11 Tips for Managing Anxiety
You know you're ready, so why are you sweating, trembling, and unable to stop playing out worst-case scenarios in your head? Today could be your most significant professional triumph, but instead, it's turning into a disaster — you need to master how to control anxiety.
Sound familiar? Everyone deals with anxiety occasionally — it's a natural way the body confronts the stresses of everyday life. For some people, that anxiety spirals out of control and takes over – it's called Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD.
If you feel like anxiety is playing too significant a role in your life, it's time to bring it to your doctor's attention. Meanwhile, here are some tips for managing anxiety to help you cope, whether you have GAD or you're facing a big, anxiety-inducing presentation.
1. Make exercise a priority
If you're wondering how to deal with anxiety, you're probably aware that it makes it hard to focus on doing just one thing. But taking the time to exercise — even just a brisk, half-hour walk — can help ease some of your worries. Experts say 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week is optimal. This can help you stay in shape and may calm down the mental chatter causing anxiety.
2. Avoid alcohol and drugs
What triggers anxiety? It may seem like having a few drinks would help calm you down and be less anxious, but long-term, that's not the case. While you may experience short-term relief, drugs and alcohol can exacerbate your anxiety and cause additional problems. If overusing alcohol or recreational drugs like marijuana is a problem for you, talk to your doctor about programs for quitting — you're not alone.
3. Minimize caffeine and smoking
Any good treatment plan for anxiety will suggest that you eliminate caffeine and nicotine from your diet. Even cutting back from, say, three cups of coffee to two per day can help. When it comes to smoking, you're better served by quitting altogether. And there's never a better time than today to do so. Quitting smoking may also lessen anxiety attacks.
4. Consider meditation or stress management techniques
Some people find meditation complicated — but meditation for anxiety relief can be as simple as slowly breathing in and out for a few minutes to calm your mind. Another technique encourages you to visualize your life without anxiety and experience what that would look like. Yoga can be a form of meditation as well. If that all seems like too much, try putting on some quiet music you enjoy and spend a few moments just listening and relaxing.
5. Try the 3-3-3 rule
This mental exercise helps you focus, and it's one of the natural ways to reduce anxiety. Temporarily disrupting your worry cycle centers your mind and calms you. To try it, when you feel yourself spiraling into anxiety, simply name three things you see around you, three sounds you hear, and move three parts of your body.
6. Get enough sleep
Sleep is one of the top coping mechanisms for anxiety. Your body needs 7-9 hours of sleep per night to be well-rested and recharged for a new day. But anxiety can keep you up late. If counting sheep isn't cutting it, another tactic is to imagine all your thoughts written on a whiteboard. As soon as the thought enters your mind, mentally erase it from the whiteboard. Doing this for 5-10 minutes can disrupt the anxiety spiral and help you doze off.
7. Eat healthily
There's no "miracle food" to cure your anxiety, but research increasingly points to a connection between a good diet and lessened anxiety. If you want to reduce anxiety naturally, consider adding some protein to your breakfast and include complex carbohydrates like whole grains in your diet. This increases the amount of serotonin in your brain. Drink lots of water, and try to keep your meals at roughly the same time every day.
8. Understand your triggers
For many individuals living with anxiety, specific experiences trigger anxiety attacks. Understanding these can help you handle them. For example, let's say highway driving makes you over-anxious. You could consider alternate routes or time your travel for when there's less traffic. If you're in a situation where you must drive in high-speed traffic, controlled breathing can help you stay in the moment and avoid panic.
9. Therapy can help
Along with our other tips for dealing with anxiety, don't discount therapy. If your anxiety has reached levels where it's impacting your quality of life, consider therapy with a mental health care professional. They may put you on medication, such as Xanax and Klonopin, which have been proven to help with anxiety. Or, they may recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which teaches you positive ways to handle your anxiety by recognizing and managing anxious thoughts as they come into your head.
10. Build a strong support network
Many people struggle with how to overcome anxiety. Although it may seem that anxiety is something you only experience in your head, it impacts all the people around you. That's why it's good to surround yourself with supportive family and friends, along with medical professionals who understand how to help you. Don't be afraid to tell your loved ones that you're struggling with anxiety – they want to help.
11. Life insurance can alleviate one cause of anxiety
Peace of mind hugely affects stress. If worrying about your family's future is causing you anxiety, one potential method of comfort is to purchase a term life insurance policy to protect them financially in the event you're no longer in the picture.