We’re all looking for ways to manage anxiety.
That is, 40 million of us are. That’s about how many people suffer from anxiety in the United States in a given year.
“Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important.” —Natalie Goldberg
Anxiety is a liar. It would have us believe that every negative thought that pops into our head is an emergency, and our bodies are simply not equipped to deal with that. It puts you in a physical and emotional tailspin over the smallest things.
I hate anxiety. There are a lot of amazingly inspirational people who can find a silver lining in their illness. And maybe one day I will get there. But just to be totally transparent, anxiety is the most odious mental health symptom that I live with.
It’s like a tiny dictator that lives inside your brain. It makes you think and act a certain way, and gaslights you constantly.
Luckily, there is hope. While there is no known cure for anxiety, there are ways you can live a fulfilling life. You can have a good relationship. You can be successful at work. It just takes diligence.
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Also, I am not a doctor or mental health professional. Just someone who has lived with anxiety for many years who is passionate about sharing her experiences and tips for success. If you are in crisis call your doctor, then click here for some good mental health resources.
What is anxiety?
According to Healthline, anxiety is “your body’s natural response to stress. It’s a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come. The first day of school, going to a job interview, or giving a speech may cause most people to feel fearful and nervous. But if your feelings of anxiety are extreme, last for longer than six months, and are interfering with your life, you may have an anxiety disorder.”
So, by their definition, feelings of anxiety are completely normal! It is normal to feel nervous before an interview. Or butterflies in your stomach before a first date. It is when it begins to interfere with your life, and do not go away, that you might need to seek treatment for an anxiety disorder.
There are different types of anxiety disorders to be aware of. People might have symptoms of just one, or more than one, depending on their circumstances.
This is, as is probably obvious by the name, just a general feeling of anxiety. It may or may not have specific triggers. This is pretty much what I have. Constant feelings of dread that don’t really stem from any particular experience.
People with social anxiety are uncomfortable in crowds, or even more intimate social settings. Sometimes even having a single friend over to hang out is enough to send their anxiety in a tailspin. I definitely have this. I always need a day or two to recharge after spending time with loved ones.
Someone who lives with phobia related anxiety feels anxious when around certain stimuli. For me, it is heights and snakes. I feel visceral reactions when I drive over a bridge or see a python on TV. It makes my thoughts race and I have to close my eyes or do intense affirmations.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is a disease that centers around obsessive thinking and the performance of compulsive behaviors. These individuals often worry about something like, “Did I really shut the gas off on the stove?” and might re-enter their house multiple times to check.
PTSD/other trauma related anxieties
This form of anxiety is centered around a memory, or series of memories, that was traumatic. I won’t list examples to reduce the risk of triggering a reader, but there are a lot of situations that could elicit a trauma response in someone.
With this disorder, people regularly experience actual panic. Someone with generalized anxiety like me, might rarely or never have a panic attack. It just depends on the person. People with panic disorder have anxiety that more often evolves into a panicked state that they can’t shake.
I hope I didn’t miss one, but hopefully this goes to show how widespread anxiety symptoms are. It affects 40 million adults in the US per year, and as you can see, cannot even be confined to one category.
Tips for anxiety
There are a lot of tips for anxiety that I have found helpful. It’s not a perfect system, and you will never not have anxiety. I always say if they come up with a magical shot or surgery, I will be first in line! But in the meantime, all we can do is try to tweak our lifestyle habits to give our brain the best chance of staying stable and happy.
This. Exercise is vital for our physical and emotional well-being. It releases chemicals in our brain that help balance our moods, and it instills a feeling of self-confidence. I know it can be hard to exercise when you are emotionally unwell, but if you start slow, even 10-15 minutes a few days a week, you might notice a difference.
Eat healthy foods
Guys, I love sugar. However, I know it is terrible for me, and I’m going to begin working toward drastically reducing how much of it I consume. The better food choices you make, the better you tend to feel physically and emotionally. If you live with chronic mood issues, I would monitor sugar, alcohol, and caffeine.
Drink plenty of water
This is another one I am super bad at by nature. For some, drinking a lot of water is easy. For others, it takes more effort to cultivate that habit. I have found electrolyte/hydration multiplier packets to be helpful. They also have a pleasant flavor, which makes drinking the water more palatable.
Get adequate sleep
Quality sleep is really so beneficial for you. It’s imperative that you find a way to get on a good sleep routine. Whether it’s meditating or a relaxing bath before bed, or tweaking your bed time, or trying a change in medication, do what you have to do.
For some people, it helps to avoid the things that trigger their anxiety. Anxiety can be so individual, that different things will work for different people. Before you shy away from certain experiences or situations, take an honest emotional inventory about whether or not the avoidance is actually helping.
Don’t avoid triggers
For others, it helps to slowly be able to confront their triggers. They feel confidence building as they force themselves to, using myself as an example, drive over bridges more often. This is the case for me. For me, avoidance tends to make things worse.
Journaling is a really helpful practice for anyone with mental health issues. It is a great way to get negative thoughts out of your head and start to make sense of them. I think it really helps to actually see the things you are thinking on paper, in black and white. It can shine a light on how ridiculous a lot of them are.
Speak up about how you feel
You will never get better if you don’t actually admit that you are unwell. Living a life of “Oh, everything’s fine” when clearly your life is in shambles is only going to make things worse. You have to learn to view your life through an objective lens, and find someone you can confide in about your mental health.
Get adequate self care
This is a necessity for all adults. We all need to do things that make us feel good on a daily basis. There’s a lot of info about self care out there, and not all of it’s good. Just pay attention to the little things that lift your spirits, and make sure to practice them daily. For me, it is alone time after a long day caring for my children (and my work at home spouse.)
Recap of anxiety series.
I hope you enjoyed this series about anxiety and found the information useful. To catch up on previous installments, check out this handy list
Don’t let living with anxiety ruin your life.
Remember, you can live a wonderful life even if you have anxiety. You can be happy and well-adjusted. Just be kind to yourself, and one of these ways to manage anxiety above. Start with one and try it for 30 days, then you can start to incorporate other ones in.
It is a marathon, not a sprint, but there is hope.
What are your favorite anxiety busting tips? Please share in the comments, and don’t forget to share the article!