Anxiety is a condition that can be difficult to manage, and many people find that they make mistakes that fuel their anxiety further. No one should be forced to live with anxiety, but unfortunately most people are unaware of what they can do to change the way they feel.
The following are 11 different tips for those suffering from anxiety. Often anxiety requires a more comprehensive treatment, but with these tips it may be possible for you to reduce the frequency and severity of your anxiety.
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Ideas and Strategies for Reducing Anxiety
The following tips should ring true for most anxiety sufferers, although in some ways all anxiety is different. Remember that if you're looking for a more effective, complete way to address your anxiety, take my free anxiety test now.
Tip 1: Exercise is Extremely Important
There are a lot of options for those that want to reduce anxiety. There are medicines. There are herbs. There are therapies. There are even relaxation strategies. But before you do anything else, you absolutely have to start exercising.
Studies have shown that exercise and anxiety have a number of links:
- Those that do not exercise are more likely to develop anxiety disorders.
- Exercise itself has been favorably compared to anti-anxiety medications.
When you exercise, the body releases natural chemicals in your brain that improve mood. These chemicals, known as endorphins, are as powerful as some of the leading medications. Exercise also calms your heart (which is known to improve anxiety), reduces excess energy, and may help regulate hormones. There are so many benefits to exercising that this is simply an option you cannot ignore if you want to get rid of your anxiety. Make sure that you're exercising regularly, at least with daily jogging.
Tip 2: Sometimes Sharing is Better Than Holding Back
Many people experience anxiety when they're around others. They then get embarrassed about their anxiety, causing more anxiety, and retreat back into their own minds.
You may be shy about your anxiety or not want people to "judge" you, but you should note several important things:
- Most people do not judge those that have anxiety.
- Most people that do judge those that have anxiety aren't people you should care for.
- Withdrawing into your own head can have the opposite effect on your wellbeing.
That latter point is very important. You may feel that you should keep everything in, but not only will that cause your anxiety to get worse - you're also still going to be anxious in front of the person that you're worrying about.
People can pick up on anxiety and body language. You can't hide it as easily as you want to. Chances are if you withdraw because of your anxiety, the person is going to pick up that something is wrong, and the withdrawing didn't help you anyway.
That doesn't mean you need to go sharing to a stranger or your boss that you're anxious if you don't want to, but if you're out with friends or family and you feel you're having anxiety or an anxiety attack, don't be afraid to talk about it. You have very little to lose, and talking it out may be just what you needed to reduce the severity of the anxiety.
Tip 3: Stress Coping isn't About Activities
It's important to also clear up a myth about stress coping. You'll find countless tips for activities to do to cope with stress, like yoga, meditation, etc. These activities are called stress or anxiety coping tools, and it gives the appearance that the activities themselves are how to cope with anxiety.
That's not exactly the case. Stress coping is more like a muscle. Your brain learns to cope with stress simply by coping with stress. How you do it is not as important as simply recovering from feeling tension and anxiety.
What stress coping tools are, are ways to help yourself get over a specific stressful event faster without engaging in anything that creates more stress. For example, some people drink when they're stressed, but this just numbs the anxiety without curing it and can create more anxiety later. That's a bad stress coping tool.
On the other hand, doing yoga when you're stressed is good for the body, good for breathing, and seems to benefit those with anxiety. But the long term benefits of activities like yoga is simply that you get over stress faster and build your stress coping muscle. So it's not necessarily important what you do. What matters is that the activity you do is psychologically and physically healthy, and it helps you recover from anxiety faster.
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Tip 4: Healthy Distractions Are Helpful
When you have anxiety, do you ever feel that you want to be alone, and that you want to try to get over anxiety with your own thoughts?
This feeling is natural. It's also misguided. The truth is that when you have anxiety the last thing you want to do is be lost in your own thoughts. Your thoughts are what causes your anxiety and prevent you from overcoming it, and when you're alone or not engaged in anything that satisfies the mind, you don't have the opportunity to think about anything other than your anxiety.
While some alone time is still helpful now and then, ideally you need to try to plan your entire schedule from morning until night with as many healthy distractions as possible. Spend time with friends. Do fun activities right after work. Always have a podcast or upbeat music on, and try to do things like puzzles, games, spots, and other personal distractions.
These aren't going to stop your anxiety, but they're not supposed to. All they're supposed to do is limit the amount of time that you can focus on your anxiety so that your mind can control it and eventually stop it, strengthening your stress control muscle.
Tip 5: Make Stresses Fun
This isn't always possible, but ideally when you have a recurring stress in your life, find a way to make it fun. The most common example is the workplace. Let's say you work in a toxic environment and you're stressed every day. What can you do?
Well, you can let that stress effect you, or you can try to turn your work into a game so that it's more fun, doing things like:
- Turning your tasks into competitions with yourself.
- Creating a bingo card of the things that create stress and giving yourself a treat when you get a bingo.
- Hiding notes around the office that only you're aware of.
- Wearing something funny under your business suit as an inside joke with yourself.
- Planning activities with coworkers during work or after work so that you fear your workplace less.
These are all quick examples of ways you can quickly make your work more enjoyable, and once your work is more enjoyable, the stresses won't have quite as much of a lasting impact on your life.
Tip 6: Write Out Unforgettable Thoughts
Those with anxiety have a tendency to have thoughts - not _always_ anxiety or stress related, but usually anxiety or stress related - that they simply cannot seem to stop thinking about. It's extremely common before trying to sleep when you're alone with your own thoughts, but it can technically occur at any time, and when it does it can be fairly stressful, because it makes it impossible to think about anything else.
