Anxiety can be one of the most frustrating things to deal with. Your heart beat rises, you get restless, maybe you can’t stop moving your hands; the symptoms of anxiety vary from person to person, and can sometimes be caused by nothing at all (at least this is my experience with this evil monster).
So what are some approaches one can use to cope with anxiety? Here are 5 ideas you can implement that will hopefully help you.
Medication shouldn’t be your first resort by any means, things like diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax) can be very addictive and tolerance tends to build quite quickly. But from personal experience some days if I didn’t have my valium I would be climbing the walls or sitting in the fetal position pondering why on earth I feel this way.
If things get to too tough don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about it, they should offer some practical advice to handle anxiety (covered later in this article) and with any luck a small amount of benzodiazepines. Some anti-depressants like the one I’m on (citalopram) are also useful for anxiety problems, so that’s something you can explore with your GP too.
Anyone that has been to a psychologist or psychiatrist for their anxiety has probably heard of this term before. Practicing mindfulness even when you aren’t anxious is a great way to build up your tool set too.
So what is mindfulness? Here are 2 quick techniques you can use to practice mindfulness
- Anchoring: Start feeling the sensations in your feet, how do your shoes feel against your skin? How does the floor feel underneath your shoes? Expand your scanning up your legs now always taking note of how they feel. Are the tingly? Light? Warm? Cold? And then finally take note of your breathing, really relaxing as you exhale.
- Breath counting: This technique works best after you have anchored yourself but it can be done on it’s own too. On your first breath count to 6 as you are inhaling, then as you exhale count to 10. This technique slows down your heart rate and calms you down.
If it helps pay close attention to your breathing and imagine the air coming into your lungs and then the air leaving your lungs. I like to imagine the patterns it would make personally, but everyone is different.
Take things slow
If there is something in particular that makes you anxious then see if you can slowly expose yourself slowly to that something. For example, my case manager was pushing me to go swimming. Sounds easy enough right? Plenty of people of all shapes and sizes go swimming without any problems at all, but for me it seemed near impossible. I was concerned about my weight, worried about the logistics of it all (where would I leave my towel, wallet etc), scared about the people and the list goes on.
My case manager gave me some good advice though, take it slow. Start off by walking by the pool and seeing how that made me feel. Once I was comfortable walking by the pool try going in and just taking a pamphlet from the desk and walking out. Once I could do that it was time to explore the pool a little bit and get a feel for the area. The idea was to slowly expose myself to something that made me anxious, and it can work.
See a psychologist
Ironically I was quite anxious about seeing a psychologist about my anxiety. But to be honest the first encounter was the hardest one. Psychologists are trained to deal with disorders like chronic anxiety, stress and depression, so it makes sense to see one if you are struggling. Talking about your problems not only cements your issues for yourself but you are also given helpful feedback on how to deal with them.
Finding the right psychologist for you might be a bit tough, so don’t be afraid to shop around. I got lucky and found someone I connect with on the first try but I have had friends that have seen dozens of different people before they found a match for them. The key is to not give up, help is out there and you don’t need to take everything on yourself.
This one is a good way to handle your anxiety. Listen to some calming music, this depends on what you find calming, beach sounds or thunderstorms work well or if you are like me some hard metal rock works like a charm when I’m particularly anxious. Try taking a walk in nature if possible, exercise alone is proven to help with anxiety and any built up adrenalin, but nature itself is quite soothing, enjoy the bird calls, the smells of the trees and enjoy the sunshine. Lastly talking to someone can be very helpful. It doesn’t have to be about your anxiety, just rattling brains with another human being is enough to call you down and work through your anxious thoughts.