How to Deal with Anxiety: 10 Proven Ways
Updated on 14 Nov 2023 • 6 min read • posted by Tania
Have you ever felt like you would fail your exams even though you had spent weeks revising? Or felt like you wouldn’t be able to deliver a presentation you’d been working on for days?
Perhaps you always need to check your stove is off three or four times during the night and can’t sleep until you’re absolutely certain?
Then you could be suffering anxiety.
Anxiety affects approximately 4% of the global population and has become the world’s biggest mental health problem.
In this blog, we’ll explain what anxiety is, symptoms you might be experiencing, and share effective tips on dealing with anxiety.
What is Anxiety
Anxiety is the body’s natural response or reaction to stressful life events such as taking exams or speaking in front of a large crowd. It’s the feeling of uneasiness, apprehension and dread associated with upcoming events or events that may or may not happen. It could be going to a job interview, holding team meetings, delivering a speech in front of your friends at a wedding, etc.
When anxiety becomes so overwhelming for an extended period (over six months) that it makes your life difficult to live on a daily basis, it’s categorized as a disorder.
While worrying about life-changing events such as a big move abroad or taking an exam is a normal part of life, worrying about every little thing can negatively impact your life and make it unbearable.
For instance, being worried about taking the lift and staying stuck or crossing the street and being hit by a car can prevent you from leaving your home and become debilitating. And in the professional sphere, it can hinder your success and prevent you from achieving your goals.
Main Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety feel different from one person to another. However, we’ve listed below some of the most common symptoms you should keep an eye on.
- Having chronic headaches or stomach aches
- Having a pounding or racing heart when talking to others
- Difficulty making eye contact
- Sweating or blushing in social settings
- Experiencing sleep problems such as insomnia.
- Feeling nervous, on-edge and restless
- Feeling constantly tired and lacking energy
- Feeling a sense of impending danger or doom
- Not being able to focus
- Being irritable
- Not feeling in control
- Fear of being judged by others.
Changes in behavior
- Actively avoiding stressful situations
- Having difficulty finding pleasure in leisure activities
- Finding it challenging to take care of oneself
- Struggling to establish or sustain relationships with others
- Feeling anxious or apprehensive about attempting new experience.
10 Ways to Deal with Anxiety
If you’re wondering how to calm anxiety as you encounter stressful situations, the good news is that some anxiety management strategies can help you deal with anxiety in the short term. This means that you don’t need to wait for weeks or months to see progress. And seeing progress quickly can immediately lift you up and empower you to keep working on reducing your anxiety in the long term.
Short Term methods
Slow Your Breathing
When we face an anxiety-inducing situation, it’s natural for our body to breathe faster as the airway between the lungs and nose constricts. Therefore slowing your breathing will help expand your lungs, increase your oxygen intake, and help relax your muscles. And if you don’t know any breathing exercises – modern smartwatches have integrated guided breathing exercises. In such a way, your guide is always on your wrist.
And here’s a little breathing exercise to help:
Count to three as you breathe in. Then, exhale and count to three. Repeat ten times until you feel calmer.
Focus on Reality
It's natural for our minds to wander into endless "what ifs." An easy way to anchor yourself is to ask: "What can I change right now?". Often the answer is changing your way of thinking. To do this, you need to ground yourself in reality.
When you feel that anxiety starts to take over – practice the 3-3-3 rule. Focus and name:
- three things you can see around
- three sounds you can hear
- move three parts of your body.
Remember that the power of changing your thoughts and the way you perceive situations is always within you.
Meditation has been proven to help reduce anxiety by allowing you to focus on the present moment and let go of the stressful thoughts that clutter your mind. Find a comfortable position in a quiet place and close your eyes. Concentrate on your breathing and how your body moves as you inhale and exhale, without judgment. This will help bring your focus back to your body and the present moment, and let go of your worries.
