Anxiety can cause a worry loop in the mind that makes it difficult to get any rest at night. It can also result in sweaty palms and a stomachache during a social event if there isn’t anyone to talk to. Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, but it’s important to know how to cope with it before it gets out of hand. Improving diet is one way to combat anxiety, as is learning breathing techniques, letting it go, and improving self-esteem. Another way to banish anxiety is by switching up your diet and the Body Reboot book explains how to do that and in the process improve your mental health.
Ride it Like a Wave
Health recommends thinking of your anxiety like a wave while telling yourself that everything is going to be okay.
Imagine your anxiety is a wave in the ocean. “You don’t just stand tall and fight the wave,” says Clark. “You dive into it so it doesn’t knock you over.” In other words, instead of resisting your anxious feelings, remind yourself that they won’t harm you. Tell yourself you can handle it, she says, then let the wave wash over you. Stressing over your stress can make your anxious feelings even worse, and they’ll last longer, she adds.
Improving Self Esteem
Working on improving your self-esteem is another way to combat anxiety. Better Health recommends talking to a professional or joining a group where you can talk about your feelings and figure out ways to cope with them.
People with anxiety disorder often have low self-esteem. Feeling worthless can make the anxiety worse in many ways. It can trigger a passive style of interacting with others and foster a fear of being judged harshly. Low self-esteem may also be related to the impact of the anxiety disorder on your life. These problems may include:
feelings of shame and guilt
difficulties in functioning at school, work or in social situations.
The good news is you can take steps to learn about and improve your self-esteem. Community support organisations and counselling may help you to cope with these problems.
Anxiety and Depression Center of America recommends distracting yourself when you begin to feel anxious so you can focus your attention on something else. This can help you get your mind on something else and keep the anxious thoughts at bay.
Distract yourself with an iPod or other portable media player to download audiobooks, podcasts, or music. Many people find it’s more fun to exercise while listening to something they enjoy.
Relax Your Muscles and Diaphragmatic Breathing
Muscle relaxation and practicing diaphragmatic breathing are two ways to take the focus on your anxiety and teach your body how to relax. Psychology Today outlines specific instructions on how to do that below:
Another helpful tactic is progressive muscle relaxation, which essentially involves doing a full-body examination and tightening then releasing each muscle group in your body. You can start at your toes and work your way up, taking turns tensing one muscle group for a few seconds, then relaxing it for about 30 seconds. Move on to the next muscle group until you’ve worked your way up to the top of your head.
Instead of just taking deep breaths during a panic attack, you want to practice diaphragmatic breathing. When you engage in this type of breathing, your belly expands in and out instead of your chest going up and down. It helps to imagine that you have a balloon in your stomach. Take longer to exhale than inhale, perhaps inhaling for three seconds and exhaling for four.
It’s easy to get caught up in the future and what may happen, which is why Health recommends focusing on the here and now. It’s easy to worry about things, but don’t allow your mind to dwell on the what if’s.
People tend to worry about things that haven’t happened yet, like when you're prepping to speak at a work conference yet the actual event doesn't start for another hour. Focusing too much on future events can work you into an unnecessary panic.
Instead of allowing your mind to race to the future, try focusing on what’s happening right now, DeLoveh suggests. Do this by training your brain to focus on your five senses. Ask yourself, what do you hear in the room, what do see in front of you? You’re not standing before the microphone; you’re just working on your PowerPoint slides. That five-senses exercise can thrust you back into the moment and “bring that physical piece down a notch,” she says.
Better Health Channel recommends considering cognitive therapy, which helps you learn how to rationally challenge what you’re thinking and figuring out what is triggering those thoughts.
Cognitive therapy focuses on changing patterns of thinking and beliefs that are associated with, and trigger, anxiety. For example, a person with a social phobia may make their anxiety worse by negative thoughts such as, ‘Everyone thinks I’m boring’.
The basis of cognitive therapy is that beliefs trigger thoughts, which then trigger feelings and produce behaviours. For example, let’s say you believe (perhaps unconsciously) that you must be liked by everyone in order to feel worthwhile. If someone turns away from you in mid-conversation, you may think, ‘This person hates me’, which makes you feel anxious.
Cognitive therapy strategies include rational ‘self-talk’, reality testing, attention training, cognitive challenging and cognitive restructuring. This includes monitoring your self-talk, challenging unhelpful fears and beliefs, and testing out the reality of negative thoughts.
Try to Let it Go
Sometimes the easiest way to get rid of anxiety is to try and let the worries go, which is easier said than done. Try to figure out what is bothering you and then VeryWell Mind says to let it go if it’s not worth all the fuss.
Many times anxiety stems from fearing things that haven’t even happened and may never occur. For example, even though everything is okay, you may still worry about potential issues, such as losing your job, becoming ill, or the safety of your loved ones. Life can be unpredictable and no matter how hard you try, you can’t always control what happens. However, you can decide how you are going to deal with the unknown. You can turn your anxiety into a source of strength by letting go of fear and focusing on gratitude.
Replace your fears by changing your attitude about them. For example, stop fearing to lose your job and instead focus on how grateful you are to have a job. Come to work determined to do your best. Instead of fearing your loved one's safety, spend time with them or express your appreciation of them. With a little practice, you can learn to dump your anxiety and pick up a more positive outlook.
At times, your anxiety may actually be caused by a real circumstance in your life. Perhaps you’re in a situation where it is realistic to be worried about losing your job due to high company layoffs or talks of downsizing. When anxiety is identified as being caused by a current problem, then taking action may be the answer to reducing your anxiety. For example, you may need to start job searching or scheduling interviews after work. By being more proactive, you can feel like you have a bit more control over your situation.
Have Some Fun
Laughing is a fantastic way to ease tension and enjoy life. Psychotherapy Network recommends taking the time to enjoy the little moments and focusing on happy memories to ease anxiety.
Laughing is a great way to increase good feelings and discharge tension. The problem for anxious clients is that they take life so seriously that they stop creating fun in their lives, and they stop experiencing life's humorous moments. Everything becomes a potential problem, rather than a way to feel joy or delight.
Margaret was a witty woman, whose humor was self-deprecating. A high-level executive who typically worked 12- to 14-hour days, she'd stopped laughing or planning fun weekends about two promotions back. Her husband rarely saw her on weeknights, and on Saturday and Sunday, she typically told him she was just “going to run over to the office for a little while”–anywhere from 3 to 7 hours. When I asked her to make a list of what she did for fun, she was stymied. Other than having a drink with friends after work, her list of enjoyable activities was almost nonexistent.
Getting in touch with fun and play isn't easy for the serious, tense worrier. I've often found, however, that playing with a child will get a person laughing, so I asked her to spend some time with her young nieces. She agreed, and noticed that she felt more relaxed after being with them for an afternoon. Then I asked her to watch for any impulse to do something “just because,” without any particular agenda in mind. When I saw her next, she seemed transformed. She said, “I had an impulse to stop for an ice-cream cone, so I just went out and got it. I don't know when the last time was that I felt like doing something and just did it–no worries about whether everyone else had a cone or whether I should wait till later. It was fun!” Over time, listening to her inner wishes helped Margaret feel that there was a reservoir of pleasure in life that she'd been denying herself, and she began to experiment with giving herself the time to find it.
At the time of writing this post, we're giving away free copies of the Body Reboot book because it's our mission to increase awareness, help people lose weight and improve their mental health! If you help us cover the cost of shipping, we’ll send you a FREE book. Go over to this page to see if there are any remaining copies.
Sources: Health, ADAA, Psychology Today, VeryWell Mind, Better Health Channel, Psychotherapy Networker
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