Today I will list small things you can do to deal with anxiety. This is not a list of how to cure or eliminate anxiety. Rather they are suggestions that can make a small change which, very often, is all you need to shift a mood or perspective.
Anxiety is a normal, predictable part of life. Everyone suffers from it to some degree while many suffer to an extreme degree. Anxiety can be a life-long companion and many people do not know what it is like to be anxiety-free. Some people experience excessive anxiety about real-life concerns, such as money, relationships, health and academics, he said. Others struggle with worry about being evaluated negatively by people. Others suffer from phobias or panic attacks. Still others have a vague non-descript anxiety with them all the time.
Whatever form of anxiety you experience you can take small, effective, and straightforward steps every day to manage and minimize your anxiety. Most of these steps contribute to a healthy and fulfilling life, overall. Here are 13 small things you can do that can make a small difference. Very often a small change is all you need.
1. Breather deeply.
Deep breathing triggers a relaxation response. Inhale slowly to a count of four, starting at your belly and then moving into your chest. Gently hold your breath for four counts. Then slowly exhale to four counts.
One of the most important things one can do to cope with anxiety is to get regular cardiovascular exercise. For instance, a brisk 30 minute walk releases endorphins that lead to a reduction in anxiety. You can start today by taking a walk.
3. Get up earlier and walk and then go to bed earlier and sleep.
Not getting enough sleep can trigger anxiety. If you’re having trouble sleeping, tonight, engage in a relaxing activity before bedtime, such as taking a warm bath, listening to soothing music or taking several deep breaths.
4. Write down on a sheet of paper what you are worried or anxious about.
That is all. When you write something down on a piece of paper and look at it, its importance diminishes. The if you are going to worry about them give them 15 minutes during the day when they get your full attention on the understanding that you will not give it your attention again until tomorrow.
5. Challenge an anxious thought.
We all have moments wherein we unintentionally increase our own worry by thinking unhelpful thoughts. These thoughts are often unrealistic, inaccurate, or, to some extent, unreasonable. Thankfully, we can change these thoughts. Unhelpful thoughts usually come in the form of “what if,” “black and white thinking,” or “imagining the worst case scenario.” Most of the time your worry is not realistic, is unlikely to happen, and is, in any case, something you can cope with. If you are going to worry, make sure it is reasonable!
6. Don’t trust your feelings:
If you feel anxious or worried do not trust it. If you feel something bad is going to happen - realise that it won’t. Anxiety creates an illusion that you fall for. It’s a magic trick that you keep falling for. Counter your naïveté by believing this: “If I feel anxious that means everything is going to be fine!”
6. Go out with friends.
Social support is vital to managing stress. Talking with others can do a world of good.
7. Avoid coffee.
Managing anxiety is as much about what you do as what you don’t do. And there are some substances that exacerbate anxiety. Coffee is one of those substances. The last thing people with anxiety need is a substance that makes them feel more amped up, which is exactly what coffee does.
8. Stop drinking.
While alcohol might help to reduce anxiety in the short term, it often do just the opposite in the long term. Even the short-term effect can be harmful.
9. Read a Novel.
Engaging in enjoyable activities helps to soothe your anxiety. For instance, today, you might start a good novel.
11. Do something small about your worry.
Most people worry and ruminate but do very little. Doing anything, no matter how small, can cause a big change. If you are worried about your sister, then ring her. If you are worried about your finances, cancel some subscription or figure out a way to save €10 euro a month.
12. Accept your anxiety.
If you really want to effectively manage your anxiety, the key is to accept it. Anxiety in and of itself isn’t the real problem. Instead, it’s our attempts at controlling and eliminating it. Trying not to have problems actually causes them!
13. Re-name it.
Do not call it worry or anxiety – give it a better name. Call it what it is: “Catastrophising”. When talking to your husband or friend say something like: “I am addicted to catastrophic thinking”. It can help you lighten-up a little bit. Poke fun at yourself. Say to your partner “Excuse me, but I need to go to the sitting room for my fix of catastrophic thinking. I’ll be back in 20 minutes. If I look worse then its working! Keep the coffee coming!”
Are you anxious or are you depressed? In the world of mental health care, anxiety and depression are regarded as two distinct disorders. But in the world of real people, many suffer from both conditions. In fact, most mood disorders are a combination of anxiety and depression. Surveys show that 60-70% of those with depression also have anxiety. And half of those with chronic anxiety also have clinically significant symptoms of depression.
The coexistence of anxiety and depression carries some serious repercussions. It makes them more chronic, it impairs functioning at work and in relationships more, and it substantially raises suicide risk.
