Anxiety is such a little word. It doesn’t have the clout of the words ‘depression’ or ‘phobia’ – but it can be just as debilitating as both of those things and can make your life a complete misery.
Over 20 million people in America suffer from anxiety or some form of anxiety disorder.
There are many methods of helping to reduce anxiety, such as seeing a therapist, taking medication or undergoing hypnosis. However, those are all potentially pricey options and are not always available. Also, if you suffer from anxiety, actually going to ask for help is something that ironically induces yet more anxiety.
Here are the top ten ways to help with your anxiety attacks. The best news is that you can start trying them today – at no cost!
1. Manage Your Stress Levels
Just admitting that you are feeling more stressed than you can cope with is a good start. We all need a certain amount of stress just to function – but too much can make us physically, mentally and emotionally ill. Obviously, it’s not possible to avoid all stress but it is possible to reduce the levels that you are under. You must find something that helps you to unwind. This could be listening to soothing music, watching a movie that makes you laugh or taking a walk in nature. Whatever it is, it is important for you to do it, so make the time to do this and you will see a gradual lessening in your stress levels.
Anxiety really affects how we breathe. During an anxiety attack, we breathe faster and more shallowly. Ironically, this sets up a chemical ‘vicious circle’ and it makes us breathe even faster and even more shallowly which in turn, makes us more anxious. This is called hyperventilation. So, you have to learn how to break this cycle. As soon as you realize that your breathing is speeding up, focus on it and force yourself to take a few slow, deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. This may take a few tries but stick with it. Your breathing will eventually slow and deepen and your anxiety level will start to drop.
3. See Your Way Out…
This is a technique which is often taught by therapists and it is called visualization. This simply means ‘seeing’ yourself in another setting and another state. It is really just imagination but at a strong level. The next time you start to feel anxious, imagine yourself feeling totally relaxed in a safe, relaxing place – such as lying in the sun on a beautiful tropical beach, or relaxing in a deep, warm bubble bath. It’s a good idea to practice your visualization at a time when you’re not feeling anxious so that it is easy to summon your image when you are. The setting is up to you but make sure it is a situation where you would feel safe and relaxed…and don’t forget to breathe!
4. Learn to Meditate
This is one of the best ways to relax. If you are new to meditation and a little nervous about it, why not buy an audio CD of a ‘guided’ meditation. This is one where a voice tells you what to do, step by step. It is usually spoken over a background of soothing music or sounds, such as waves. Shop around and find one that appeals to you.
Try it out at a time when you know you’re not going to be disturbed. Take the phone off the hook and enjoy! For maximum benefit, try and fit meditation into your daily life. Even ten minutes before you get out of bed in the morning will bring huge results.
5. Relax Your Body
If we feel anxious in our mind – our body follows. If you feel emotionally and mentally tense your body will too. Anxiety tenses the muscles so that you are ready to run! This doesn’t just happen at times of anxiety. Once the feelings of anxiety have gone, the body may still be tensed and on ‘red alert’. Make it part of your routine to do something to relax those tense muscles. This could be as simple as taking a bubble bath – which would also help you with visualizing that form of relaxation when required! Having a regular massage is also beneficial if that is an option.
6. Sleep Well…
Sleep is essential to help us to function properly. Have you ever noticed that if you are low on sleep, things start to get on top of you much more easily? If you are prone to anxiety, that is the last thing that you need. If you are suffering from a lack of sleep due to anxiety then it becomes doubly important to beat this. How to get a good nights’ sleep is a whole other article – but there is a lot of help available on the internet. Do some research and make sure that you try all of the suggestions before opting for medications – herbal or otherwise.
7. Eat Properly
Some people who suffer from anxiety find that it affects their appetite. Some react by over eating and others by going right off their food. However, it’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet to help your body to function correctly. Over eating or over indulging in sugary snacks can cause a consequent drop in blood sugar which can make you feel sluggish, lethargic and then miserable. Not eating enough can make you lightheaded, jittery and anxious. Your body is saying “feed me!” If you can’t bring yourself to address this, imagine your car. If you don’t put gas, oil or water in it, it won’t run. Your body won’t run if you don’t put the required nutrients into it. Be kind to yourself. That concept isn’t an easy one if you suffer from anxiety but it does pay dividends. Work on helping yourself instead of beating yourself up. You’re a good person…you deserve it!
8. You’re Going to Hate This But…Exercise!
Sorry! But we don’t mean that you should hit the gym for an hour every morning. Even going for a short walk a few times a week can bring major changes to how you feel. This is one of the best ways to relieve stress and it doesn’t have to cost a thing. It is medically proven that just walking for 30 minutes three times a week helps your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. And don’t forget that 30 minutes means 15 minutes outward bound and 15 minutes coming back. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
9. Lay Off the Stimulants
This is one is a challenge. The difficulty is that the more stressed or anxious a person is, the more they tend to lean on stimulants and perceived ‘crutches’ such a cigarettes, tobacco, coffee or drugs of one kind or another. The irony is that all of these things can actually increase anxiety because they stimulate your system. Think how jumpy you feel after several cups of strong coffee! To really help yourself, the best thing is to stop using these. Of course, if you are anxious, the last thing that you are going to want to do is lose your prop. So leave this one until you have mastered a few of the others and then start by cutting down. Stopping altogether is the ultimate help – but cutting down is great too!
10. Don’t Suffer Alone
Sadly, many anxiety sufferers are ashamed and struggle on, trying to keep their secret. The truth is that many, many people suffer from anxiety. You are not alone. If your family isn’t aware of how you are feeling, try confiding in them. You might be surprised at how supportive they are. Or tell a friend. If you really don’t wish to share how you feel, look online for support groups where you can read what other people write. Just type anxiety forum into your search engine (i.e. Google) and you will be surprised how many there are! You really are not alone with this. There are many books by people who have suffered and conquered anxiety – check out Amazon and read the reviews before you buy to see which author is likely to help you the most.
We hope that very soon you will be able to overcome this crippling issue and to enjoy your life at last. If you have tried all of the above and still feel that anxiety is ruling your life, then it may be time to visit your Doctor. We wish you the very best of luck and good health.