10 Tips for Living With Anxiety
- The Path to Managing Anxiety SymptomsAnxiety symptoms, like restlessness, excessive worrying, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, sweating, insomnia, and more, can slowly creep up on you, or they can take you by surprise. Some people experience a low, but near-constant feeling of anxiety. Others may experience crippling anxiety attacks in response to a stressor or trigger. Whichever way you feel anxiety, it’s better to address the problem head-on than suffer in silence. Consider these tips that others with anxiety have found helpful.
- 1. Acknowledge and talk about your anxiety.Many people who are anxious feel alone or that they shouldn’t be feeling the way they feel. But our brain doesn’t work that way—anxiety doesn’t have a simple on and off switch. It’s what we do about the racing thoughts and feelings that counts. Acknowledge your symptoms and what may be causing them. Whether you speak to a close friend or seek help from a therapist, talking about the anxiety allows you to acknowledge that there’s a problem, which is the first step in managing it.
- 2. Get a medical check-up.We all know what it feels like to be anxious. An exam in school, a job interview, relationship stresses, and so much more can trigger anxiety. But if you are feeling anxious and you can’t pinpoint the cause, it could be due to a medical condition, such as hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), Lyme disease, vitamin deficiency (particularly B12) or even head trauma like a concussion. Some drinks, including energy drinks, can cause symptoms of an anxiety attack, and there are some medications and natural or herbal supplements that can also cause anxiety symptoms. Tell your healthcare provider all the medicines, vitamins and supplements you take so she has a full picture of your health history.
- 3. Make some lifestyle changes.Some people with anxiety can manage anxiety-provoking factors by making lifestyle changes. For example, if your symptoms occur in response to financial insecurity, meeting with a financial expert may paint a clearer picture and help you regain control of your money. Clear your diet of junk food, particularly sweets, and limit alcohol and caffeine consumption, all of which can worsen anxiety symptoms. Try to exercise regularly because exercise increases endorphins—chemicals in the brain that improve mood and a sense of well-being. Exercise also helps take your mind off the anxiety.
- 4. Meditate, or try mindfulness and deep breathing.Meditation and mindfulness can help you center yourself by focusing on deep breathing and relaxation. If you’re not sure how to meditate, work with a therapist who can guide you through the process. With meditation, you work towards focusing your thoughts (or no thoughts), blocking out irrelevant ones. You might focus on breathing in and out, ignoring everything else. Yoga is a form of meditation, as is tai chi. It takes practice. When you’re in a situation where you can’t meditate, try taking deep breaths and count to 10 slowly.
Mindfulness is a state of awareness of whatever you are doing, thinking, smelling, hearing and feeling—literally. You don’t block out the senses; rather, you acknowledge they exist without judgement. You practice being in the present.
- 5. Consider counseling.Speaking to an objective person about your anxiety symptoms can be helpful. Whether you choose to see a psychologist or a counselor, talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you identify intrusive, unhealthy or unrealistic thoughts and turn them around. The counselor teaches you how to replace those thoughts with healthy ones, which helps you better manage the situation. Some people may refer to the practice as healthy ‘self-talk.’ CBT can help anyone, even people who don’t have anxiety or an anxiety diagnosis, but it is especially suited for those situations when anxiety symptoms creep in. Your therapist may offer other types of treatments as well, such as tapping, exposure therapy, and more.
- 6. Anti-anxiety medicines may help as well.Some people are resistant to trying an anti-anxiety medicine, but they can be helpful if anxiety is affecting the way you live your life. There are two approaches—short-term and long-term—but treatment is rarely medication alone. For best results, try counseling alongside an anxiety medicine. Short-term medications can help you feel strong enough to cope and use the skills you’re learning to manage your anxiety. Once you are more in control of your thoughts, you and your doctor can develop a plan to wean you off the medicine. Sometimes, doctors use antidepressants to manage anxiety.
- 7. Try to identify your triggers.Try to identify events or times that seem to trigger or worsen your anxiety. For some people, it’s finances; for others, it’s meeting up with new people, workplace activities, driving on a highway, flying, or even witnessing a stressful event. A therapist can help you identify your triggers. After you identify a specific issue or a pattern, you use your CBT (or other) skills when you are in that situation again.
- 8. Get a consistent amount of sleep.Sleeping amidst anxiety may not be easy, but it’s essential. Lack of sleep makes you vulnerable to becoming more anxious and this, in turn, may make it hard to sleep. It becomes a vicious cycle. Try to develop a regular nighttime routine, such as a set bedtime, limiting electronics or anything stimulating before bed, making your bedroom as cozy as possible, and using your bedroom for sleep or sexual activity only. These habits may increase your ability to fall and stay asleep. If you struggle with sleep, tell your doctor or counselor. A doctor can prescribe a sleeping pill if necessary, and the counselor can teach you effective ‘sleep hygiene’ practices.
- 9. Keep a journal.There are different ways to keep a journal: You can use a paper and pen or your computer, write pages of notes or simple sentences outlining your thoughts. A gratitude journal—where every day you write a certain number of good things or things you are grateful for—can also help you work on your mindset. When we are anxious, we tend to gloss over the good things that have happened and focus on what is making us feel bad. By writing down something good on a regular basis, you can train your brain to balance the good and the bad.
- 10. Cut yourself some slack.Be good to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up because you feel anxious. Don’t feel that you ‘must’ be able to cope, that you shouldn’t feel stressed or anxious. Allow yourself to feel your emotions and accept that you can’t change everything. What’s more, when you can change something, it probably won’t happen overnight. The first step in managing anxiety is recognizing it and doing something about it. Getting help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
10 Tips for Living With Anxiety | Managing Anxiety Symptoms