If you’re one of the 40 million Americans suffering from an anxiety disorder, then you understand exactly how debilitating it can be. Anxiety disrupts you in the workplace, fuels negative thoughts and distances you from those you love most.
While stress is a natural physical and emotional response to high-pressure situations, an anxiety disorder creates excessive apprehension that doesn’t necessarily have any basis in reality.
Individuals who are anxious, worried and freaked out about life are more likely to turn to alcohol and drugs for anxiety relief. In fact, anxiety is one of the most common co-occurring disorders with drug addiction.
Though anxiety impacts different people in different ways, there are some fundamental shifts you can make in your life to help you learn to deal with stress as it arises. Even more, there are ways to ultimately prevent anxiety from taking over your life so you feel stressed less often. Suffering from anxiety often leaves people feeling as though they have no control. By learning to take back control over your life, you will be able to make room for the things you enjoy without anxiety holding you back.
Tips for Anxiety Relief
Here are some basic and effective tactics for overcoming the symptoms of anxiety. These anxiety relief tips are a combination of reactionary and preventative methods for relieving stress and worry in your daily life. Whenever anxiety arises and particularly stressful situations occur, use the tips that provide reactionary methods to restore calm in that moment. The preventative methods, on the other hand, can be practiced as daily habits to reduce feelings of anxiety so fewer stressful and emotional instances occur over time. Here are nine ways to eliminate anxiety in order to live a happier and more fulfilling life:
- Take a Deep Breath
Deep diaphragmatic breathing is one of the most powerful tools for anxiety relief. When you breathe deeply, you turn off the body’s fight-or-flight response and replace it with the relaxed response of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Slowing down your breathing and focusing on strong, deep breathing patterns lowers your heart rate and can bring a sense of calm to your body. Everything around you slows down. By focusing your attention on your breathing, you can further calm your nerves. This is an anxiety relief method you can use whenever you feel your stress levels rise.
Practice the four-four-four breathing pattern. Inhale deeply to a count of four, gently hold your breath to a count of four, then exhale to a count of four. Repeat this for at least two minutes or ten times in order to fully calm your nervous system and regain focus on the present moment.
Other helpful breathing techniques including using your imagination to move the breath to the areas of your body that are the most tense. This is an instructional practice in yoga to help release tension in tight muscles and joints. When you inhale, pretend the breath is drawing up the top of your head. As you exhale, move the breath to your hips, neck, shouldersor back, which can often feel the tensest during anxiety attacks or stressful events.
This repeated pattern will ease your mind and clear your negative emotions and thoughts. It gives you the time and space you need to collect your emotions and to think about your next actions. Forming this habit whenever the rush of anxiety arises will help you be healthier and more productive throughout your day. The deep breathing habit also acts as a buffer to prevent your anxiety from taking control of your emotions. The more you remember to bring your focus back to your breath when anxiety wells up, the more improvement you will see in your overall happiness.
- Get Enough Sleep
One of the biggest health topics to come to light in the past few years has been the issue of developing proper sleeping patterns. Research has shown that patterns of insomnia can eventually lead to depression and the development of anxiety disorders such as panic attacks. A major study has shown, in fact, that adults with insomnia are five times more likely to develop depression. Generally speaking, adults receiving fewer than 4.5 hours of sleep on average each night are at greater risk for developing symptoms of anxiety.
If you’re not getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep, there may be serious consequences. Lack of sleep impacts your physical health, which is directly tied to your overall anxiety and stress levels. Getting enough sleep allows your body to relax, keeping anxiety levels low throughout the day.
The issue of sleep and stress is a vicious circle. If you’re too stressed out, you may not sleep properly. If you don’t sleep properly, you’re more likely to feel stressed out. Treating your sleeping patterns as a habit will help you to ensure you’re getting a full 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Proper sleep is an important method of preventing stress and anxiety and should be treated as a top priority.
- Be Present
A relaxation and anxiety-management practice that is becoming more and more popular lately is the practice of mindfulness. But mindfulness isn’t a new practice. The Buddhist practice of meditation has been around for centuries. The basic principle of meditation is to focus your mind and attention on the present moment. Mindfulness forces you to clear your mind of all thoughts and to draw your attention to your breath or to the various sensations in your body. Practice mindfulness as a daily meditation habit to start. It doesn’t have to be for very long to start. The most effective way to benefit from mindfulness is to practice it consistently. Eventually it will develop your willpower so you remain mindful throughout the day, not just strictly when allocating time for it.
