If you’re battling with anxiety, and it’s starting to take over your life, rest assured there are a number of ways to manage your anxious feelings using cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) techniques. In this informative article, qualified CBT therapist Navit Schechter offers 12 tips for managing feelings of anxiety
This edited article first appeared on Netdoctor.
1. Take time out
Most of us have very busy and full lives. Modern day living brings with it an abundance of pressures which we have to balance every day, with little time to recover. Scheduling in ‘time out’ gives our bodies a chance to relax and our nervous systems an opportunity to calm down. Any activity that does not force us to over-stimulate our senses can help us to achieve this down time – for instance, spending time in nature, walking, reading, listening to music or having a bath.
2. Get enough sleep
When we are well-rested we have more resources to deal with life’s challenges, including feeling anxious. It also gives our nervous system a chance to calm down and recover which can help us to feel less anxious.
3. Relaxation exercises
Relaxation exercises can help to reduce the mental and physical symptoms of anxiety. These work best when practised regularly, including when not feeling anxious.
Relaxation exercises include visualisation – for example, imagining yourself in a calming environment or confidently dealing with upcoming situations – and progressive muscle relaxation which involves tightening and releasing various muscle groups to help them to physically relax. Yoga, meditation and massage can also help the mind and body to relax and help you to manage symptoms of anxiety.
4. Breathing exercises
When we are anxious our breathing becomes more rapid which creates an imbalance in the body of oxygen and carbon dioxide; this can send messages to the brain that there is a threat and can maintain feelings of anxiety.
By helping the body to breathe more slowly, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels can rebalance, bringing a feeling of calm. For example, breathe in through the nose for a count of three, hold for a count of four and exhale through the mouth for a count of five.
5. Take plenty of exercise
If we are feeling chronically or frequently anxious our body will be producing large amounts of adrenaline which can send messages to the brain that there is something to fear and lead us to feel anxious. Exercise can help use up this adrenaline. It also produces chemicals in the brain which positively alter mood and helps us to feel better about ourselves and our ability to deal with life’s challenges.
6. Talk to a friend or someone you trust
Voicing worries and anxieties can be a huge relief. Sharing what you are feeling can help you to detach from your experience, seeing your problems from a new perspective. You might also find that others have experienced and dealt with similar issues. If you don’t have anyone you feel comfortable talking to, you can call to speak to someone at helplines like the Samaritans.
7. Keep a journal
If you do not want to talk to someone, writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal can help. This can give us distance – and sometimes a new perspective – on what we are experiencing.
8. Be aware of your thoughts
What we are thinking impacts on how we are feeling. If we are feeling frequent or constant anxiety, and are not in a dangerous situation, it is likely that this is arising from biased and inaccurate thoughts. Focusing on the facts of the situation, rather than our predictions or how we feel, can help us to moderate the anxiety that we are feeling.
9. Face your fears
We often avoid the things we fear. Although this helps us feel relief from anxiety in the short-term, the anxiety we feel often returns next time we face the same situation. If we can face our fears we will have the opportunity to see whether our worst-case predications happen or not. This can be liberating and improve our confidence in ourselves and our ability to cope.
10. Focus on the present
Anxiety is usually a result of anxious predictions, or worry about something that could happen in the future. When we focus on the present moment, and what is happening in the ‘here and now’, we experience what is actually happening to us and not what ‘could’ happen in the future, which can help us to feel less anxious.
11. Eat regular balanced meals
Eating regularly and healthily can help to keep our blood sugar levels balanced which, in turn, helps to keep our mood stable.
12. Be mindful of caffeine, sugar and alcohol
Caffeine, sugar and alcohol can all impact on the body and increase feelings of anxiety in the long-term.
Although they may feel like they give us a boost in the short-term, moderating the amount of caffeine, sugar and alcohol that you consume can help you to feel less anxious over time.
We can all experience anxiety and feelings of fear from time to time, it’s natural. Some, or all, of these strategies might help you to manage them. If feelings of stress and anxiety become severe and long-lasting, or seem out of proportion to the situation and are taking over your life, it is important that you seek help from a qualified medical professional.