Anxiety is a constant struggle. You need to get it under control in order to live an enjoyable life., This means you need to fight anxiety as best you can so that it doesn't overwhelm you and cause you to lose out on great experiences.
But you have to be careful. The truth is that the act of fighting anxiety takes great energy and can bring more stress. One of the biggest problems for those that have stress in the workplace is that they try to battle their anxiety every day, and it forces them to focus on their anxieties too much, creating more stress. Below are several tips and tools for reducing anxiety in ways that shouldn’t bring about additional stress.
Long-term Relief From Anxiety
You don't want to keep battling anxiety forever. As hard as it may be to do, you need to commit to a long term strategy for managing anxiety so it doesn’t continue to keep reemerging in your life.
How to Prevent Anxiety
Your goal is to develop a set of tools that help you cope with anxiety both before and after you're suffering. You can also use these tools to provide you with much-needed relaxation, rather than make your anxiety worse. Consider the following tips and strategies for preventing anxiety:
Tip 1: Exercise Often
It's repeated time and time again how important exercise is for your mental health, and it simply cannot be emphasized enough. Regular physical exertion is one of the most powerful tools available for fighting anxiety, and if you aren't at least considering it then you're not doing what it takes to be anxiety free.
Exercise has been found to stimulate the production of calming neurochemicals such as endorphins and reduces levels of cortisol (the “stress hormone”) burns away stress hormones. This is associated with a reduction in anxiety symptoms. It is probably the single most important thing you can do to fight anxiety.
Tip 2: Re-Learn Breathing
Most people don't realize this, but anxiety can actually alter the way you breathe. Those with anxiety tend to take faster breaths, often taking in more oxygen than they need. This is called "hyperventilation" and it's responsible for many of the physical symptoms of anxiety attacks.
You can re-train your body to breathe in a healthier way. It isn't easy but by spending 10 minutes a day breathing much more slowly, taking in full breaths deep into the abdomen can get your body back into better habits. Also, if you feel some of the symptoms of hyperventilation, slow down your breathing to reduce the severity of those symptoms.
Tip 3: Avoid Over-thinking
Normally, when it comes to stress, some alone time can be very helpful. But for those with daily, persistent anxiety, too much time alone with your own thoughts may cause problems of its own. Remember that anxiety has the potential to alter thought patterns. So if you have anxiety, your thoughts are more prone to being to being negative and fearful, often focusing on worst-case scenarios or thoughts of lacking control. This can lead to further stress and anxiety.
If you tend to get stuck in anxious thinking, it can help to plan to keep your mind occupied. It’s still important to have time to rest and relax, but scheduled activities (healthy activities, of course - not partying, which we'll discuss in a bit) and commitments can provide a distraction from focusing on your anxieties, giving them less space to grow.
Tip 4: Avoid Crutches
We mentioned that you should avoid the partying lifestyle to prevent anxiety, and it's important that you do your best to avoid crutches that could exacerbate your anxiety further.
A crutch is a strategy that reduces anxiety in the short-term. However, as soon as you stop using that strategy, the anxiety returns. In this way, you don’t learn to cope in the long run. Drinking alcohol and using recreational drugs can often reduce anxiety in the moment, but may mask the underlying problem. They also have additional negative side-effects than can contribute to anxiety themselves.
Even a seemingly “healthy” behavior could become a crutch if you rely on it too heavily and it stops you from learning to cope on your own. For example, always relying on a partner to relieve your anxiety when going out may work, but doesn’t teach you how to manage anxiety if they’re not around.
Tip 5: Evaluate Your Diet
The idea that diet plays a key role in anxiety is overblown. A person can develop anxiety with or without a healthy diet, and there are no foods that will “cure” anxiety as though they are like medication.
But there is still benefit to changing your diet. Bodies that are high in nutrients and hydration (by drinking water) tend to have better sleep, experience less discomfort, and help a person gain better energy to cope with anxiety.
