Coping with anxiety can be challenging. However, whether you're experiencing heightened stress or have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, several proven ways exist to cope with this symptom.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a sense of intense worry, nervousness, or fear. Anyone can experience anxiety throughout daily life. Although it can be uncomfortable, anxiety often has positive impacts, allowing you to pay attention to focus on a difficult task or flee a dangerous situation. It can also help individuals prevent worst-case scenarios and plan for the unknown in situations where the fear level fits the situation at hand.
However, anxiety may not be healthy or helpful for everyone. If anxiety affects you most days, follows your thoughts in every situation, or causes physical symptoms like palpitations, nausea, or dizziness, you might be among the millions of people with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders cause marked functioning impairments in social, mental, physical, and professional duties.
Mental Ways To Cope With Anxiety
Anxiety often starts with the mind and your thoughts throughout the day. It may be helpful to cope with your symptoms by working with your thoughts. Below are a few tactics with which you can start.
For some people, anxiety stems from a fear of the unknown. Being unsure about the future or not knowing how a particular problem or situation will resolve itself can be stressful. If this is the case for you, it might be helpful to devise a plan for the worries lingering on your mind.
For example, if you are anxious about the outcome of a job interview, sit down with a pen and paper and list all the situations associated with that worry that are bothering you. You might have examples like not getting the job, not hearing back from the hiring manager, not knowing how to negotiate a salary, or having to move your family if you get the job. For each of your secondary worries, devise a solid plan of the steps you could take should one of your primary worries happen. Below is an example plan map you can use as a reference.
You're worried you won't get hired for the job.
You're worried you won't hear back from the hiring manager.
You're worried about negotiating for a fair salary.
You're worried about moving your family.
Accept Your Feelings
Another strategy for coping with anxiety is acceptance of your feelings. Anxiety can be unpleasant, but accepting that it's present may make it easier to manage. For this step, it might be helpful to learn about anxiety and why it affects the body the way it does. Understanding this symptom's biological and emotional processes may show you that its effects aren't as dangerous as they can seem. Meditation and therapy can also be helpful tools for practicing acceptance.
Dedicate Time To Worry
Some may cope with anxiety better when they know they have a specific time dedicated to worry. Set a timer each day and find a place to be alone. During your worry time, give yourself the freedom to worry about any topic. Once the time is up, mentally set aside your thoughts and move forward with your day, knowing another time to worry is on your schedule.
If helpful, journal your thoughts to offer a physical representation of removing them from your mind and allowing them to exist elsewhere as one of your coping strategies. Studies show that expressive writing, like journaling, can significantly improve mental and physical health.
Mindfulness has been proven to be one of the most effective coping strategies for anxiety. Find time each day to focus on your present moment. Doing so may help you learn to exist alongside your thoughts and feelings rather than trying to ignore them. It may also help you grow an appreciation for your environment and body.
Try To Understand Your Fears
If you attend therapy for anxiety, you might work on finding the root cause of your fears. While this step in the healing process can be beneficial, it is one you can start on your own. Think about your biggest fears and consider where they might have originated. Did your worry start after a particular situation or event? Maybe your fears can be connected to an unpleasant childhood memory. Knowledge can be a tool against fear.
Learn What Incites Your Anxiety
Another helpful technique for coping with anxiety is identifying inciting events, which can require tracking your feelings over time and discovering what periods of heightened anxiety have in common. You might notice that your anxiety increases when you drive, in the morning, or in busy places.
Understanding what incites your anxiety can help you avoid or cope with situations that cause you anxiety. However, avoidance may not be a healthy long-term solution. Bring these events up to a therapist to learn how to manage your emotions when they occur.
Anxiety Coping Mechanisms For The Body
Coping with mental challenges can be one part of anxiety. However, changes in the body can contribute to anxiety, too. Below are a few physical tips for reducing anxiety levels.
Research shows that a diet low in processed foods and sugar and high in vegetables can combat symptoms to alleviate stress. Foods high in magnesium, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids can reduce anxiety. Next time you're at the store, load your cart with feel-good foods like spinach, legumes, whole grains, oysters, eggs, and salmon.
One of the most popular lifestyle changes and coping strategies doctors recommend to those experiencing anxiety is exercise. Exercise can improve sleep, reduce stress, and stabilize mood, including a relatively low amount of exercise, such as a ten-minute walk. Another common suggestion for physical activity is to practice yoga to ease anxiety. Yoga is a way to stay healthy and alleviate pain from anxiety, panic attacks, and related challenges like depression or social phobia.
Your body needs sleep to function optimally. However, anxiety and sleep often have a complicated relationship. Some people may experience anxious thoughts that keep their minds active throughout the night, resulting in restlessness or sleep deprivation. When you experience a lack of sleep, anxiety may be heightened the following day. If your sleep quality is low, talk to your doctor about tips for sleep hygiene.
Say No To Alcohol And Caffeine
Research suggests that some substances can increase anxiety. Two of the most used are alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol affects cognitive functioning, making concentration and decision-making harder. It also prevents you from getting rest and can lead to an anxiety cycle in everyday life. Likewise, it can cause anxiety by changing your hydration, blood sugar, and serotonin levels.
