Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States, striking over 40 million American adults each year. If you suffer from anxiety, you understand the overwhelming pull it may have on your life. Fortunately, there are simple steps to take to learn to manage your illness.
Read on to learn more about anxiety, the symptoms, and triggers and get tips on how you can overcome your anxiety.
What Is Anxiety?
Occasional anxiety is normal and may trigger feelings of worry or nervousness. It may strike when you face a new situation, a problem at work, or a test at school. However, when the fear or panic becomes more than temporary or will not go away, you may have an anxiety disorder.
There are several types of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and phobias. Regardless of the type, the most common anxiety symptoms include:
- Difficulty focusing
- Excessive fear
- Sleep problems
- Shortness of breath
- Racing heart
- Muscle tension
Anxiety may be caused by a mental health condition, physical problem, drugs or medications, or a combination of these. Genetic and environmental factors may increase your risk of developing an anxiety disorder. These factors include:
- Character traits such as shyness
- Negative life events in childhood or early adulthood
- Family history of anxiety or mental illness
- Illicit drug use
- Physical conditions such as heart arrhythmias or thyroid conditions
How to Beat Anxiety
When symptoms of anxiety strike, there are steps you can take to manage your anxiety so it doesn’t control your life. The following tips can help you reframe your thinking so that you work with your anxiety rather than against it.
1. Accept It
Many patients who suffer from anxiety or panic attacks try to hide their symptoms. This only perpetuates the feeling that something is wrong with you or that it is your fault. Anxiety is not your fault and is not something you need to hide. You are a good person, who, like millions of others, simply has anxiety.
Acknowledging your feelings of anxiety is a huge step toward managing your condition and feeling better. Facing the truth can be empowering because now you are ready to name the problem and find a solution. By reframing your thinking and how you view your anxiety, you develop a better understanding of the causes or what it may be trying to tell you.
For example, your anxiety may help you balance work and life by making you aware of a stressful work environment. It may also be related to your excitement or sense of danger.
By acknowledging that you experience stress and anxiety from time to time you are closer to understanding your condition.
2. Learn Coping Strategies
Once you have accepted your anxiety diagnosis, you can practice coping strategies.
If your anxiety is quick, short-lived, or based around a specific event, you may notice that your feelings of anxiety dissipate once the event passes. For these situations, you may try deep breathing exercises, aromatherapy, yoga, walking, taking a time out, or writing down your thoughts.
However, if feeling anxious is a regular part of your life, you must identify the triggers or causes. Then, you can learn to cope. Possible coping strategies may include:
- Practicing daily meditation
- Altering your diet
- Limiting alcohol or caffeine
- Using supplements
- Changing negative thought patterns with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Asking your mental health provider about medication
3. Discover Your Self-Worth through Power Language
Oftentimes, people focus on the negatives rather than looking for the positives in their lives. They may tend to use negative words (ex. can’t, never, always) and become the “victim.” This terminology perpetuates your anxiety and fear.
Take back the power in your life. Look around you and you may see hidden positives that you have overlooked. Replace negative words with positive phrases. For example, “I can’t” becomes “I’m learning to” or “I can.”
Regularly practicing your power language helps you create healthy life strategies and is another step toward overcoming your anxiety.
4. Practice Relaxation Techniques
People with anxiety are often told to just relax or calm down. That can be easier said than done. However, like the coping strategies above, practicing relaxation techniques can help relieve your symptoms of stress and anxiety. Relaxation strategies address anxiety from within the body by reducing muscle tension, slowing breathing, and decreasing your heart rate.
Relaxation techniques should be used as a daily exercise to calm your body over time but also during times of distress to prevent avoidance of a stressful situation. These strategies may include:
- Mind-based relaxation – mindfulness exercises, meditation, prayer, body awareness exercises
- Body relaxation – slow diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, massage
- Soothing activities – aromatherapy, nature walks, calming music, visualization exercises
5. Plan Instead of Worrying
We plan out our days, weeks, months. We plan our meals, our activities, and our routines. Taking care of ourselves becomes automatic. We schedule our lives.
However, even from an early age, we learn to worry. The problem comes in determining what to plan for and when to worry. Oftentimes, we plan when we feel in control and worry when things are out of our control. People with anxiety are excellent worriers which only worsens the feelings of panic.
No matter how out of control a situation may be, worrying will not help, but crafting a plan of action will. It is another way to put yourself in the driver’s seat and take control. When a problem comes up that was not in your daily plan or schedule, step back and evaluate it. Look for a solution and create a step-by-step plan to overcome the problem.
6. Ask for Help
If you are overwhelmed by anxiety, it may be time to seek professional help. Too often people with anxiety suffer in silence. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a step toward taking back control of your life.
Instead of feeding your anxiety and putting off getting help, realize that now is the time to conquer your anxiety.
Anxiety must be diagnosed by a mental health professional. Treatment plans are customized based on the individual patient’s needs.
Anxiety Treatment with Focus Clinic
The overwhelming fear, stress, and worry that come with anxiety can seriously impact your daily life and your overall wellness.
At Focus Clinic, our goal is to help you thrive! Our board-certified mental health providers specialize in anxiety, depression, and adult ADHD treatment. We offer online anxiety treatment in San Francisco and throughout California.