Guest post by Christine Hill
Do you ever find a certain worry dogging your thoughts? Do you blow problems out of proportion, envisioning the worst-case scenario again and again? Are you often restless, unable to focus, with shaky hands and your stomach twisting into knots?
If so, it’s possible that you’re one of the 40 million adults in the U.S. dealing with anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health challenges in the country, affecting 1 out of 5 people. Although anxiety disorders can differ greatly in severity, anyone confronting anxiety needs to have a few tools in place to manage it. Here are a few of the most powerful:
Set 3 Goals Today
Anxiety can be caused by any number of things, but often an underlying cause is that we feel overwhelmed with the number of things that need to be done for us to achieve perfection. If perfection is our goal, we’ll never recognize when our efforts are enough. Often, we become so preoccupied trying to holding everything in our heads at once, we end up not achieving anything at all with our time.
Halt worrying, cyclical behaviors with 3 goals a day. Each day, assign yourself three tasks. You can start with 3 basic ones, and then gradually progress to making one or two of these goals larger things. Once you’ve taken care of those three goals, you’ve done your job for the day!
This is anxiety’s silver bullet. If you can get yourself into an exercise regime, you’ll find yourself sending anxiety running. Exercise gets out our nervous energy, regulates our body’s natural rhythms, and helps us have better, more regular sleep. If you haven’t yet dedicated yourself to a solid exercise routine, start today. You’ll feel better from day 1, but what’s even better is that the more into the routine you get, the more under-control your anxiety will become. Here are some ideas to make exercise work better for you:
- Sign up for a class and make it a priority.
- Get a workout buddy that you’re answerable to.
- Work out in the morning before scheduling challenges encroach on your day.
- Find an exercise activity that you enjoy.
Daily Meditation and Breathing Techniques
Meditation has amazing effects on our mental health, and it’s been shown to be especially effective with anxiety disorders. As with exercise, we get better at meditation with practice, so carve out some time to make it a habit. You can download easy meditation apps on your phone that teach you how to concentrate, give you mantras to ponder, and guide you through goal-oriented meditations.
You can also start practicing basic meditation techniques on the spot when you feel anxiety creeping up. Anxiety can create a feedback loop in our body. Anxiety leads to shortness of breath and increased heart rate. As our body experiences these symptoms, it goes into high alert, watching for dangerous stimuli to validate the physical response. Halt the cycle before it gets out of hand by controlling your breathing. When you feel anxiety rear its ugly head, sit up and start counting 4 seconds in, and 4 seconds out.
In numerous studies, it has been shown that time spent in green spaces helps us break out of cyclical worrying and self-referential thoughts that contribute to anxiety and depression. Simply being outdoors can also dispel nervous energy and restore balance to an agitated body, as this article details about its effects on ADHD. Pair exercise with time outdoors for an even more powerful blow against anxiety.
Check Your Diet, and Cut Caffeine
Many of us can’t get moving without that morning cup of coffee. However, if you struggle with anxiety, it might be time to start looking at alternatives. Caffeine can have an adverse effect on anxiety, and I’m not just talking about that moment after you’ve had one cup too many, when your heart starts beating too fast. Long-term, as your body learns to depend on caffeine, it becomes unable to self-regulate energy levels as well.
The same goes with diet. When we start to use sugar rushes and processed foods as crutches for mood and energy level, we make ourselves very vulnerable to anxiety. Start incorporating more whole grains and lean proteins to sustain energy throughout the day.
Ask for Help When You Need It
Anxiety is a highly treatable condition. Sometimes lifestyle changes alone don’t do the trick. If your anxiety is holding you back from achieving your professional and personal goals, maybe it’s more than you can handle yourself. Unchecked, anxiety can lead to intense phobias and panic attacks (which you can learn more about here.) Cognitive behavioral therapy and medication are both very effective in moderating anxiety. As mentioned above, 1 in 5 people struggle with anxiety. Don’t feel scared about asking for some extra help.
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Christine Hill is a professional writer and an avid reader who’s passionate about storytelling in any form. At any given moment, she’s in the middle of at least three books on anything from psychology to ninjas. Although she’s a marathon swimmer and enjoys camping in the mountains, she believes there’s nothing better than a carton of ice cream and a Dawson’s Creek marathon. She blogs about marketing here. Follow more of her writing on Twitter
Photos courtesy of the author