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!”
Dr. Colm O'Connor is a Cork Psychologist. He has written hundreds of articles on family psychology - some posted here.