Managing And Learning How To Cope With Anxiety: 25 Strategies
Anxiety disorders are typically 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 may experience anxiety in the U.S. alone. Learning to cope with anxiety can be challenging, but many strategies may prove to be effective. You might try meditation, prayer, visualization, regular exercise, or aromatherapy, for example. Other anxiety management techniques can include socializing, avoiding caffeine, spending time outdoors, and reframing your thoughts. While these self-help strategies can be beneficial, you may also wish to work with a licensed therapist to address anxiety symptoms. You might seek out a local mental health professional or connect with one through an online therapy platform.
Anxiety management strategies
In her book Generation Me, Dr. Jean Twenge, author, speaker, and professor of psychology, states three theories as to the major reasons for the rise in anxiety disorders in America:
- Poor community ties and poor social skills, or a fear of being rejected
- Individuals being more self-centered and focused on money, fame, and image
- High expectations from oneself (and a fear of not meeting those expectations)
Thus, the more we advance technologically, the more we may degrade socially. Humans are normally social beings, and when the overuse of technology stunts the social side of our development, it can cause less social interaction and overindulgence. It can also contribute to our underlying fear of rejection. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), this may lead to the development of several mental health disorders.
However, because of research and studies, people are generally becoming more aware of their situations and taking advantage of natural treatments and professional therapy. Learning how to cope with anxiety can involve a combination of approaches, and below is a list of 25 strategies that may help you manage your anxiety symptoms.
The first thing you do when you wake up often sets the tone for your entire day. The first things we tend to do when we wake up are checking our emails or switching on the TV. By doing this, we may be causing external stimuli to dictate our behavior. This act can initiate a certain level of anxiety to develop in our psyche at the very beginning of the day.
To break this cycle of anxiety and stress, researchers usually recommend that you start your day with meditation. Meditation can help you generate a sense of positivity and calmness as you prepare mentally for the day's challenges.
2. Wake up early
Morning hours can be stressful. A lot of multitasking tends to happen at this hour, when people 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 can greatly 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, you might prepare for the next day by getting things ready the previous night. Small things, like selecting your clothes for the next day or preparing breakfast and lunch menu options, can reduce your anxiety.
Research also states that waking up early can give you some time for yourself and help you prepare for the day.
Apart from meditating, spending a few minutes in prayer can be a great way to combat anxiety, according to studies. Negative thoughts often generate a lot of stress, which, in turn, can cause a lot of anxiety. The fear and worry leading up to an event, like an exam, meeting, or presentation, can cause you to feel anxious. Prayer may dispel these negative thoughts and create a sense of optimism. Mentally surrendering your thoughts, fear, and actions may give you the confidence and assurance that your day will go well, potentially decreasing your anxiety.
4. Eat breakfast
It is not uncommon for people to forego breakfast as they rush out the door in the morning. Some suggest that low levels of the food compound choline can lead to increased levels of anxiety in individuals. To overcome this deficiency, you might eat eggs, which are generally a source of choline.
5. Listen to music
According to studies, listening to music can be a great way to calm yourself and reduce anxiety and fear. Listening to the music of your choice may not only relax you, but also help you remove your focus from the source of anxiety. According to a Utah Pain Research Center study, music therapy generally helped people cope with their troubles and reduced their body pain.
6. Try aromatherapy
Studies state that smelling certain scents can have a calming effect on our bodies. Lavender, according to research, can reduce anxiety. Lighting scented candles or placing sweet-smelling lavender flowers in your house can be a great way to reduce anxiety and promote calmness.
Spending time with people you love and whose company you enjoy can relieve anxiety. Going out for coffee, eating dinner together, scheduling a video call, or visiting an old friend can be great ways to reduce anxiety symptoms.
People who maintain relationships and engage in social conversation are generally sharper and tend to remain healthier and happier. Engaging in social conversation tends to greatly reduce stress and fear levels.
"I have not seen anyone dying of laughter, but I know millions who are dying because they are not laughing," said Dr. Madan Kataria. It’s often said that laughter can be the best medicine. Enjoying a good laugh with your friends, children, or relatives can be very therapeutic.
Laughter has frequently been associated with many health benefits, often including improved sleep and anxiety symptoms. Laughing can reduce stress hormones, establish feelings of well-being, lower blood pressure, relieve pain, and improve cardiac health. Watching comedic movies or television shows or being part of a laughter therapy group may be other ways to add humor to your day.
9. Avoid caffeine
Reducing your caffeine intake per day can greatly reduce anxiety symptoms. Caffeine is not just present in coffee, but also in sodas, chocolate, and tea.
10. Reframe your thoughts
According to this study published by the Japanese Psychological Association, fear and negative thinking can be major factors contributing to anxiety disorder. Chronic worry can cause an individual to experience major stress and fear. The only remedy to this problem may be to alter your thought patterns, as thoughts can greatly affect one's behavior.
