9 Ways To Keep Anxiety From
Dominating Your Life
Anxiety comes in many forms. Some people get nervous about social events or large crowds of people. Others get overly excited. Some people with anxiety suffer from constant worrying and negative or pessimistic thinking. A lot of people with anxiety feel like their brain is stuck on repeat – the same thought replayed in their head over and over, again and again. You may say something to these people once but in their mind, you’ve said it more than a hundred times!
I have suffered with anxiety most of my life. I remember suffering with it as a teenager and all throughout my young adulthood. In a way, I am glad that I have gone through this struggle because it helps me relate to my neurofeedback patients. Anxiety is one of those things, kind of like sinus problems, if you do not have it you don’t really understand what it is like to suffer with it. Having this first-hand experience allows me to put myself in my patient shoes and help them through their progression. Aside from encouraging others’ happiness, I work hard at encouraging myself. One of the best exercises I have ever done through the years was creating and updating my “Makes Me Happy List.” [Click to Tweet] This may sound a little childish but it works! One day I sat down and wrote out a long list of things, people, events, activities, etc. that make me feel happy. Some of the items on my list are simple like eating sushi, painting, listening to music, or having a girl’s night. Some of them are a little harder to do like playing in the snow, especially if it’s not winter. However, since I have over 100 items to choose from I can always find one or two things that I can do right away. I recommend doing this activity when you are in a positive mood and to write down as many things that you can. You can also add new stuff as time goes by. To all of you reading this blog who suffer from anxiety, or those who love someone who suffers with it, remember it is controllable. We can control our own lives. I also would like to give you a virtual hug and urge you to keep making positive steps in the right direction.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that everyone with anxiety suffers from anxiety attacks. That is false. Not all people with anxiety actually suffer from anxiety or “panic” attacks. Panic attacks are a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. When a panic attack occurs, you might think you’re losing control, having a heart attack or even dying. It is important to understand the difference between the two. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects 6.8 million adults or 3.1% of the U.S. population while Panic Disorder affects 6 million, or 2.7% of the U.S. population. Unfortunately women are twice as often affected by anxiety or panic disorders as men.
Since this topic is relevant to my life, I wanted to take some time to tell you a few of my tricks and tips I have learned over the years to help control or reduce my anxious moments.
9 Ways To Reduce Anxiety.
1) Sleep. Get a good night sleep! Sleep is so important for our health. On average, you should get a solid seven to nine hours of sleep. Lack of sleep throws your body off rhythm and contributes to overall anxiety and stress.
2) Breath. “Deep breathing counters the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure,” says psychologist Judith Tutin, PhD. Deep diaphragmatic breathing is a powerful anxiety-reducing technique because it activates the body’s relaxation response. It helps the body go from the fight-or-flight response of the sympathetic nervous system to the relaxed response of the parasympathetic nervous system. She suggested this practice: “Try slowly inhaling to a count of 4, filling your belly first and then your chest, gently holding your breath to a count of 4, and slowly exhaling to a count of 4 and repeat several times.” If you are having an anxiety attack the best way to control your breathing is to use a paper bag (never plastic!) to slow down and regulate your breathing pattern.
Please read the great blog Dr. David Starkey D.C. wrote titled “The Top 10 Reasons to Breathe Yourself to Better Health” for more information on how breathing can help your body.
3) Laugh. We are all familiar with the old saying that laughter is the best medicine. This has been scientifically proven. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter has a lot of positive short-term and long-term effects. Some of the short-term effects are that it increases oxygen that stimulates your organs and increases the endorphins released to your brain. It also raises your heart rate and blood pressure while reducing your body’s stress response. Laughter also helps relax muscles by stimulating blood circulation. Some of the long-term effects include helping your immune system. It does this by reducing the negative chemicals that your body releases from stress and increasing neuropeptides that help fight serious illnesses. Laughter can also act as a natural painkiller. Overall, allowing yourself to laugh is going to reduce stress and anxiety.
4) Find a positive outlet. For me one of the best ways to deal with anxiety is to either exercise or listen to some music. All forms of exercise, including yoga and walking, can ease depression and anxiety by helping the brain release feel-good chemicals and by giving your body a chance to practice dealing with stress. Please read these great blogs about yoga or about walking. Also, research shows that listening to soothing music can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety. This could include classical music, nature sounds, beach sounds, or rain simulators.
5) Meditate or use guided imagery. A few minutes of practice per day can help ease anxiety. “Research suggests that daily meditation may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress,” says psychologist Robbie Maller Hartman, PhD, a Chicago health and wellness coach. 2. Please read “Meditation Can Actually Create More Time in Your Day”. If meditating isn’t appealing to you, guided imagery is also effective. You can download or buy hundreds of different guided imagery tracks. They will walk you through relaxing your entire body one part at a time while focusing your mind of pleasant visualizations. Guided imagery can last from 10- 60 minutes.
6) Talk to someone. One of the easiest ways to stop the repeat button or broken track in your head is to say what you are thinking about out loud. [Click to Tweet] Find someone who you trust and use them as a sounding board. Let it out! Even if the thought seems way too far-fetched or ridiculous once you say it out loud it will help you process that thought. This also gives you the opportunity to decide whether your thoughts are rational or irrational. Let go of the irrational thought! Focus on the positive or rational thoughts.
7) Journal. If you do not have someone or are not yet comfortable talking to someone when you are anxious, then start a journal. Journals are a safe place to pour out your thought, feeling, and emotions. I always recommend keeping the notes in your journal positive since we are trying to ease your anxiety. Or, at the very least, wrap up your entry with a positive note.
8) Focus on now. Always remember to take things one day at a time. Yes, life does happen all at once but if you sit down and prioritize your day, week, month, and year it will help relieve the stress and anxiety of taking care of everything all at once. Focus most of your energy on the events or tasks that matter the most, [Click to Tweet] like taking care of your family, your career, finishing school, volunteering, traveling, or maybe a hobby. Whatever matters the most to you should take the highest priority and therefore receive the most focus and energy from you. This is not possible if you are constantly focusing on worrying and stress.
9) Keep Busy. One of the best ways to reduce anxiety is to distract you or keep yourself busy. As I mentioned earlier, I have a “Makes me happy list” and I recommend this for anyone with anxiety. When anxiety or depression consumes you, it is hard to remember what exactly makes you happy. This list acts like a cheat sheet – just pick out a few things off your list to distract yourself. If you are at work and you feel anxious take on more tasks or projects, or help a co-worker. When you help someone else out or do something that makes someone else happy, it is a natural response to feel satisfied and happy yourself. Smiles are contagious! [Click to Tweet]
Anxiety is embarrassing, annoying, and inconvenient, but it doesn’t have to consume your life. Every day is a new chance to live a better, more positive life. I hope some of these tips prove helpful, please share any positive experiences you have or have had!
What are some things you practice to control or reduce your anxiety?
June 28, 2015
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 . Mayo Clinic. (2015). Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456
 Adaa. (2015). Facts & Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics
 Moninger, J. (2015). 10 Relaxation Techniques That Zap Stress Fast. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/blissing-out-10-relaxation-techniques-reduce-stress-spot
 Tartakovsky, M. (2013). 9 Ways to Reduce Anxiety Right Here, Right Now. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/lib/9-ways-to-reduce-anxiety-right-here-right-now/
 3. Starkey, D. (2015). The Top 10 Reasons to Breathe Yourself to Better Health. Retrieved from https://realwellnessdoc.com/2015/05/06/stop-breathing-and-start-singing/
 Mayo Clinic at fn. 1