Anxiety is extremely common – and drains your energy, focus and motivation. You may or may not have panic attacks and phobias, but you may feel overtaken by a sense of fear or impending doom. You will feel unable to help yourself or face things calmly.
You may be experiencing a range of anxiety symptoms such as:
- feeling agitated
- quick to anger or irritation
- unable to relax
- unable to concentrate
- mind blanks out
- worrying continually
- feeling depressed
You may also have physical symptoms such as:
- quick, shallow breathing
- muscle tension
- trouble sleeping
- constant tiredness or fatigue
- dry mouth
- acid indigestion / nausea / stomach upsets
Here are 5 proven and effective ways to help yourself with your anxiety:
- Don’t beat yourself up for feeling anxious.
Really understand that every last person on this planet experiences a greater or lesser degree of anxiety – for very well-founded reasons:
- Because we as humans are vulnerable physical beings and know this.
- Because every day we have to make small or large decisions with limited or insufficient information.
- Because we compare ourselves constantly to others who are more successful / more attractive / wealthier – and social media constantly shoves this in our faces.
- Because we aren’t starving or homeless we feel we shouldn’t be anxious – which just makes our anxiety worse.
- Because we have evolved from the great worriers of the species who successfully looked out for dangers and avoided and survived them.
- Because we have unrealistic expectations of what others can give us emotionally.Beating ourselves up for being ‘weak’ for having anxiety is simply counterproductive and will magnify our anxiety. We need to learn how to support and comfort ourselves and how to handle our painful thoughts and feelings effectively so they have less impact and influence over our lives.
2. Know that you are not ‘just’ your anxiety.
Our anxiety can take us over and make us see things unclearly – it can make us think that our anxiety is who we are and you may tell yourself ‘I am a nervous wreck’ or ‘I am a neurotic mess’. But remember you are not your anxiety. Remember the ‘sweet spot’ times in your life. This ‘sweet spot’ memory doesn’t have to be dramatic – it can be something as simple as sitting reading a magazine in a sunny garden – any time, basically, when anxiety wasn’t in the picture. Know that anxiety can take us over but it goes away again. This style of thinking reminds us that we are bigger than and more than our anxiety – and we can be the master of it – and it gives us faith that things can and will be better.
3. When you feel anxious use the 4-7 breathing technique
Breathing using the 4-7 method quickly counteracts the effects of anxiety by stimulating our body’s natural relaxation response. Place your hand on your stomach below your navel and breathe in deeply for the count of 4 (do it through either your nose or your mouth, whichever you prefer), then breathe out for a count of 7 until you feel your stomach (below your navel) inflate out like a balloon. Repeat this 10 times – or longer if needed. And practice it every day to keep anxiety at bay. See here for a fuller explanation of how such breathing can lower emotional arousal and a more in-depth explanation of how to do it effectively.
4. Direct your anxiety into positive action – use the 3Cs approach.
Sitting with and dwelling on your worries and anxieties will only make them magnify. Use the 3C’s approach of Connect, Care and Contribute to unhook yourself from your anxiety: Connect with someone or something important to you. This could be a friend, a family member, a pet or a hobby such as reading, fishing, and sports. Show care to someone, something or some activity that matters to you. And contribute to someone or something – including to your own self-care and happiness.
5. Practice gratitude
Each night before you go to sleep write down at least three things that have gone well for you today or something for which you are grateful. This simple exercise can help you find a small space between you and your feelings of anxiety that can bring perspective, calm, reassurance and connection with what matters in your life.
Sometimes anxiety simply feels too overwhelming and draining to manage it on our own- and many of us may not have an adequate support network to help us through periods of particularly high anxiety. This is where the support of a professional may be helpful. If you would like a free 30 minute telephone consultation to explore your current situation and see how I may be able to help, then please contact me, I would love to hear from you.