In practicing mindfulness, you can slow down and focus on the world around you — your surroundings, the flavor of your meal, the texture of the chair you’re sitting in. Worrying about the future and situations out of your control can create unnecessary anxiety. Instead, focus your awareness and sense on the present, and you should feel less tense.
Another type of meditation practice is what’s known as loving-kindness, in which your present thoughts are focused entirely on producing positive and compassionate thoughts about yourself and others.
It’s important to treat mindfulness or meditation as an anxiety-prevention practice. It may seem difficult at first to calm your mind down and sit still for even 10 minutes. Eventually, with enough consistent practice, it will become easier. The whole idea is to make it part of your daily life, and over the years, it will become a very effective way of not only managing stress, but enriching your life in general. Mindfulness teaches you patience, gratitude and acceptance, which are excellent qualities to develop if you find yourself overwhelmed by anxiety. Over time, you’ll start to build more confidence, and regulating your emotions will become easier and feel more natural. Because of this, present-moment living and mindfulness are preventative methods of alleviating anxiety — meaning that if practiced regularly, they will help you to have fewer instances of anxiety attacks.
- Use Calming Self-Talk
Sometimes you may need to be your own coach. If you feel the flood of nervousness that takes over your entire body, one of the best and most immediate measures you can take is to state in your mind that you must remain calm. This is sometimes referred to as the power of auto-suggestion. Thoughts that you transmit repeatedly and often enough will eventually have an impact on your psyche. These thoughts will become regular patterns that run through your mind whenever you feel immediate threats.
In other words, perception becomes reality. By feeding positive thoughts to your brain, you can alleviate stress. Mentally repeat phrases including: “I will get through this situation.” “I am safe right now.” “I feel anxious right now, but I can feel my heart rate slowing and I will soon be calm.”
Just like loving-kindness meditation, reassuring self-talk helps you stay focused on the positive to gain control over your emotions. It also must be consciously practiced each time panic attacks arise. This is what makes this a reactionary method of relieving anxiety.
- Distract Yourself
Something that may just come naturally — as opposed to happening consciously — when an anxiety attack strikes is that your mind may become distracted by something else. Often anxiety arises in a flash and will eventually dissipate as you get back on track with the next item on your to-do list or if an unexpected phone call comes in. But if your anxiety causes a particularly frantic emotional state, then it may require a more directed effort to distract yourself. Finding a distraction is an effective way to calm your emotions almost immediately.
Since it’s difficult for the brain to focus on more than one thing at a time, focus on something other than the anxiety symptoms you are experiencing. Distract yourself through work, entertainment or a relaxing walk. If you concentrate on something else, you may even find you forget about whatever was giving you anxiety.
Though actively distracting yourself is a reactionary way of alleviating anxiety, it may give you the space to come back to whatever was causing you stress and deal with it in a clearer headspace.
- Schedule Relaxation
Today, we live in a culture of go-go-go. From picking up the kids at school to meeting deadlines at work, it seems impossible to take a break. This is why it’s important to sit down and look at your schedule. Start by finding a half an hour every day to dedicate to you.
To become really good at scheduling your relaxation time, you must develop strong habits that improve your willpower. At the beginning of each week, take the time to schedule in your relaxation periods ahead of time. Program them as reminders into your phone if you need to. You may have a combination of many different relaxation activities. Whether it’s doing yoga, taking a walk, going to the gym, reading a book or watching television, it’s important to your health to schedule a period of relaxation.
Knowing your hobbies and sticking to them is also an important way to prevent stress and anxiety in your daily life. Hobbies give you something to look forward to. These are activities you do because they are your choice and you enjoy doing them. Don’t let them fall by the wayside. Be sure to prioritize them by giving them a designated time slot each week.
Once you’ve mastered the habit of scheduling relaxation on a weekly basis, you may decide to expand this to monthly activities such as spa days, a weekend cooking class or some other form of activity you can do every month.
It may sound counterintuitive, but actually scheduling in your vacations will mean there’s a greater chance you will follow through and take them. Having rest periods like smaller getaways and vacations is absolutely crucial to living a peaceful and calm life. Taking these breaks regularly and having them scheduled not only gives you something to look forward to, but it also allows you to have time to not worry about your daily life.