Here are some examples of rephrasing your thinking:
If a student thinks, "I will fail my exam," and they are engrossed in worry, they could try to rephrase it to the following: "I will not fail my exam because I have studied and 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," they 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".
11. 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. To combat overscheduling, try prioritizing your schedule. If certain work can be delegated, then do not hesitate to ask for help.
12. Take deep breaths
Taking deep breaths to calm yourself can be a great way to decrease anxious thoughts. Taking a deep breath may not only calm you down, but it can also give you time to reason and challenge negative thoughts. Taking a deep breath usually slows down your heart rate, and the oxygen can invigorate your system mentally and physically. Furthermore, deep breathing frequently provides immediate calming effects throughout your body. For example, a recent research study measured the effects of breathing on anxiety. Participants generally stated that they felt relief from negative emotions when they were instructed to sigh or take a deep breath.
Visualization can be another relaxing technique. Thoughts can greatly influence your actions; therefore, it can be helpful to remain optimistic. The visualization technique can teach you to use your imagination to reframe your thoughts into relaxing and calming scenarios. Imagining yourself in a safe and serene place can reduce anxiety levels.
For example, when you have anxious thoughts, you might replace them with visions of being on a beach with your feet touching the warm sand, water splashing around you, and tropical air blowing across your face.
15. Practice yoga
Practicing yoga can be a relaxing way to combat anxious thoughts and behavior. Yoga is generally viewed as a mind-body practice that typically uses a combination of breathing exercises, physical poses, and relaxation techniques. This combination of mind and body techniques can ensure a complete physical and mental workout that may greatly reduce stress, blood pressure, and heart rate.
16. Try hot water therapy
A hot water bath can be soothing for the body and refreshing for the mind. Adding essential oils like lavender and vanilla to your bath water can also be very calming. Studies state that adding Epsom salts to your baths can also relax you. The magnesium sulfate in the salts can relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.
17. Get sunlight exposure
Exposing yourself to sunlight, even for 15 minutes a day, can cause your body to produce Vitamin D, which typically plays a major role in combating feelings of anxiety and depression. If you live in an area with little sunlight, try getting a lightbox and exposing yourself to its light for a few minutes each day.
18. Drink chamomile tea
According to this study published in the journal Molecular Medicine Reports, drinking three cups of chamomile tea per day can reduce levels of anxiety. The study states that chamomile typically contains apigenin and luteolin, natural chemical compounds that can reduce symptoms of anxiety.
19. Eat whole foods
Eating a diet that includes whole foods rich in fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants can be extremely beneficial to the human body. For example, foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (often found in walnuts, fish, flax seeds, spinach, turmeric, milk, blueberries, avocado, asparagus, and almonds) are usually considered "brain food”. As the name implies, these foods may promote brain development, safeguard against neurodegeneration, and fight anxiety and depression.
Getting seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night can be rejuvenating and therapeutic for your body. Proper sleep can be seen as healing for many of our mental ailments. Most of the healing process usually takes place when the human body is sleeping and at rest. Interrupted sleep can slow the repairing processes in our body, potentially causing us to feel tired and on edge. Avoiding screen time and stimulants like caffeine before bedtime can be the best way to ensure a good night's sleep.
A cluttered and messy house or workspace can bombard our minds with external stimuli, potentially causing our senses to work overtime and leading the mind to be distracted. This may cause feelings of stress and negativity. Organizing and decluttering your space and letting go of things you do not need can be therapeutic.
22. Go on a vacation
If possible, take a break from your regular schedule and go on a vacation (or even a “staycation”). Spending too much time at work and being stressed out can increase anxiety and depression levels. Taking a vacation may help you shift your focus to something enjoyable. It has been found that returning to work after a vacation usually improves your performance and creativity.
23. Spend time in nature
A recent article published online by the American Psychological Association reported that spending time in nature can improve your mental health while sharpening your cognition. Being outdoors often helps you shift your focus from your anxious thoughts to the scenic nature surrounding you. Additionally, you can breathe in the fresh air and be exposed to sunlight, potentially increasing oxygen and absorbing mood-lifting Vitamin D.
24. Take a break from social media
A recent study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking looked at the effects of social media on the mental health of its participants. In the study, the participants were asked to take a one-week break from all social media. When the study was completed, researchers reported that there were generally significant improvements in depression, anxiety, and well-being in those who completed the break.
25. Go to therapy
Talking about your anxious thoughts can be important. You can do this by talking with a friend, family, or therapy. You may also express yourself through journaling or artistic projects. Suppressing negative thoughts can greatly affect your health and manifest in psychosomatic symptoms. Finding a healthy outlet, such as therapy, to work through anxiety and negative thought patterns can be helpful.