One strategy that is known to be very effective at relieving these thoughts is to write them down on a journal. Studies have shown that the brain is smart enough to realize when it doesn't need to remember things. It's the reason that experts believe people have less fact knowledge now than they did in the past - because the brain doesn't bother remembering things it can look up easily on Google.
So when you have these thoughts, write them down in a permanent place, no matter what they are - especially if they're keeping you awake at night. Chances are by writing them down you're able to focus on the though less and ultimately get some relief from it.
Tip 7: Drink Water and Consider Magnesium
There are a lot of people that claim that that diet has a profound role in anxiety. Turns out that's probably not true. Caffeine isn't likely to increase anxiety unless you're losing sleep or taking too much. Fried foods tend to be eaten by those that aren't taking care of themselves, but the foods themselves are unlikely to cause anxiety. Most dietary beliefs seem to be incorrect.
But there are things that do matter. One of them is drinking water, and the other one is considering magnesium:
- Drinking Water Dehydration is profoundly common in today's society. Most people do not drink enough water. It's unlikely that you are dehydrated enough to cause anxiety (you have to be dangerously dehydrated to be anxious) but you may be dehydrated enough that your symptoms get worse when you do have anxiety. It's not clear why this occurs, but most likely when you're dehydrated your body and brain are stressed, leading to further anxiety.
- Magnesium Magnesium is the only vitamin that has shown some success in those with anxiety. It's not clear why. Some theorize it is because it offsets calcium, which has a calming effect. Others point out that most people are significantly deficient in magnesium in their diets, and since stress also burns away any stored magnesium, those with stress may be developing anxiety as a result. Either way, it's something you may want to consider with your doctor.
Even though diet may not necessarily matter, there are other benefits to eating healthy, getting vitamins, cutting down on fried foods, etc., that may assist with anxiety in other ways - such as providing more energy to go about your day.
But the above dietary strategies are something you should specifically consider if you're suffering from anxiety, because there is a good chance that they can help you cope with your symptoms.
Tip 8: Don't Google Symptoms
Many people with regular anxiety develop health anxiety. It's especially common in those with panic attacks, but also affects those with all sorts of other anxiety conditions.
Health anxiety is a serious problem, specifically because it is self-sustaining and difficult to cure, and one of the issues you need to worry about the most is Googling symptoms.
Anxiety has many symptoms that directly mimic other diseases, like multiple sclerosis, lyme disease, heart defects, and brain tumors. They are so similar that doctors often have to rule them out before they find someone has anxiety.
If you Google your symptoms, you're bound to find both anxiety and some terrible health condition, and because you have anxiety there is a good chance you're going to believe it's the terrible health condition. You should see a doctor, because seeing a doctor is safer, but you also need to stop Googling your symptoms because you're always going to convince yourself it might be the terrible health condition, and experience more anxiety as a result.
Tip 9: Surrounding Yourself With Positive People
One of the most common issues among those with anxiety is that they tend to spend a lot of time with people that create more anxiety - people that like to engage in reckless activities, people that put them down, etc.
Human beings are incredibly social animals, and as social animals we tend to adapt to the people we spend time with. If you're spending time with those that create more anxiety in your life, you're going to continue to have more anxiety.
You do need friends. Friends are also an important part of confidence building and coping. But you also need to make sure that you're not making friends with people that cause more anxiety in your life. Try to find happier and more supportive friends, and if that's not possible try to schedule more psychologically healthy activities with those friends.
Tip 10: All Anxiety Matters
Anxiety is unlike many other types of health and mental health conditions. Anxiety tends to be cumulative, even if you don't realize it. Behind the scenes, your mind is constantly processing information. The more anxiety you have in your life, the more anxiety you're going to experience.
This may sound obvious, but the truth is that many people don't realize all of the ways they're bringing anxiety into their life. For example:
- You may listen to music with angry or sad tones that negatively affect your mood.
- You may watch horror movies, reality shows, or dramas that add negativity.
- You may gamble, spend money too often, or engage in dangerous activities.
When you suffer from anxiety, all of these things matter. They all bring further anxiety into your life, and make your anxiety disorder worse.
Catalogue what you do throughout the day. Are you doing anything that may be bringing even a small amount of anxiety in your life? Are you reading political blogs, walking down dark alleys at night, or speeding when you drive? Anything you do that can cause even a small amount more anxiety should be carefully reconsidered.
Tip 11: Feeling Good About Yourself Matters
It's also important that you always feel good about yourself and the future. Anxiety and depression are very similar, as both are related to neurotransmitters in your brain that affect mood. They make you feel worse about yourself, and that can make it harder to overcome anxiety.
So you need to make sure that you're feeling good about yourself, even while you're struggling with anxiety symptoms. What can you do?
- You can set realistic but fun goals for yourself so that you get the joy of accomplishment.
- You can dress well and make sure that you are proud of your appearance.
- You can go on vacations and have experiences to give you conversation starters.
There are a lot of ways to feel good about yourself, and making sure that you start doing them now is one of the best ways to regain your sense of confidence in both yourself and your future.
Bonus Anxiety Tip: Anxiety is Treatable - But Commitment is Important
Anxiety is one of the most treatable conditions available. In fact, experts believe it may be anywhere from 80% to 100% treatable. There are only three issues that stand in its way:
- Most people do not choose an effective treatment, if they treat it at all.
- Most people do not commit to those treatments.
- Not all treatments work for everyone. There is going to be some trial and error.
Not every anxiety treatment is perfect, and there are always setbacks. That's why commitment is important, as well as the willingness to try new things. But as long as you're always working towards curing your anxiety, you will eventually find relief.
I've helped thousands of people overcome their anxiety symptoms. Start with my free 7 minute anxiety test today. This test will provide you with valuable tools for helping you learn more about your anxiety and how to rid yourself of it forever.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.