Anxiety – strategies to help you cope and reduce anxiety

life after anxiety & phobias

We all feel nervous and anxious from time to time, but when anxiety becomes a constant reoccurrence it can have a serious negative impact on our lives. Whether you are feeling anxious about a presentation, a job interview or how you’re going to pay your bills this month, taking control of the feelings and sensations that anxiety bring is an important factor in efficiently dealing with our problems.

Allowing anxiety to run wild will prevent you from seeing problems clearly, clouding your judgment and preventing you from becoming assertive and creative when solving your issues. Here are a number of strategies that can help you to reduce anxiety and increase your ability to solve problems.

# 1. Breathe  

Breathing correctly has a huge impact in our physiology. When we are anxious, we tend to have a fast and shallow breath. By breathing slower and more deeply from the stomach, we activate our parasympathetic system which is the part of the brain that controls the rest and relax response.

You may want to try different breathing patterns to see which one best suit you. You can to start by trying the 4-6 technique. Start by inhaling through the nose for 4 counts and exhaling through the mouth, using your stomach muscles, for 6 counts. Repeat until you feel calmness settling in.

# 2. Check and challenge your thoughts

Is there any evidence to suggest that what you are feeling anxious about is likely to materialise? Anxiety tends to arise from fear of the future, i.e. ‘I will never get that job’ or ‘how am I going to pay my bills?’.  

You may want to:

a) Check: is this true/fact? ‘I’m definitely not going to get the job’

b) Challenge: ‘Why am I am not going to get the job?’

c) Respond: ‘Can I increase my preparation and feel more prepared?’

The more you challenge your thoughts the easier it will be to change negative loops that perpetuate anxiety.    

# 3. Relax

Whether it is listening to your favourite song, having a cup of tea or a chatting to a friend, distracting yourself can be a way of reducing the feelings and sensations that give rise to anxiety. You may want to have a full relaxation session which will help reduce not only anxiety but improve your mood and performance.

# 4. Get active

One of the most effective way of stopping anxiety on its track is exercising. This is because when we exercise our bodies release chemicals such as dopamine and endorphins in our brains which make us feel calm and happy.

Not only is our brain dumping out feel-good chemicals, but exercise also helps our brain get rid of chemicals that make us feel stressed and anxious.

# 5. Watch what you eat and drink

Low blood sugar, poor hydration, use of alcohol, caffeine, and smoking can precipitate or mimic symptoms of anxiety. Aiming for a healthy diet can help you reduce anxiety.

Some foods that are particularly helpful for people with anxiety are leafy greens, legumes, nuts, whole grains, oysters, egg yolks, fatty fish, pickles, asparagus, and avocados. Make sure you speak to your doctor or nutritionist before any major diet change.

# 6. Take a step back

Taking ourselves away from the situation that gives rise to anxiety may help us to see problems more clearly. You may ask yourself the question: what would I say to my best friend if he/she was in this situation?

This ‘dissociation’ will help you see the problem from a fresh pair of eyes and consequently help you to make better decisions.

# 7. Sleep

Lack of sleep can make us feel tired, irritable, have poor concentration affecting our performance and make us even more anxious. Having a good night sleep helps to recharge our batteries and ensures that we have the energy to tackle our daily life challenges.

The are many strategies to help you improve your sleeping patterns such as good sleep hygiene and relaxation. Find out more.

# 8. Ask for help

Sometimes discussing your worries with a friend is enough to release some of the anxiety. Other times, talking to a trained therapist may be more appropriate if anxiety is disrupting your life or preventing you from functioning normally.

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