Managing And Learning How To Deal With Anxiety
By: Sarah Fader
Updated January 22, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Lori Jones, LMHC
Anxiety Disorders are the most common mental health disorders in the United States. According to a survey conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 40 million adults experience anxiety in the U.S. alone. On the other hand, according to a survey by WHO World Mental Health, developing country Nigeria ranked the lowest on anxiety levels.
Isn't this surprising? America is a developed country falling prey to anxiety - when it should be the other way around.
In her book Generation Me, Dr. Jean Twenge, author, speaker, and professor of psychology, states three theories as the major reasons for the rise in anxiety disorders in America:
- Poor community ties and poor social skills;
- Individuals being more self-centered and focused on money, fame and image; and
- High expectations from oneself, evidently leading to anxiety disorders and depression.
Shocking, but true, the more we advance technologically, the more we tend to degrade socially. Humans are social beings, and when the social side of our development is stunted by the overuse of technology, it causes less social interaction and overindulgence. This causes all kinds of disorders to develop in the human psyche.
However, thanks to research and studies, people are becoming more aware of their situations and are once again leaning on forms of natural treatments. When treated naturally, mental disorders and anxiety treatments have little to no side effects and lead to faster healing and recovery.
Below is a list of 25 proven natural strategies that will help you manage your anxiety symptoms:
- Meditation: The very first thing you do when you wake up sets the tone for your entire day. Often, the first things we do when we wake up are to check our emails on our phone/laptop or switch on the TV. By doing this, we are causing external stimuli to dictate our behavior. This act initiates a certain level of anxiety to develop in our psyche at the very beginning of the day.
In order to break this cycle of anxiety and stress, researchers recommend that you start your day with meditation. Meditation helps you generate a sense of positivity and calmness as you prepare mentally for the day's challenges.
- Waking up Early: Morning hours are very stressful for a lot of people. A lot of multitasking happens at this hour, where people are trying to juggle getting ready for work, sending their children to school and preparing breakfast. As mentioned earlier, setting the right tone at the very beginning of the day greatly helps reduce anxiety. Trying to get a lot of things done at the last minute in the morning can be extremely stressful and cause a lot of anxiety.
To prevent this from happening, prepare for the next day by getting things ready the previous night. Small things, like selecting your clothes for the next day or preparing lunch and breakfast menu options, can greatly help reduce your anxiety.
- Praying: Apart from meditating, spending some few minutes in prayer is a great way to combat anxiety, according to studies.
Negative thoughts generate a lot of stress, which, in turn, causes a lot of anxiety. The fear and worry leading to an even, like an exam, meeting or presentation, will cause you to feel anxious. Prayer helps dispel all of these negative thoughts and creates a sense of optimism. Mentally surrendering your thoughts and actions gives you the confidence and assurance that your day will go well; thus, this causes your anxieties to decrease.
- Eating Breakfast: Mornings can be crazy - crazy enough for people to skip breakfast. According to Drew Ramsey, co-creator of The Brain Food Scale, co-founder of National Kale Day, and a member of the medical review team at Dr. Oz's web portal ShareCare, people who experience anxiety disorders often skip breakfast.
He states that low levels of the food compound choline lead to increased levels of anxiety in individuals. In order to overcome this deficiency, he recommends eating eggs, which are a source of choline.
- Music: According to studies, listening to music is a great way to calm yourself and reduce anxiety. Listening to music of your choice not only relaxes you but also helps you remove your focus from the source of anxiety. According to this Utah Pain Research Center study, music therapy not only helped people cope with their troubles but also greatly helped reduce their body pain.
- Aromatherapy: Studies state that smelling certain scents has a calming effect on our bodies. Lavendar, according to research, has been found to greatly help reduce anxiety. Also, lighting scented candles or placing sweet smelling lavender flowers in your house can be a great way to reduce anxiety and promote calmness.
- Socializing: Spending time with people whom you love and whose company you enjoy has been found to reduce anxiety Going out for coffee, eating dinner together, scheduling a Skype call or visiting an old friend are great ways to reduce anxiety according to this study. This study also states that maintaining meaningful relationships is essential to cognitive sharpness and brain development.
People who maintain relationships and engage in social conversation were found to be sharper and tended to remain healthy and happier. Engaging in social conversation tends to greatly relax stress levels, causing recovery from anxiety and depression.
- Laughter Therapy: "I have not seen anyone dying of laughter, but I know millions who are dying because they are not laughing," said Dr. Madan Kataria. Laughter, they say, is the best medicine. Enjoying a good laugh with your friends, children and relatives can be very therapeutic.
Laughter has been associated with many health benefits and is known to be an effective psychiatric medicine, as it helps reduce stress hormones, establishes feelings of well-being, reduces blood pressure, brings about pain relief and improves cardiac health. Watching comedic movies or TV shows or being part of a laughter therapy group are other ways to add humor to your day. Studies state that even forcing yourself to smile can trigger a sense of well-being.
- Avoiding Caffeine: Reducing your caffeine intake per day can greatly help reduce symptoms of anxiety, as caffeine is a psychoactive drug that is intricately linked with mental disorders. Caffeine is not just present in coffee but in sodas, chocolate and tea. So, watch what you are eating and drinking.
- Rephrase your Thinking: Negative thinking, according to this study, is a major factor that attributes to anxiety disorders. Constantly worrying about things happening or not happening causes an individual to experience major stress. The only remedy to this problem is to alter your thought pattern. Thoughts greatly affect one's behavior. Changing your thought process from negative to positive is a proven way to reduce anxiety. Changing the negative thought immediately as soon as it pops into your mind is essential in reducing anxiety.
