If you are currently living with anxiety, then you should know that you’re not alone – In fact, experts have named it the most common mental illness in the United States. A term that encompasses a number of different disorders, the severity varies greatly, but many are treatable with professional assistance.
Unfortunately, treatment is a process that can take a great deal of time. If you are currently in the process of working through treatment, or unable to seek professional assistance at this time, there are steps that you can take to help manage the struggles on a daily basis. These are small changes that make it easier for you to face the world in spite of your anxiety, introducing relief and even happiness in your life.
Try these 12 tips to help manage the struggles associated with anxiety:
#1 – Take Your Worries Seriously
Far too often our worries and concerns are met with the phrase ‘it will all be okay’, even if there is no evidence to support this claim to be true. Rather than dismissing your own thoughts, allow yourself to take a moment and seriously assess the worries that you are holding onto. Take the time to consider the likelihood that these worries will actually come true. For example, if you are worried that you are going to fail an exam and haven’t put much study time in, that’s a valid worry and you should take steps to address it. However, worrying every time you step out the door that you are going to be struck by a car isn’t likely to come true. Address those of high probability and let those that are unlikely to go (for now at least).
#2 – Track Your Recovery
If you are actively working to overcome anxiety, take these efforts seriously. Many mental health professionals will suggest journaling during the recovery phase, and it’s for good reason. By writing down how you are feeling, what triggers your anxiety, or what behaviors lead you to various types of thinking you can then look back and discover patterns. Identify not only those negative triggers that set you back (and should be avoided or addressed) but also the positive. These positive patterns may hold the secret to your success. This can be done using an old-fashioned pen and paper style journal, or, in today’s modern day, you could use a phone app.
#3 – Allow Yourself to Be ‘Okay’
One of the worst misconceptions when it comes to dealing with mental health is that you’re either struggling, or you’re doing great. The truth is that while there are certainly days that will fit into these extremes, most days are going to fall somewhere in between. These days, the days that you are ‘just okay’ are a step in the right direction. Don’t feel like it’s not ‘good enough’ because you’re not bragging about sunshine and rainbows – the fact that you’re not struggling means that these days are still a win.
#4 – Plan When Appropriate
While there is no way to plan for every potential situation and outcome in life, that’s what keeps life interesting, there are many areas of your life that you can prepare for in advance. Explore the potential outcomes for your decisions and actions, and you can alleviate the stress and worry associated with the ‘what ifs’ that plague many of us. However, don’t allow yourself to become so ‘prepared’ that you forget about the possibility of the unexpected.
#5 – Focus on Relaxation
One of the biggest struggles that you will face when it comes to your anxiety is the fact that your mind is always on the go. Rather than allowing these overwhelming thoughts to take over your life, try to focus on techniques that will help to calm them. Yoga and meditation both work by helping you to focus on the here and now, quieting the mind and letting go of the past and the future. The great part is that you don’t have to be an expert to start to experience the benefits. There are meditations options for all levels.
#6 – Prepare for the ‘Worst Case Scenario’
This may seem counterproductive for those that are living with anxiety, as the ‘worst case scenario’ often plagues your every thought. However, rather than trying to fight this way of thinking off, why not embrace it? By accepting the reality that the worst-case scenario can happen, you can prepare yourself for this option. That way, whatever happens, you’re capable of handling it. If you do face the worst-case, you’re mentally ready for this reality. However, if it doesn’t go to that extreme, that’s simply a bonus.
#7 – Learn to Embrace the Unknown
Often those who are living with anxiety experience serious fear and concern in regard to the unknown and the uncertain. They long to control everything at all times, but this isn’t realistic. The truth is that life is full of the unknown, it’s full of surprises. Rather than ignoring them, learn to embrace this uncertainty. It’s not going to be easy, and you shouldn’t expect yourself to change overnight. Try letting go of control just a little at a time, easing yourself into it.
#8 – Breathing Exercises
Not overly excited by the idea of meditation? Don’t worry, it’s not for everyone, especially in the beginning. Why not try engaging in some deep breathing exercises to calm your body and your mind. Close your eyes and take a deep breath into your diaphragm, counting slowly to 10, then release this breath slowly to the same count. As you’re doing this, focus solely on your breathing and the count. This can be done anywhere, any time – a technique that you can employ the second that you start to experience signs of anxiety.
#9 – Write Down Your Concerns
If you find that you are unable to sleep because you are plagued with worries and concerns, start a journal. Write down everything that is repeating within your mind so that you can revisit them later. By writing them down, you are promising yourself that you won’t forget them which may just be enough to give you the relief you need at this time. Just don’t forget to follow through on your promise to yourself later.
#10 – Learn to Lean On Others
This can be an incredibly frightening step for many to take, especially if you’re the kind of person that is generally worried about the risk of being hurt. However, there are people in your life who truly love you and wish the best for you. When you’re really struggling, don’t be afraid to ask your friends, family and loved ones for support. If you’re worried about being a burden, remember that these are the people who want to help you work through this. The only thing preventing them from being there for you is YOU.
#11 – Face Your Fears
You don’t have to live with anxiety to feel trapped by a fear in your life. For some, this fear is spiders, heights, clowns or large social settings. Experts who have dedicated their careers to working with people on overcoming these fears reveal that in order to do so, one must be willing to face them. It’s going to involve stepping out of your comfort zone, and it’s not going to be easy. Start small and work your way up. If you are afraid of crowds, for example, try heading to a local café where there’s a small gathering of people and just be there. Relax and enjoy a cup of coffee. Work your way up from there. When you notice that you are developing the ability to manage these situations without allowing your anxiety to take over, it will be more than worth it.
#12 – Get Active
When you exercise, the body releases endorphins, a series of ‘feel-good’ chemicals within the brain that help us to manage stress, reduce physical pain and boost our mood. While you certainly aren’t going to ‘cure’ your anxiety just by hitting the gym for an hour, the result of these chemicals may allow you to experience a short reprieve from your negative thinking patterns. It can also help you to sleep better, as well as providing for an excellent form of release for your anger and frustration.
Image via DeMiked, and altered by Harley Manson