Anxiety is a very common experience for people and can be quite unnerving at times. Typically, the more we expose ourselves to these situations the easier they tend to get. Whereas the more we avoid these things that bring us anxiety the larger the anxiety can get. Although avoidance can feel good in the short term it tends to give more power to the anxiety and prolong its impact. For example, if speaking in public causes anxiety it might be a good idea to practice speaking in front of an audience until it no longer becomes a trigger. You could do this slowly by first speaking in front of your pet, and then maybe your loved one and slowly adding more people to the mix as you increase your comfort level.
When it comes to general anxiety and coping in the moment there are many strategies we can use, here are a few of them:
- For folks who tend to have frequent worry – whether this is about past events or things in the future: Scheduling a worry time. You can schedule a worry time every day on your calendar for 15 minutes or more. Write down all the worries you have during this time in a journal and if you find yourself worrying outside of this time tell yourself to wait to have these thoughts until your next scheduled time. The goal here is to take control of when and where you worry. Reflecting on your journal entries at the end of the week give you more control over your anxieties as opposed to them controlling you.
- Practicing deep breathing exercises. This is another way to combat stress and anxiety. Deep breathing activates your body’s natural relaxation response. This is when your body goes into a deep state of rest, slowing your breathing and heart rate, lowers your blood pressure and brings your body back into balance. Deep breathing can be practiced almost anywhere. All you need to do is sit with your back straight, place your hand on your stomach, breath in through your nose and exhale out of your mouth pushing out as much air as possible. While doing so you should feel your stomach expand and contract ensuring you are getting the deepest breaths possible.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity helps boost the production of endorphins. An increase in the body’s endorphin level can lead to feelings of excitement or happiness. Exercising improves your mood which can give you a feeling of control over your body and a clearer mind. Starting to exercise is the first step, consistently doing it week after week is more difficult. Find a certain activity that you enjoy such as walking, going to the gym, swimming, tennis, etc. and it will be easier to make it part of your regular routine if you enjoy it.
- Getting enough sleep. Our lives can become so busy, sometimes the easiest thing to do is cut out sleep time. Not sleeping enough can have a negative effect on our physical as well as our mental health. Try going to bed at the same time every night to be consistent so your body knows it’s time for bed. Making sure your bedroom is quiet, dark and relaxing can also help you fall asleep quicker.
- Avoid substances. Alcohol, marijuana and other substances alter our brain chemistry and can actually lead to more anxiety. Even though you may feel better in the moment, research is showing the after effects are actually creating more anxiety for folks.
If you’d like to schedule an appointment to go over identifying anxiety or trauma triggers with one of our clinicians, contact Freedom Within today to find a time that works for you.