Here are some examples of rephrasing your thinking:
If a student thinks, "I will fail my exam" and she is engrossed in worry, she could try to rephrase it to the following: "I will not fail my exam because I have studied and have prepared well. The exam is going to be easy and I am going to pass with flying colors."
If someone thinks, "Something is going to happen to me, and I am going to die," he could rephrase it with, "Today is a beautiful day. I am blessed to be alive and surrounded by family and friends. Nothing bad is going to happen today. Something good is in store for me."
- Avoid overscheduling: Having too many things to do can also cause anxious thoughts and behavior. Taking responsibility for a lot of things can make you feel tired and anxious. If you already have a lot on your plate, making extra commitments can lead you to feel overwhelmed, cranky and jittery. The pressure to get everything right can lead to stressful feelings and affect your mental health greatly.
In order to combat overscheduling, try prioritizing your schedule. If certain work can be delegated, then don't be afraid to ask for help. It's OK that you're not a superhuman. You can't do it all all of the time.
- Breathing: Taking deep breaths to calm yourself is a great way to decrease anxious thoughts. Taking a deep breath not only calms you down but gives you time to reason and challenge the negative thought. Taking a deep breath slows down your heartbeat, powers up your system mentally and physically, so you can make an informed decision.
Exercise: Exercising for 30 minutes per day greatly helps reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. According to studies, when we exercise, our bodies produce increased quantities of norepinephrine, a chemical that moderates the brain's response to stress. Regular exercise has also been associated with increased feelings of happiness
- Visualization: Visualization is a great relaxing technique. Thoughts greatly influence your actions; therefore, it is important that your thoughts are positive and optimistic. The technique of visualization teaches you to use your imagination to reframe your thoughts into relaxing and calming scenarios. Imagining yourself in a safe and serene place greatly helps reduce your level of anxiety.
For example, when you are having anxious thoughts, replace them with visions of being on a beach, with the warm sand trickling down your feet, water splashing around you and the tropical air blowing across your face.
- Yoga: Practicing yoga, according to this study, is a relaxing way to combat anxious thoughts and behavior. Yoga is a mind-body practice that uses a combination of exercises like breathing exercises, physical body poses and relaxation techniques. These combinations of mind and body techniques ensure a complete physical and mental workout, thus, greatly reducing stress, blood pressure and heart rate.
- Hot baths: A hot water bath not only is soothing for the body but greatly refreshes the mind, too. Adding essential oils like lavender and vanilla to your bathwater can also be very calming. Studies state that adding Epsom salt to your baths can also help relax you. The magnesium sulfate in the salts has been found to greatly calm symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Sunlight: Exposing yourself to sunlight even for 15 minutes a day can cause your body to produce Vitamin D, which plays a major role in combating feelings of anxiety and depression. If you live in areas where there is little or less sunlight, try getting a light box and expose yourself to its light for a few minutes each day.
- Chamomile Tea: Drinking three cups of chamomile tea per day, according to this study, has greatly helped in reducing levels of anxiety. This study states that chamomile contains apigenin and luteolin that help reduce symptoms of anxiety. If you are a tea lover, go to the supermarket and purchase some chamomile tea and to start enjoying its calming benefits.
- Diet: Mother Nature has bestowed the human race with some great natural, anxiety-fighting food, which is extremely beneficial to the human body. Food rich in Omega-3 fatty acids like walnuts, fish, flax seeds, and other food items, like spinach, turmeric, milk, blueberries, avocado, asparagus and almonds are "brain food." As the name implies, these foods promote brain development and help fight anxiety and depression.
- Sleep: Getting a proper eight hours of uninterrupted sleep can be rejuvenating and therapeutic for your body. Proper sleep is the best medicine for most of our mental ailments. Most of the healing process takes place when the human body is sleeping and at rest. Interrupted sleep slows the repairing process in our body causing us to feel tired and on edge. Avoiding screen time and stimulants like caffeine before bedtime is the best way to ensure a good night's sleep.
- Decluttering: A cluttered and messy house, workplace, etc.. has also been found to cause stress in some people. A cluttered place bombards our minds with external stimuli, causing our senses to work overtime, leading the mind to be distracted and feel overloaded. This causes feelings of stress and negativity. Organizing and decluttering your space and letting going of things you don't need can be redeeming and therapeutic.
- Taking a Break: Take a break from your regular schedule and go on a vacation to greatly reduce stress and anxiety. Spending too much time at work and being stressed out can increase anxiety and depression levels. Taking a vacation helps you shift your focus from all that stress to something enjoyable. It has been found that returning to work after a vacation greatly improves your performance and creativity.
- Nature: Studies have found that spending time in nature helps reduce symptoms of anxiety. Being outdoors helps you shift your focus from your anxious thoughts to the scenic nature. Plus, you are able to breathe in fresh air and are exposed to sunlight. All these factors contribute to both a healthy body and healthy mind.
- Don't be a control freak: Wanting to have everything under your control and run it perfectly, is asking for stress and depression. Studies have found that people who are control freaks are more prone to anxiety disorders and depression. While this can be challenging, try to take your imperfections in stride. To err is human, after all.
- Therapy: Expressing negativity is important. You can do it by either talking with a friend, family member or counselor. You can even vent in a journal or in an art piece. Hoarding negative thoughts can greatly affect your health and can manifest itself in psychosomatic disorders. It is very important that you express these negative emotions.
Seeking help in the form of therapy helps you receive an experienced outlook from a non-personal view point. Therapy is also useful if you don't know who to share your problems with or are far away from friends and family. Speaking to a counselor will help you feel validated and will help you receive the help you need, depending on the severity of your condition. Try BetterHelp.com to talk with someone about your anxiety, depression and more.
Practicing these suggestions will help you to manage your symptoms in a way that is tailored to you and your personality.
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