Caffeine mimics anxiety symptoms, including an increased heart rate and jitters. These symptoms lead to the production of the adrenaline hormone in your body. The more adrenaline you have in your blood, the more likely you may experience these distressing physical symptoms.
How you breathe when you experience anxiety can impact your mental health. Anxiety can cause shortness of breath as one of several physical symptoms. In response, some people breathe too quickly or deeply to try to breathe better. However, doing so can cause hyperventilation, which provides less oxygen to the brain. Instead of hyperventilating, focus on breathing slowly with deep breaths while releasing tension. One way to do so is by practicing belly breathing or following along with a guided breathing app.
Medications are available to treat anxiety disorders and mental illness. Talk to your primary care physician if you are living with severe anxiety or an anxiety disorder, have severe panic attacks, or believe you might benefit from medical intervention. They can help you decide whether long-term or short-term medication is the proper treatment for your mental and physical health. Consult with your doctor before starting, changing, or stopping any medication.
Social Coping Mechanisms For Anxiety
Anxiety can increase when you try to cope with it alone. While working on your mind and body, don't forget to reach out to others. Below are a few coping skills you can try.
Talk To Someone
Talking with a friend or loved one about your feelings may allow you an outside perspective to help you manage anxiety and negative thoughts. Knowing you're not alone and that people care about your mental health may reduce some of your fears.
Serving others can be a way to manage anxiety. Look for a non-profit organization in your local area and dedicate time each week to a cause that you are passionate about. As you help others, you may notice that you're also helping yourself.
Talk To A Therapist
If you struggle to control anxiety, including professional treatment may be helpful. Therapists have extensive training in anxiety relief and mental health. There are multiple ways to see a therapist, and some may find that online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp is more convenient.
When you sign up with an online platform, you can be matched with a professional, qualified therapist, often within 48 hours. You can attend sessions from home and choose between phone, video, or chat session formats. In addition, sessions may be more cost-effective than in-person therapy.
Studies also back up the effectiveness of internet-based interventions. One review of 14 studies found that people participating in online therapy had a 50% improvement in symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and depression.
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Can Social Anxiety Completely Go Away?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, social anxiety disorder “is highly treatable with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and/or medication such as antidepressants.” Medications prescribed for anxiety may include serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). While social anxiety may not completely go away, many people experience significant improvement.
In addition to medication, many people benefit from talk therapy for social anxiety. According to research published in Frontiers in Psychology, exposure therapy is considered the gold standard for social anxiety disorder. If your symptoms make it difficult to see a therapist in person, a therapist may provide this type of therapy through virtual reality, which research shows to be just as effective as in-office therapy to treat social anxiety disorder.
What Are Five Coping Skills For Anxiety?
The following five coping skills may help with anxiety:
- Use deep breathing exercises.
- Practice mindfulness meditation.
- Engage in regular physical exercise.
- Practice progressive muscle relaxation.
- Lean into your support system.
Can Social Anxiety Be Cured Naturally?
There are various natural strategies to reduce social anxiety. These include getting enough sleep, engaging in regular exercise, communicating with friends and family for support, and joining a group for people who experience social anxiety. You may also find it helpful to use a natural remedy like essential oils or supplements, such as lavender, but it’s recommended that you speak with a doctor before taking any such products for physical or mental health conditions.
What Triggers Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety can be triggered by social interactions in various contexts. Some people try to avoid such interactions to prevent anxiety symptoms. This can lead to social anxiety affecting a person’s career and personal relationships.
What Calms Anxiety?
You may find that you can calm anxiety with a variety of evidence-based strategies as well as anti-anxiety medications, if necessary. If you experience an anxiety attack or a panic attack, you might consider practicing deep breathing exercises, such as box breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation. For the latter exercise, you can individually tense and then relax each muscle group. During an attack, you might also find it helpful to practice grounding, which typically entails using your five senses to ground yourself in the present moment. For example, you might refocus your attention on your sense of touch by running cool water over your skin.
What Is The 3-3-3 Rule For Anxiety?
The 3-3-3 rule for anxiety typically entails 1) identifying three things you can see, 2) naming three sounds you can hear, and 3) moving three parts of your body.
How Do I Get Over Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety can be overcome, and it may help to speak with a mental health specialist who has experience helping people with this type of anxiety. It may also help to attend a social anxiety support group. If your symptoms make it difficult to attend a group in person, you may find support groups online for people living with social anxiety.
What Is 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique?
The 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique typically involves the following steps:
- Name five things you can see.
- Name four things you can touch.
- Name three things you can hear.
- Name two things you can smell.
- Name one thing you can taste.
What Are The 4 C’s Of Anxiety?
While some therapists may consider there to be 4 C’s of anxiety, others believe there are 5 C’s: competence, caring, confidence, character, and connection.
How Can I Know If I Have Anxiety?
Anxiety is a broad term that includes several anxiety disorders, including social anxiety. Social anxiety is typically more than just shyness. It tends to involve fear of being judged negatively in social contexts. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following are some of the criteria for social anxiety disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5):
- Persistent fear about certain social situations as a result of possible embarrassment, judgment, or humiliation
- Fear that is not the result of medication, substance use, or a medical condition
- Anxiety that is disproportionate to the context
- A tendency to avoid feared social situations
- Anxiety that affects day-to-day functioning
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