10 tips to help manage anxiety October 12, 2015

Feelings of anxiety are difficult to handle. In the best case, you have a knot in your stomach and in the worst case your anxiety reaches a level that it becomes paralyzing. Stress and anxiety often go hand in hand and you should not feel ashamed to experience either of them. Your health is important and if you suffer from a level of anxiety that it negatively affects your life, you should consult a doctor you trust about it and get medical help. There might be medical reasons behind your anxiety and tips like the ones in this article are no substitute for proper medical care and advice your doctor can offer you.

In contrast to the more severe forms of anxiety, I want to share some tips and ideas with you in this article that can help you deal with the mild, everyday anxiety and feelings of stress better. The kind of anxiety that comes and goes and that everyone struggles with every now and then. These are only 10 tips to help manage anxiety. There are many more approaches and you just need to see what works best for you.

1. Stay in the present moment

Most of our anxiety starts in our own head. We create some of our own stress by our own judgements of situations and the conclusions we jump to. Or we create future scenarios and worst case scenarios in our head, as if the present wasn’t stressful enough at times. Whenever you experience a high level of stress or anxiety, make an effort to stay with your thoughts in the present moment.

2. Take a deep breath and move

Focus on the moment right now and take a deep breath. Really concentrate on your own breathing to calm yourself down. If possible, move. Maybe you can go for a walk? If not, do some stretches or move slowly in the room you are in right now. Maybe you can open a window and let some fresh air on your face? It can also help you feel refreshed to drink some water or let cool water from the sink run over your hands. Movements can relax your body and when you really focus on your breathing, this can help you calm your anxious thoughts.

3. Distract yourself

I do not want to advise you to run away from your problems or slack at work, but sometimes when it is possible for you to distract yourself, you should do exactly that. Instead of overthinking a situation or get caught up in negative thoughts that cause you anxiety, distract yourself. Focus on some nice entertainment with a book or movie for a while. Listen to some really good music. But keep it positive. Now is not the time to subject yourself to depressing art or listen to the kind of music that even if you are not feeling anxious, can make you feel sad. Even if you might not feel like it right away, try something uplifting and funny instead.

4. Calming techniques

Find out what it is that makes you feel calm and relaxed. Maybe you like to exercise, go for runs or do yoga? Or you like to take a short nap to really relax after a long or stressful day? Or you cuddle on the couch with a mug of your favorite tea or coffee and light a candle? Or dance to your favorite music? Or soak in the bathtub? Whatever it is that calms you down, try doing that right now. Just do something that makes you feel better.

5. Slow down

Maybe it is the speed of it all that is getting to you? Everything can feel like too much in too little time and we feel overwhelmed which leads to anxiety. Whatever the circumstances of your anxiety are, try to take things slow and take a short break. Most of the time things are not as urgent or vitally important as we make them be. Not everything is really important. And nearly nothing is as important that it should cause you that much stress that it leads to anxiety. Slow down wherever and whenever possible as soon as you feel really overwhelmed or anxious. Sometimes all that is needed for anxiety relief is a five minute break from what you are currently doing.

6. Expectations and perfectionism

Sometimes we can be our own harshest critics. When you feel better again you should really consider to what extent you yourself are causing your anxiety by examining your own expectations you have for yourself and your perfectionism. Maybe you are too hard on yourself and that causes you stress? Do you cut yourself some slack? In life most things work out differently than we expect them to and if you are too hard on yourself, things get even more complicated. Try to avoid perfectionism and remember that you deserve to be happy! Do not expect too much from yourself all the time.

7. Positive thinking and self- talk

Positive thinking can be a real game changer. If you try to stay positive, keep calm and take situations not too seriously you take a lot of stress from your own shoulders. Try to see the positive aspect of things and put things into perspective. If you catch yourself worrying or thinking negatively, make a conscious effort to think positive thoughts and give yourself an internal motivational speech if needed. This may sound crazy to you, but it can really help in some situations!

8. Shift your focus

This goes hand in hand with the points I mentioned before: positive thinking and distracting yourself. You can actively try to shift your focus! Look at what is going right for you in this moment. Call it counting your blessings or just realizing what you got going for yourself. Diminish the negative arguments in your head one by one. The more you think to yourself that you will get through this, and that you can do this, the more you will be able to shift your thinking away from the negative thoughts and to something else.

9. Find the stress culprits

This is another thing to do, once you are not anxious and stressed out anymore. Reflect about all the things that cause you anxiety and stress and try to come up with solutions to these problems or find ways of dealing with them before you are completely overwhelmed with anxiety. Maybe there are things you can do to prevent yourself from feeling so bad? Maybe there are some changes to your life that you can make that will benefit your own well-being? Take inventory of all your stress culprits. If you cannot change a situation entirely, maybe you can make it better manageable somehow, maybe also by asking others for help? Or sometimes you can overthink your own view of a situation and change your attitude or expectations towards it. It can also help to realize that some things are not as important as we initially thought or to focus on the fact that some things are only temporary. Other times we might realize that we should leave situations or even friendships behind if they continuously upset us.

10. Relaxation and prevention

Chances are that if you suffer from anxiety that you feel overwhelmed by something. Stress is a main factor when it comes to anxiety. If you try to squeeze as much relaxation and wellness into your schedule as possible, you will soon notice that it will help you feel better. Relaxation has a lot of benefits and when it comes to manage feelings of stress and anxiety it seems to be one of the keys to change things for the better.

So I can only give you the advice to make relaxation and your own feeling of happiness and content a bigger priority in your life. When you make time for relaxation you can prevent at least some of the stress and anxiety from forming roots and  the wellness factor of your day to day life will increase.

Remember that if you suffer from anxiety and it all becomes too much for you to handle, you are not alone. Please look for help. Talk to a friend or go see your doctor about it. Sometimes you need to get to the root of this problem and if your feelings of anxiety become permanent or you suffer from them on a regular basis, get medical treatment for anxiety relief. I really hope you feel better soon!

Photography: Sunset Girl / Unsplash



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