If you are too busy to schedule an appointment with a psychologist or therapist in person, know there may be online options to help you manage anxiety and other mental health challenges. These online therapy platforms typically allow for sessions to be scheduled outside of normal office hours.
Online therapy can be a beneficial and convenient alternative to in-person therapy for several reasons. For example, in a recent study published in Technology in Mental Health, therapists reported that they were frequently able to reach a diverse population of clients who appreciated the convenience and therapeutic alliance that was developed during counseling sessions. This study also noted that online and in-person therapy generally have the same rate of efficacy.
What are some coping skills for anxiety?
There are a variety of different coping skills—from relaxation techniques to lifestyle changes to promote mental and physical health—that may help you manage anxious feelings and other symptoms of anxiety. A few examples include:
- Engaging in deep breathing exercises
- Practicing meditation
- Reducing stress where possible
- Eating nutritious foods
- Getting regular physical activity
- Getting enough sleep
Speaking with a therapist can also be a helpful way to learn and practice coping strategies. Or, you might consider engaging in a support group. Support groups can offer you another way to learn and practice coping skills alongside others who are experiencing similar challenges.
How can I calm my anxiety fast?
If you’re looking for a way to ease anxiety in the present moment, engaging in deep breathing exercises is one method that you might try to help yourself feel calmer. There are many different types of exercises for this, but one of the simplest is known as box breathing.
To engage in this practice, take a moment to close your eyes and breathe in slowly and deeply for a count of four. Hold your breath for four more counts, then exhale slowly and completely over another count of four. Repeat the cycle two or three more times to help prompt the relaxation response and gradually increase your feelings of calm and clarity.
What is an anxiety trigger?
Anxiety triggers are different for different people. For some people, for example, social situations could be a primary cause of acute anxiety symptoms. For others, it could be stress, financial concerns, a sense of not having control, a lack of sleep, caffeine, or any number of other situations or circumstances that could cause an uptick in anxiety symptoms. Learning to identify triggers that tend to affect you personally can be the first step toward learning to manage them.
What does anxiety feel like?
Anxiety is generally identified by feelings of persistent worry and/or dread. Physically, it can manifest as a number of symptoms, from muscle tension and headaches to restlessness and a racing heartbeat.
What foods get rid of anxiety?
No food can “get rid of” or cure anxiety, but there are certain ones that may help decrease symptoms. Incorporating foods into your diet that are rich in magnesium (such as leafy greens and whole grains), zinc (such as oysters, cashews, and egg yolks), and omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon), for example, could help lower the severity of symptoms. Using a nutritious diet to help you stay healthy may also better equip your body and mind to manage symptoms that do arise.
Why do I feel anxious for no reason?
Feeling anxious without a specific cause could be a sign of an anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder, for example, may manifest as persistent feelings of worry, fear, and/or dread that are difficult to control, even when there’s no easily identifiable environmental or emotional cause for them. If you’re experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder, it’s generally recommended that you seek the support of a mental health professional for evaluation and advice on a treatment plan.
What are some symptoms of anxiety?
Anxiety disorders can take different forms, from panic disorder to specific phobias to social anxiety disorder (social phobia), and the symptoms of each can vary. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is the most common type of anxiety disorder, and its symptoms can include but are not limited to:
- Persistent worry
- A feeling of dread
- Trouble sleeping
- Muscle tension
- Trouble concentrating
- Fatigue and low energy levels
What is a good natural anxiety medicine?
There are some natural substances and remedies that may help decrease symptoms of anxiety. Note, however, that speaking with your doctor before taking any new medications or supplements is recommended. Magnesium, lemon balm, and lavender are examples of some natural substances that some believe may help reduce symptoms. Other natural remedies such as exercising regularly and getting enough sleep could also help. Seeking the support of a mental health professional is recommended if you’re experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.
Is anxiety a a mental health condition?
Yes; anxiety disorders qualify as mental health conditions. If you’re experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder, a trained mental health professional can help you address them.
How do you know if you have anxiety?
Only a doctor or mental health professional can provide a clinical diagnosis of an anxiety disorder. Being familiar with key symptoms, however, can help you recognize if you may be experiencing them so you can seek professional support if so.
In general, feeling unable to stop worrying or noticing a persistent sense of fear or worry in general—whether it’s related to social situations or to specific objects or settings—could be a sign of an anxiety disorder of some kind. This is particularly true if it negatively impacts your daily functioning, work, school, relationships, and/or overall mental well-being.
If you experience panic attacks, it could also be a sign of an anxiety disorder like panic disorder, which is characterized by sudden, intense panic attacks that are generally unexpected.
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