- Distinguish Between Solvable and Unsolvable Worries
Anxiety can take many forms and have many different causes — it depends entirely on the individual person. However, one common trait among those who suffer from anxiety is an overwhelming sense of worry when faced with challenges. People who aren’t inclined to feel anxious are like this because they can immediately distinguish between events or situations they can control and those they cannot. If they determine these events are not within their control, they don’t feel any threat or worry.
On the other hand, those who suffer from anxiety feel a strong connection to each problem or situation that arises. If you suffer from anxiety, you may feel as though you want to help or solve each situation. It becomes incredibly stressful and even painful if you cannot. It is important, though, to assess each situation by asking yourself some basic questions. This will immediately slow down your mind and your emotions and will ease a sense of anxiousness.
Can you directly face the problem that’s stressing you out? Or is an imaginary “what-if” causing you anxiety? By distinguishing between solvable and unsolvable stressors, you know what problems to face and what problems to ignore. In many cases, unnecessary anxiety is caused by unsolvable worries.
If you determine it is an unsolvable worry that you cannot control, such as cancelled soccer practice or a delayed flight, then take solace in knowing this is something out of your hands and you can move on without anxiety. Remind yourself that it won’t matter in a day, a week or a year from now.
- Accept Uncertainty
Similar to item seven, those who tend to feel anxious are usually not as accepting of uncertainty and feel stressed thinking about the possibilities that lie ahead. You may feel your mind instantly gravitate towards worst-case scenarios. You may do your best to mitigate uncertainty by scheduling in your plans and thinking ahead, but the reality is there will always be things that come up you did not foresee. Don’t beat yourself up over this.
Chronic worriers are unable to cope with unpredictability. By accepting that the “unknown” is part of life, you can take a heavy weight off your shoulders. Learn to face situations that are out of your control.
The only thing you can do is handle them quickly and efficiently when they do arise without stressing or worrying. Cultivating this mindset will help to prevent feelings of anxiousness over time.
By facing those fears directly, you eliminate the chance for your brain to imagine unnecessary fear. Having a good support system around you such as friends, family and community helps ease these challenges as they present themselves.
- Eat Healthy and Exercise
Ongoing research into the causes of anxiety disorders is further proving how important diet and exercise are in alleviating feelings of stress.
Your physical health is directly tied to how your body and brain respond to stress. Poor eating and exercise habits, for example, can lead to high blood pressure. A healthy body is better equipped to regulate and handle stress.
The impact of your physical and mental health works both directions. While improper diet and nutrition can cause anxiety, the stress itself can take a horrible toll on your body’s health. It becomes increasingly difficult to access the motivation required to have healthy eating and exercise habits.
But developing these habits is critical in preventing anxiety. One mental health study found that with regular and intense workouts, participants were 25% less likely to develop anxiety disorders over the coming five years. Additional research has shown the quality of one’s diet can have a direct impact on their mood and the subsequent development of anxiety disorders. Without proper nutrition, people aren’t getting the fuel they need to keep their serotonin levels up. Many participants in studies on this topic have reported feelings of a fog being lifted once they started eating better. If your body is only working to process fatty and sugary foods, it isn’t getting enough nutritional value to elevate your body to its optimal level. As a result, your body feels slower and less energetic, which has a direct impact on your brain.
Ensuring we’re receiving enough vitamins and nutrients is absolutely essentially to our physical and mental health. Omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium and vitamin B-12 are important for improving brain function, energy levels and metabolism. If you are looking to shift your diet, start in these three areas and take note of how you feel afterward and how your anxiety levels have been impacted.
Living a Fuller Life
These nine tips to calm anxiety are important to follow if you experience chronic worry and stress. You may find that some are more effective and work better for you than others. The critical component, however, is that you take action to control your anxiety instead of letting your anxiety control you. These tips give you tactics not only on how to alleviate anxiety as it comes on, but also on how to prevent it so you feel less overwhelmed and do not become paralyzed by stress.
By implementing all of these forms of anxiety relief and prevention in your life, you will be able to have the energy to focus on implementing healthy practices in your daily life, such as improving your diet and exercise habits. These are the priorities in living a healthy, fulfilling life with reduced tension, stress and anxiety.
If you are struggling with anxiety and chronic worrying, seeking professional counseling will help you take control of this disorder. The professional team at JourneyPure Emerald Coast will provide you with the resources and treatment you need to overcome anxiety. Our world-class facility is here to help you recover from the combination
of anxiety and depression that has resulted from addiction. Learn more about our anxiety treatment services so you can begin to enjoy your life once more.