“Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.” – Jodi Picoult
Most of us don’t want to admit that we struggle with difficult emotions from time to time. Sadness. Worry. Anxiety. Yet, we so desperately want to be happy all of the time. Sometimes we even flat-out lie to ourselves to stay convinced that we’re content in life. But the truth is that anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues affecting people in the world today. In the United States alone, anxiety disorders affect 2 out of every 10 adults and 1 out of every 8 children. In addition, many of us are affected on a regular basis by subclinical levels of anxiety that harm our ability to function to the best of our ability. And, all of us feel anxious from time to time! About money. Our kids. Our health. Relationships. Public speaking. Or, the state of current world events and political affairs.
Despite being among the most common symptoms, anxiety often goes untreated and can lead to relationship problems, difficulties on the job or in school, substance abuse, self-deception, and avoidance of important life events. If you’re looking to reduce anxiety, prevent panic attacks, and bring more joy and fulfillment to your life, there are several things you can do to help yourself.
1) Choose to be More Honest With Yourself
Before you can confront a problem, you have to acknowledge that you have a problem! You’re going to need to make sure you’re being honest with yourself about the symptoms you are having. Acknowledge that you are struggling with anxiety. If your anxiety is damaging your quality of life, stop brushing it off as though it is just a normal thing that will go away on its own. It is true that many people suffer from anxiety, but it doesn’t have to drastically affect your life. Trying to fool yourself is never a solution.
2) Take Up a Relaxation Practice
Once you acknowledge your struggles, you can do something about it. One of the best ways to tackle anxiety is start a daily relaxation practice and stay with it. The goal of this practice is to calm your mind and body. There are so many great activities out there that you can choose from: meditation, yoga, breathwork, attending church, swimming, cuddling puppies and kittens, or even knitting, if that’s your sort of thing. Find something that speaks to you. If you choose an activity that has a social element, such as taking a hot yoga class, be sure you get enough down time in between social activities to rest, reset, and rejuvenate.
3) Get Active and Eat Well
Another wonderful way to manage anxiety is to take care of your body. The United Kingdom’s NHS recommends eating right and exercising to fight off the depression and anxiety that many people experience each winter. If you’ve been craving extra sugars, carbohydrates and fatty foods, be sure to balance with fresh fruit and vegetables. Staying physically active is also helpful because it increases levels of the mood-enhancing chemical serotonin in your brain. Most doctors recommend at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise 3 times per week for effective results.
4) Seek Treatment
If you seem to be really struggling or think your life is being highly negatively affected, psychotherapy is an excellent resource. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America lists anxiety as a very common and treatable illness. Sadly, most people with anxiety never seek treatment options. There’s no reason to feel like you have to suffer through anxiety and panic attacks alone. There are even 24/7 support hotlines you can call or websites that will match you with an online therapist during times of crisis. If your condition is starting to interfere with your daily life, talk to your doctor or psychiatrist. There may be something they can do to help you.
The Naked Truth is This: Although anxiety and its related disorders are highly common, there are many options that can help you live and even thrive in your life. Anxiety doesn’t have to be a barrier holding you back from doing the things you want to do. It can be easy to take steps today to reduce your anxious feelings throughout the year. Just remember, you’re not alone.
Copyright Cortney S. Warren, Ph.D.