We all get stressed from time to time but let’s face it, this past year or two has been a doozy, so there’s nothing wrong with brushing up on our ways to deal with anxiety.
Anxiety is a monster, there’s no other way to say it. What starts as a little peep, a little hint of a pit in your stomach can eventually grow to the point where you become anxious about everything and nothing; hell, you can even become anxious because you’re worried about being anxious!
Fortunately, you’re not alone because we’ve got your back. We all could use a little help during these times (if someone says “these trying times” one more time, we swear we’re going to lose it), so here we go with some very practical ways to deal with anxiety.
Annoyingly, many clichés are clichés because they’re true – taking deep breaths to calm down is one of them. “Breathing is the number one and most effective technique for reducing anger and anxiety quickly,” says Scott Dehorty, LCSW-C, of Delphi Behavioral Health.
A person in an anxious state tends to tense up, leading to quick and shallow breathing. This sends a fight-or-flight response to your brain, creating a positive feedback loop that gears you up for life-saving action. Mindfully taking deep breaths interrupts this loop by slowing you down and re-centering your mind, allowing your brain to realize that, “Hey, I’m not really dying!’”
Get Some Exercise
Yes, exercise is good for more than just a six-pack (if you’re lucky) and meeting up with a couple of gym mates – it’s also good for your mental health. Studies show that just 20 minutes of exercise is all it takes to release our favourite feel-good hormone, serotonin, which helps reduce feelings of anxiety.
Can’t hop on a treadmill before a nerve-wracking presentation? Grab some fresh air outside instead. Being stuck in a room breathing recycled air can make you feel stuffy and trapped – gourmet ingredients for a panic-attack. Going for a brisk walk outside can get those feel-good hormones flowing while giving you a change of scenery and some much-needed fresh air.
Ask Yourself if it’s Really THAT Bad
How often does your anxiety center around the worst-case scenario? How often does the worst-case scenario actually happen? The likely answer is not that often. A huge part of anxiety is being stuck in a loop of irrational negative thoughts that don’t make much sense.
Dealing with these irrational thoughts is a matter of taking a step back and realizing that reality isn’t as bad as your anxiety is making it out to be. Sometimes, the worst-case scenario only exists in your head. In the meantime, prepare for realistic outcomes, which are often far less terrible, and in doing so, build confidence in your ability to overcome them.
Anxiety has a tendency to build upon itself when left unchecked, which is why one of the best ways to manage anxiety on the spot is to divert your attention elsewhere and having a good laugh is one of the best ways to do this.
Laughter is also great for our mental well-being, with one study showing that it could lower anxiety as much as exercise. The next time you’re feeling that familiar touch of anxiety creep up on you like an unwanted back rub, put on your favourite sit-com and have a good laugh…except for Friends, haven’t you watched that enough?
Try the 3-3-3 Exercise
One of the signature moves of anxiety is playing upon your fears for the future. A favourite way of ours to deal with this is the 3-3-3 exercise. This exercise grounds you in the present through a three-step process: name three things you see, three sounds you hear, and then move three parts of your body. When your brain is racing full-pelt through all kinds of doomsday scenarios, this mental trick helps centre your mind in the present.
Mind Your ZZZs
We all know that doctors recommend around eight hours of sleep per cycle, but this can be hard because anxiety is like that horror movie you watched earlier in the afternoon – always worse at night.
If anxiety preys on you as you try to sleep, it helps to create a pre-sleep routine that gets you in the right mental state. Try eliminating all screentime an hour before sleeping; keep a regular sleep schedule, and make sure your bed is nice and comfy.
Write it Down
We realize that the last journal you picked up likely belonged to some girl you liked back in secondary school, but you should consider keeping your own to help deal with anxiety. If you’re having angry or anxious thoughts, it helps to grab your journal and write them all down. This releases negative thoughts while allowing you to process them as you jot them down. It’s especially effective as a nighttime remedy, so keep it next to your bed in case you have trouble falling asleep.
Learn What Triggers Your Anxiety
Learning what triggers your anxiety is not something that can be done in a day; it’s a journey of learning about yourself and why your anxiety appears seemingly out of nowhere. Knowing your triggers is important because it gives you insight into things that are troubling you, helping you address them.
We could go on about this, but instead, we’re going to let our main man Sun Tzu say it best: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
Onwards in the good fight!
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