal: to become more resilient to stressors or anxiety.
Developing resiliency is a process that takes time. You can start to improve your resiliency by creating a safe space, where you feel comfortable and can calm yourself and potentially address the root causes of your stress and anxiety without feeling overwhelmed. If you live in the U.S. or U.K., you should consider asking your employer for a safe space, as you may qualify for accommodations.
You can also partake in common resilience-building activities like building a support network of trusted friends and getting enough sleep to ensure that you can focus during the day. You should also consider a change of scenery if you’ve been at home in the same spot for a long time and may benefit from a trip to somewhere new or a vacation that allows you to decompress.
There’s no single solution to chronic stress or anxiety that will magically make your symptoms disappear. However, you can take a proactive approach to coping with stress and anxiety by speaking with a medical professional who can help you with treatment options like therapy. You can also engage in healthier lifestyle habits and should consider leaning on a support network that can help you get out of a rut and maintain a more positive outlook on life.