How to Cope with Anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or fear about an event or situation. It’s normal for people to feel anxious in response to stress. Anxiety can be beneficial when it helps prepare you to react to danger. The trick is to release these feelings before they become persistent, overwhelming, or all-consuming.

Paying attention to changes in your body in response to daily stressors and stressful life events can help you recognize the signs of anxiety. Generally, if your emotions feel like they’re in overdrive and you’re dealing with tension, sleepless nights spent worrying, or panic attacks, your anxiety levels are probably problematic.

Fortunately, you can learn how to cope with anxiety. Try these strategies to prevent anxiety from taking hold.

  1. Breathe.

Deep breathing is helpful in virtually all difficult situations. That’s because inhaling and exhaling deeply is a way to rein in our fight or flight response. Diaphragmatic breathing is the basis for most relaxation techniques and meditation. It lowers blood pressure, slows the heart rate, and helps people relax, among other benefits.

How to do it:

  • Inhale through your nose and into your belly for a count of 4.
  • Hold your breath for a count of 4.
  • Exhale through your mouth for a count of 4, pushing all the air out of your belly.
  • Hold your breath for a count of 4.
  • Repeat.
  • Be physically active.

Develop a routine so that you’re physically active most days of the week. Exercise is a powerful stress reducer. It promotes the release of endorphins. These brain chemicals reduce the body’s reaction to pain and stress. They also produce a feeling of euphoria, or happiness, that’s comparable to morphine. This can improve your mood and help you stay healthy.

Start out slowly, and gradually increase the amount and intensity of your activities.

  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs.

Caffeine, alcohol and other substances like energy drinks or sugary beverages can stimulate the nervous system and increase anxiety and panic attacks. Too much caffeine restricts blood vessels, which can increase blood pressure and contribute to anxiety.

Coping with anxiety also doesn’t mean masking it with alcohol. Alcohol can interfere with the neurotransmitters that manage anxiety and prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Drinking to cope creates a sort of feedback loop, which makes the anxiety worse and can lead to alcohol dependence.

  • Get enough sleep.

Not getting enough sleep can worsen anxiety. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Adequate sleep helps the body deal with stress.

To increase the amount of sleep you get, the National Sleep Foundation recommends maintaining a regular schedule that includes going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time eachmorning.

  • Eat healthy foods.

A healthy diet that incorporates vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish may be linked to reduced anxiety. Skipping meals can lead to low blood sugar, and low blood sugar can trigger anxiety because the body produces more cortisol in response to the stress.

Certain supplements may help counter anxiety, but keep in mind they’re meant to complement, not replace, a balanced diet.

  • The 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique.

The 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique for anxiety allows people to refocus their mind on the present moment and stop fixating on anxious thoughts by using their five senses: sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste.

To use this technique, start by taking a few slow, deep breaths and follow these five steps:

Step 5: Look for and notice FIVE things you see around you. Examples: A person, place or thing, like a pen on your desk.

Step 4: Look for and notice FOUR things you can touch around you. Examples: The ground under your feet, your hair or your clothes.

Step 3: Look for and notice THREE things you can hear. Examples: Music, people talking nearby or birds chirping.

Step 2: Look for and notice TWO things you can smell. Examples: Your sheets, food, a pencil on your desk or soap in your bathroom.

Step 1: Look for and notice ONE thing you can taste. Examples: Coffee, gum or a sandwich from lunch.

  • Talk to someone.

Don’t be afraid to talk to friends, family, a health provider or a licensed therapist. Since anxiety stems from fearful thoughts, suffering in silence can make anxiety worse.

Getting help can empower people and make them feel less helpless. Taking action and having a plan can give people control over their symptoms.

  • Write it out.

Writing or Journaling is about taking that blizzard of negativity swirling inside your body and putting it into words in order to understand why you’re feeling the way you are. It’s also a great way to remind yourself of the difference between the facts/reality and what you perceive through your anxiety.

By writing down fears and worries in a journal, it removes them from the mind. So, make it a habit. This doesn’t have to be every day but the more regularly you write down how you’re feeling, the better you’ll be at articulating yourself.

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