In truth, depression and anxiety are two sides of the same coin. Researchers suggest that what goes on in the brain and body are very similar. It just seems that some people with the vulnerability to mood problems react with anxiety and some people, in addition, go beyond that to become depressed.
People with depression tend to close down - it is a form of shutdown. Anxiety, on the other hand, is a kind of looking to the future, seeing dangerous things that might happen in the next hour, day, or weeks. Depression is all of that with the addition of 'I really don't think I'm going to be able to cope with this, maybe I'll just give up. It's shutdown with mental or physical slowing.
Research suggests that the stress response over-reacts to situations causing anxiety and depressiveness. Negative things then tend to cause a disproportionate impact and response.
You may identify with this inability to have a proportional response to situations. You may be awake at night worrying about the smallest of things, or you may feel very downcast because some small thing did not go your way. When something makes you anxious you may worry about it for a while but then begin to feel despondent that things are ever going to change.
Psychologists often have difficulty distinguishing anxiety from depression. The things that work best for depression also combat anxiety.
Who is at risk for combined anxiety and depression? There's definitely a family component. Looking at what disorders show up in your family history provides a clue to whether you will end up with both. If you have a lot of depression or anxiety in your family tree chances are your susceptible yourself.
The nature of the anxiety also has an influence on how depressed you feel. Obsessive-compulsiveness, panic attacks, and social anxiety are particularly associated with depression as there is often no relief from the worry.
Age plays a role, too. A person who develops anxiety for the first time after age 40 is likely also to have depression. Someone who develops panic attacks for the first time at age 50 often has a history of depression or is experiencing depression at the same time.
Usually, anxiety precedes depression, typically by several years. Currently, the average age of onset of anxiety is late childhood/early adolescence. This actually presents an opportunity for the prevention of depression, as the average age of first onset of depression is now mid-20s. A young person is not likely to outgrow anxiety unless he/she learns some mental skills. But dealing with anxiety when it first appears can prevent the subsequent development of depression.
The cornerstone of anxiety and depression is overestimating the risk in a situation and underestimating personal resources for coping. Those vulnerable see lots of risk in everyday things-applying for a job, asking for a favour, asking for a date. They also doubt that they have the abilities to deal with these situations and can withdraw.
Further, anxiety and depression share an avoidant coping style. Sufferers avoid what they fear instead of developing the skills to handle the kinds of situations that make them uncomfortable.
Often enough a lack of social skills is at the root. In fact the link between social phobia and depression is dramatic. It often affects young people who can't go out, can't date, don't have friends. They're very isolated, all alone, and feel cut off.
A simple question to ask yourself if you are suffering from anxiety/depression is “ What am I avoiding?” “What do I need to do with my life, my marriage, or my work that I have really been avoiding doing? What decision may I be avoiding that leaves me desperately worried or gloomy?”
Whatever the situation, the twin problems of anxiety and depression can become very debilitating as you feel increasingly helpless to do something about the problems you worry about. So you go around in circles and find it very difficult to create positive momentum with your life. The best thing you can do for now is to tell someone, to admit to your problem and to your helplessness. To give it a name. To get help. To help yourself.
"My 8-year-old child seems to suffer from anxiety or panic attacks. We are a relatively normal family. He has always been a somewhat anxious child but these anxiety attacks are more frequent in the morning before going to school or when my husband and myself have to go out at night. What might be going on?"
Very often people will say of a child “he or she is just looking for attention”. I have rarely found this to be the case. More often than not the child has no interest in attention, but rather is looking for control and influence. You will typically find that the child who is supposedly looking for attention is in fact getting an abundance of it.
A fascinating thing about anxiety and panic for children is that very often, though not always, they are really mechanisms to establish and assess control in certain relationships. The child is often assessing both his own self-control and his parents control over him. Many a parent will be flabbergasted to see their school-phobic child trot off happily to school when a grandmother or auntie is minding him! This is because that mechanism of assessing CONTROL is not established with the minder.
As I indicated above, a child may have too much control and influence or too little. Often a child is well able to manage his or her anxiety but provokes and tests the parent’s ability to recognise it. The over-anxious parent will find it hard to do this, and so the child displays even more anxiety. You will rarely find an anxious child with an under-involved parent because those children quickly learn to manage themselves because they are left to themselves. Invariably, the parent is on the side of being over-involved or over-concerned, which can create a merry-go-round of anxiety. Sometimes a child needs to be held and encouraged and loved. Other times he needs a tough-loving coach who kicks him onto the field, knowing he can do it.
Dr. Colm O'Connor is a Cork Psychologist. You can find more articles by Dr. O'Connor in the Evening Echo every Wednesday.