On the flipside, there are some natural tools you can use to fight anxiety. For example, herbal supplements like kava can be taken as needed, and as long as you use them in combination with non-medicinal treatments, you shouldn't start depending on them.
Similarly, you may find that your anxiety symptoms dissipate with other natural tools as well. You may benefit from magnesium supplements, for example, because magnesium is depleted during times of stress, and magnesium deficiency can lead to some very upsetting symptoms and difficulty controlling anxiety.
There are plenty of natural and healthy options to try, and you should consider talking to your doctor about them as a way to assist in your stress reduction techniques.
Tip 6: Symptom Trigger Control
Millions of people suffer from anxiety attacks. These attacks are often triggered by other symptoms of anxiety, and cascade until they peak about 10 minutes in with a feeling of pure, unadulterated doom. Anxiety attacks are one of the most stressful and frustrating events to experience, and make it very hard to overcome anxiety.
Stopping anxiety attacks takes time and effort, and isn't something that you can simply fight away. In fact, the more you think about trying to control your attacks, often the more you'll worry about one coming. This might even make you more likely to have an attack. It's the catch-22 of trying to fight panic attacks.
What you can do is control the effects of triggers, and that means that you need to get used to each symptom so that they don't trigger panic. If you track your anxiety you may be able to identify some regular trigger points. You can do this with what's known as "exposure therapy." It's best to do this in the presence of an expert, but it is also something you can try in the comfort of your own home. Let's give an example that assumes that you get extreme anxiety that is triggered when you start to feel dizzy.
- Learn a relaxation strategy that works for you, like deep breathing. Practice this so it becomes more and more automatic.
- Find a safe way of deliberately making yourself feel a little dizzy. You could spin around in a chair for a short period of time.
- Get up - if you feel anxiety, use your strategy and wait until you calm down. You will find that the anxiety cannot stay at a high level for a long time and starts to reduce.
- Spin around in a chair again.
- Get up - if you feel anxiety, wait until you calm down.
- Spin around in a chair again.
Over time, you'll get so used to feeling dizzy and seeing that nothing terrible happens, that it won't cause as much fear. You can then try it in other styles and intensities too, such as spinning in a circle, or spinning in a chair in a public place. The more you're used to the symptom, the less likely it will trigger anxiety.
You can do this for any and all symptoms you experience. If you hyperventilate often, try hyperventilating on purpose. If you get panic attacks in certain locations, go to those locations always and often. As soon as the activity gets bored and tiresome, keep doing it, and eventually your anxiety won't be triggered at all.
Tip 7: Practice Relaxation Exercises
If you've ever sought out help for anxiety in the past, then you've no doubt come across relaxation strategies like visualization, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and others. You may have even tried them, and if you have, you probably didn't experience that much success.
That's because what these people don't tell you is that it can take a long time to feel the benefit. Part of the reason for this is because in the beginning, all you're doing is thinking about how to do them correctly and whether or not they'll work. Your mind gets caught up in analysing rather than actually relaxing.
We've said time and time again that you cannot hope to fight anxiety if you are thinking about it too much. So when you start any relaxation exercise, you're thinking about how it makes you feel and what it does, and whether you're doing it right, and how ridiculous it feels, and so on. This is natural when trying something new. You're doing nothing but thinking, because the relaxation exercise isn't natural to you yet.
For it to be effective, you have to keep doing it and expect little results until the exercise itself becomes both boring and second nature. As soon as you're able to perform the relaxation exercise without thinking about it or focusing on each individual part, that's when it should start working for you.
Finding Ways to Fight Anxiety
All of these strategies can be effective for those that want to learn how to fight anxiety. They each address specific issues that many of those with anxiety face, and integrating them into your life is a great way to reduce the effects on anxiety on your overall satisfaction.
But fighting anxiety isn't enough. You need to win the war. For that, you need to be ready and willing to commit to a successful treatment option that will get to the heart of what is driving the anxiety, and has been shown to reduce anxiety in those that suffer from it regularly.