Anxiety is a beast. It can feel overwhelming and debilitating, like you’re in a fog of never-ending unease and restlessness, making it difficult to move forward. But don’t despair: There are ways to take control of your anxiety and calm it down, so you can start living the life you want.
It’s not always easy—it will take time and practice—but these techniques can help you get started on the road to mastering your anxiety. The key is finding strategies that work for you—ones that resonate with you and your lifestyle. Let’s explore some of the best methods for calming anxiety, but remember, the only way to know what works for you is to practice and try things out for yourself. Ready? Let’s get started!
Understand Your Anxiety
Anxiety is a natural emotion—and it’s important to acknowledge that. Taking the time to understand and recognize your anxiety goes a long way in helping you manage it.
The first step is to understand what triggers your anxiety episodes: what makes you feel anxious enough to disrupt your day or affect your work or relationships? Is it a particular situation or person? Understanding the source of the problem can help you come up with solutions.
Next, figure out how your body responds when you are feeling anxious. Do you get butterflies in your stomach? Notice a racing heart? Do you have difficulty breathing? Making a note of the physical symptoms of anxiety will help you recognize when an anxiety episode is about to begin so that you can manage it before it takes control of your life.
Recognizing and understanding your anxiety allows you to work on managing it effectively and proactively. Acknowledging that feeling anxious is normal and ensuring that you’re taking steps toward understanding and controlling it will help reduce the severity and frequency of future episodes.
Change Your Thinking Patterns
We all know that the way we think affects how we feel, and this is especially true when it comes to anxiety. Taking control of your thinking patterns is one of the most powerful things you can do to calm your anxiety.
Here are a few techniques you can use to change your thinking patterns and take back control of your mind:
- Acknowledge Automatic Thoughts – Recognizing negative thoughts as they happen, acknowledging them, and then reframing them in a more positive light is an effective way to reduce the power of the idea.
- Develop Positive Affirmations – Positive affirmations are short, positive statements that you can use to combat negative thoughts and boost your self-esteem. Writing these affirmations down and repeating them regularly can help you improve your self-talk.
- Question Your Thoughts – Taking a step back from anxious thoughts and questioning their validity can help you realize that they may not be genuine or helpful. Ask yourself if what you’re thinking is rational, based on fact, fear-based or unsubstantiated speculation.
By changing the way you think about anxiety, you can gain more control over it and significantly reduce its power over your life.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Anxiety can be incredibly overwhelming, and it can be hard even to know how to start dealing with it. If this sounds like you, practicing relaxation techniques is one of the best things to do.
Relaxation techniques can help you feel calm and give your mind a break from all the racing thoughts. We’re going to cover some of the most common ones:
Deep Breathing Exercises
Focus on your breath and take slow, deep breaths for a few minutes. This will help slow down your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and give your body a chance to de-stress.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
This involves tensing up each muscle group in 5-10 seconds before releasing them. This helps you identify where the tension lives in your body and works to remove it actively.
Picture yourself in a peaceful setting—a beach, by a lake—which can help evoke a sense of calmness and peace so that you can manage anxious thoughts or feelings as they come up.
These are just a few relaxation techniques that can help with anxiety—find out what works best for you! With practice, these methods may become second nature whenever those anxious feelings arise.
Address Problem Areas In Your Life
Do you often feel overwhelmed and like things are spiraling out of control? To gain some sense of order, think about the areas in your life that have caused stress or anxiety. It could be anything from an unhappy relationship to a job you’re not enjoying to unhealthy habits.
Once you know what’s causing your anxiety, plan how to address those issues. That looks like finding a new job, getting help for your relationships or addiction issues, or addressing any underlying health problems. For larger goals like these, break them down into smaller steps you can complete one at a time—they don’t all have to happen overnight.
In addition to taking action on your problem areas, make sure you’re taking care of yourself emotionally and physically, too—which can help relieve some stress and make the process easier. Here are some ideas:
- Sleep enough every night: Aim for 7-8 hours.
- Connect with loved ones: Talking through your challenges can be helpful.
- Exercise: Not only does exercise release endorphins which naturally reduce stress levels, but it also encourages self-care
- Eat healthy foods: Eating nutritious meals helps maintain focus and energy levels.
- Practice mindfulness: Take time each day to practice mindful activities like yoga or meditation
Take Time For Yourself
Carving out time for yourself is essential when it comes to taking control of your anxiety and finding a little peace. Whether it’s a few minutes of meditation each day or just sitting in silence and breathing deeply, taking the time to practice self-care regularly can do wonders for calming your anxiety.
Here are some techniques you can use to take time for yourself:
- Make time for movement. Walking, running, or engaging in a physical activity like yoga or tai chi can let you quiet your mind and better understand the connection between your body and mind.
- Permit yourself to relax. Even if it’s just 10 minutes a day, give yourself permission to do something that relaxes you—listening to music, reading a book, doing an activity that brings joy into your life—or simply curling up in bed with a cup of tea and enjoying the silence.
- Carve out dedicated “me” time during the week for activities that please you, allowing you to focus on yourself so that all those negative feelings can start to fade away.
Making sure you prioritize “me” time is vital when managing your anxiety levels. Not only does it permit you to stop feeling guilty about taking care of yourself, but more importantly, it allows you to nurture balance and ensure that negative feelings don’t completely overwhelm your life.
Seek Professional Help When Necessary
It’s important to remember that anxiety can sometimes be too much to handle on your own, and you may need professional help. Everybody experiences anxiety differently, so always consult a professional before attempting these strategies. A therapist or counselor can provide individualized coaching and teach you how to manage your stress holistically. If you are overwhelmed by anxious thoughts, it might be time to take the next step and book an appointment with a therapist.
Here are some signs that indicate that you should seek professional help for your anxiety:
- Experiencing sudden stress attacks or panic attacks
- Feeling isolated from the world around you
- Using drugs or alcohol to cope with anxiety
- Excessive worrying that’s interfering with your daily life
- Not being able to relax or process new information
- Having difficulty managing emotions and impulses
Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you’re overwhelmed by your anxiety. You don’t have to handle it alone–support is out there!
Anxiety can feel like an ever-present shadow, but the good news is that you can take back control. You can learn to reduce and manage your stress by combining breathing exercises, meditation, and positive affirmations.
Take the time to recognize what is causing your anxiety and adopt strategies to help you gain control. Learn to trust yourself and know that taking back control of your life is possible.
Remember, you are strong, and with the right tools and mindset, you can learn to calm your anxiety and reclaim the power it has stolen from you.
For more information about anxiety and how to control it, we highly recommend this video by Dr Wendy Sukuzi, Neuroscientist
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