7 Ways to Manage Your Anxiety
More and more 20 somethings walk into my office complaining of symptoms of anxiety and stress. No one ever says “I’m anxious.” Usually what I hear is “I can’t sleep”, “I can’t concentrate on anything,” or “I feel scattered and overwhelmed.” These are all symptoms of anxiety, which can make anyone feel like they have no control over their emotions.
Which makes me ask the question – when did we all get so anxious? Anxiety is your body’s natural response to danger, it’s an alarm that goes off when you feel threatened, under pressure, or are facing a stressful situation. Anxiety in moderation is a good thing. It is what motivates us to wake up in the morning and go to work for fear of losing our job and not being able to pay our bills. Anxiety prompts us to run across the street to avoid traffic. Anxiety is no longer “a good thing” when it becomes unmanageable and you can no longer enjoy the positive aspects of your life.
There are several reasons why we are all feeling so anxious these days. Technology keeps us connected to work, friends and family all day, every day. There is a certain amount of anxiety we feel when we check our work email only to see a message about a project we need to start working on or an issue that has to be addressed first thing in the morning. The ability to always be connected, especially in regards to work, keeps us in “work mode” even when we are home and should be enjoying the evening. It keeps our minds somewhere else and rarely in the present moment.
Between the homepage of Yahoo, your Facebook and twitter feeds, the TV, the radio, and the streaming videos at the gas stations and coffee shops, we all take in a lot of information every day. At this point I don’t even notice most of it anymore but I do notice that my mind is constantly moving. One minute I’m sad about a headline about an abandoned dog, the next minute I’m laughing at a video of a cute baby. The constant updates and streams of information are making us stressed out and anxious.
Anxiety is about control, primarily the lack of control.
We feel most anxious when we are faced with situations and problems that feel uncontrollable. So what can you do about it?
The 7 best ways to manage and control your stress and anxiety:
- Notice what triggers your anxiety. Awareness is the first step to change. The best way to address your anxiety is to determine what it is making you feel “out of control.” The more you understand about your anxiety and what is and what is not within your control you will begin to feel…in control. Notice what sets your anxiety in motion and begin to identify and name the triggers of your anxiety.
- Just Breathe. It’s hard to believe that something we do all day long is the one thing that can best treat our anxiety. Most people believe that they need to set aside large amounts of time and space to practice relaxation breathing. I suggest to my clients to start with 2 minutes a day of deep breathing in a quiet space. If you start with a length of time that feels doable you are more likely to follow through.
- Take care of your body. Caffeine and alcohol increase anxiety. Getting sleep at night and exercising regularly will lower your anxiety.
- Challenge worrisome thinking. When we start to worry we tend to use words like, “always,” “never” and “every time.” Our worry makes us think in absolutes. Think the worry through. Just because you think something doesn’t mean that the thought is true.
- Write down your worries. When you experience anxiety take some time to write down your worries. Sometimes when we see our worries written down we can begin to see that they are not as overwhelming as we thought. Writing the worry down will allow you to start to develop a plan to address any worry that is within your control.
- Create an anxiety worry period. Allow yourself one or two 10 minute “worry periods” each day. This is your time to devote to anxiety. During your worry period, focus only on your anxious thoughts without judgment. The challenge is that for the rest of the day you are not allowed to worry. When your anxious thoughts come into your head you can write them down and “postpone” them to your worry period.
- Accept uncertainty. Worrying about all the things that could go wrong doesn’t make life any more predictable. It only keeps you from enjoying your life. Learn to accept uncertainty and recognize that sometimes there are not always immediate solutions to life’s problems.
There may be times when you try these techniques and none of them can ease your anxiety. That’s OK.
There will be days when lessening your stress will feel easy and there will be days when it feels overwhelming.
The key is recognizing that no one is immune to stress and worrisome thoughts; that is what is out of your control. What is in your control is finding ways to manage stressful thoughts and situations in healthy ways.
If you think that therapy or coaching would help you build these healthier habits for managing anxiety and stress, schedule a consult to see if we’re a good fit!