Go for a Walk
Physical activity is known to release endorphins, which are natural mood boosters that can help reduce stress and anxiety levels. Being in nature can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Walking can be a meditative practice that allows us to focus on our breath, our surroundings, and the present moment. This mindfulness can help reduce racing thoughts and improve our overall mood. Also, walking with a friend or in a group can provide a sense of social support and belonging, which can be beneficial for those experiencing anxiety. Overall, going for a walk can be a simple and effective way to manage anxiety symptoms and improve our mental health.
Journaling can have a cathartic effect and help you instantly reduce your anxiety. That’s because journaling allows you to write down all of your stressful thoughts on paper and unburden your mind from unnecessary worry. As you read over your thoughts and concerns, it’ll shift your mindset from a rumination state to an action-oriented approach allowing you to create a plan of action to overcome potential challenges and solve issues.
Long Term methods
While the ways to cope with anxiety on how to control anxiety in the short term provided above are excellent tools to help you keep your stress levels in check and make your life a bit easier on a daily basis, sustainability reducing anxiety also requires a long-term commitment.
Australian La Trobe University, in their self-help guide provides the next strategies that your anxiety in the long term.
Reduce Physical Tension
When we experience anxiety, our bodies tend to tense up. Exercise and physical activity are great ways to change your focus and relieve high levels of anxiety. You can try practicing progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). This involves working through major groups of muscles in the body, tensing and releasing them as you go.
Also, engaging in physical activity such as yoga, running, or walking, can help to release tension and promote feelings of calmness. Additionally, practicing good sleep hygiene and taking time to engage in enjoyable activities can also help to reduce physical tension and manage anxiety.
Face Your Anxiety
To manage your anxiety effectively, it's important to educate yourself about the condition and its effects on your body and mind. Start by identifying the common ways you react and behave when you experience anxiety, and look for patterns in the situations or triggers that make you feel stressed or anxious. Keeping a record of your anxiety levels and the activities or events that coincide with them can be helpful in understanding your experience of anxiety.
Additionally, it's recommended to learn more about anxiety in general to gain a deeper understanding of its nature. This knowledge can serve as a foundation for changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to and sustain anxiety.
Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
The idea is to start small to avoid feeling overwhelmed by a massive lifestyle change. For instance, you could start going for walks twice a week and switching sugary cereals for oats or smoothies in the morning. Introduce new healthy habits once a month until you feel like your life is under control and your body and mind are thriving.
Getting enough sleep is also crucial. To reduce anxiety, it is important to regularly spend time achieving relaxation through a method that works for you, such as being near running water or listening to relaxation audio.
Finally, reducing or eliminating the use of alcohol and any other types of drugs such can help manage anxiety. By incorporating these lifestyle habits into your routine, you can effectively manage anxiety and improve your overall well-being.
Sometimes it is not possible or helpful to fight against anxiety. In such cases, it can be helpful to face the situation that causes anxiety, accept it, and find ways to let go of the need to control it.
Practicing acceptance of uncertainty can involve not responding to the thoughts and feelings that come with it and bringing attention to the present moment. It is also important to understand that there will be questions without immediate answers. All of these efforts toward acceptance can make a difference in how much anxiety bothers you.
Learn from Others
Joining online forums or discussions around anxiety can help you in many ways. First, it will allow you to connect to people who face similar challenges and learn from them. But it will also give you a sense of belonging, boosting your self-confidence and perhaps allowing you to make new friends. Lastly, by sharing the little things you do to manage your anxiety, you might be helping others, which, in turn, will help you feel useful and valuable and boost your self-esteem.
How Do I Know If I Have Anxiety
There are some signs and symptoms to keep an eye out for. These may include trouble with sleeping or concentrating and feeling restless often. You could also feel constantly worried or scared, and like there's always a sense of danger looming. You also can take an anxiety test such as the one available at Clinical Partners.
Remember, if you suspect you may have anxiety, it's important to reach out to a mental health professional who can give you a diagnosis and suggest the right treatment for you.
As the last tip on how to cope with anxiety, be kind to yourself. While anxiety is debilitating and can take over your life, it doesn’t have to be this way. Remember that you are not your anxiety, and you aren’t weak. You’re simply dealing with a common condition. Implementing the right management strategies can help you beat it and create the life you deserve.