Practical Ways To Cope With Anxiety

Updated October 21, 2020

Whether you are dealing with ordinary day-to-day anxiety that comes with life’s responsibilities or you are struggling with one of the many different types of anxiety disorders out there, learning how to cope with these feelings can be very challenging on your own. In this article, you will learn about some different ways you can find relief and start managing stress and anxiety and improve your mental health.

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Improve Your Time Management Skills

Many people become stressed and anxious because they feel that they only have so little time to do what they need to do each day.

Although people’s schedules can indeed become jam-packed with tasks and responsibilities, by carefully examining how you carry them out, you might realize that you’re not utilizing your time efficiently. Perhaps you’re not prioritizing the most important things, or you’re procrastinating, and it seems like you don’t have enough time, leading you to rush yourself.

How we utilize our time can change how we feel throughout the entire day. For example, going to bed earlier and leaving ahead of schedule for work can help you avoid traffic and worrying about running late.

Learning to manage your time better will take some time to fully get the hang of, but you can start implementing various techniques today. For instance, you can write out and schedule everything that needs to get done each day and start making priorities.

You’ll probably find that you haven’t been making the best use of your time before. Still, once you learn how to manage your time better, you’ll feel less stressed, anxious, and pressured to get things done at the last minute, and most likely, you’ll have some more time to do other things that you like and spend time with the people you care about which can then benefit your mental health.

Find Time For Yourself

While it might be difficult to arrange some time to do things around a busy schedule, your mental health must pursue activities that you enjoy.

Hobbies can come in many different forms, and whether you like things such as art, music, playing games, cooking, and many more, there is a good chance you’ve already established some interests before.

If you haven’t been able to find the time for them, it’s important to try to do so by managing your time, which was discussed in the previous section.

Some people who are stressed or anxious can also become depressed because they can’t figure out how to make time for their hobbies; however, depression can make people lose interest in the things that they used to enjoy as well.

If this sounds like you, you can also use this time to rediscover yourself and try to find new hobbies and activities that catch your interest. You may find something that sticks with you and provides you with some fulfillment and excitement that you could have been missing out on.

This kind of positivity can also be just what you need to help you learn how to relax and cope with the challenges of everyday life, such as work, school, family, and relationships.

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Diet & Exercise

The impact that diet has on a person’s mood often goes underestimated, and many people don’t realize what their food is doing to their mind and body behind the scenes.

One example of this is bad comfort foods processed foods that are full of unhealthy fats, simple carbs and sugars, and excessive calories. Many people who are stressed, anxious, or depressed will use these kinds of foods to cope because it makes them feel good; however, its effect is temporary, and the energy that comes with comfort foods quickly comes crashing down.

Luckily, a healthy, balanced diet can help provide you with energy levels that can be sustained throughout the day and boost your mood more consistently.

Additionally, you will also want to pay attention and moderate your caffeine and alcohol consumption. While it’s perfectly normal and acceptable to have a cup of coffee or tea to start your day or wind down with a drink after a long day, they could be contributing to your anxiety levels or make them worse. You also might be more dependent on these chemicals than you realize; even though they are legal and widely used, they are still drugs, and they can affect your mental health.

Exercise is also important, and it can complement any healthy diet. Getting an adequate amount of physical activity can have tremendous positive benefits not just for your physical health but your mental health as well.

Exercise releases naturally-occurring chemicals in the body known as endorphins, which can make you feel great during and after a workout, but staying committed to a routine can have similar benefits as hobbies.

Physical activity of your choice can eventually become a hobby as well, and it can help keep you motivated and can give you goals to shoot for and stay focused on. Reaching these goals can boost your esteem and have a positive benefit for your mental health in both the short and long term.

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Breathing Exercises & The Relaxation Response

If we become chronically stressed and anxious, it’s common for people to “forget” how to breathe properly. The fight-or-flight response that happens when we are in a state that we feel is stressful or dangerous, such as in anxiety and panic attacks, quickens our heart rates as well as the speed and depth in which we breathe. The breaths tend to be shallower, and this means that your body isn’t getting enough oxygen flowing, which it needs to relax. People get used to breathing like this, and it may be a contributor to why generalized anxiety disorders are on the rise.

Deep breathing exercises can be done anytime and anywhere when you are feeling anxious, and one of the simplest and most straightforward techniques is to take long, deep breaths, and slowly let the air fill up your abdomen. Once this happens, you can then gradually release this air through your lips or your nose, whichever your preference is.

Despite being so simple, deep breathing and eliciting the relaxation response is scientifically proven to have a positive physiological response; however, such techniques, especially ones used in yoga and meditation, have been around for centuries. [1]

A more modern form of meditation, known as Transcendental Meditation, provided the basis for the establishment of what would be known as The Relaxation Response. Coined by the Harvard doctor Herbert Benson, it was found that deep breathing in a quiet and comfortable environment while not paying any mind to any distracting thoughts but finding a focus word could reduce your heart rate and blood pressure.

Benson described the Relaxation Response as being the opposite of the fight-or-flight response that can be very problematic, and by taking some time to sit down and breathe for 10 to 20 minutes a couple of times a day can reduce stress and anxiety and help you develop a calmer mind.

Try Therapy

When things get tough and overwhelming, you don’t need to try to deal with things all on your own. Stress and anxiety are among the most common reasons why people seek help, and more than half of all healthcare visits are related to these issues.

Counseling and therapy are extremely effective for a person’s mental health because they teach individuals the skills they need to cope with their emotions and the problems that they currently face as well as the ones that will arise in the future.

If you’ve been struggling with anxiety disorders of any kind for a long period, therapy is also highly recommended to treat those as well. One of the most popular and empirically-supported treatments for anxiety, along with other mental health disorders like depression and bipolar disorder, is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Essentially, CBT works by changing the way you think and respond to the things that bother you, and in turn, this changes how you feel. By identifying and addressing the negative thinking patterns in your life, you can change them into positive ones, and this can allow you to have a more fulfilling life. Because of this, CBT works on countless mental health issues, not just anxiety.

Finding a therapist who knows how to treat anxiety is more accessible than ever, and at BetterHelp, you can connect to licensed professionals who can help you through the issues that you are facing.

BetterHelp’s online therapy services are also convenient and affordable, and this helps you have a stress-free experience where you can focus on improving, rather than worrying about traveling and working around a busy schedule and trying to fit therapy in. Scheduling a session with a mental health professional is easy and flexible; all you need is access to the internet through your computer, tablet, or mobile device.

Conclusion

Anxiety can be overwhelming, but thankfully with the tools and techniques available to you, like the ones discussed in this article, along with the assistance of others, it doesn’t need to be a permanent state of mind, and your mental health can improve. You can find ways to deal with stress and anxiety in both the short and long term, and by doing so, you can focus on living a happier and healthier lifestyle that fulfills you.

References

  1. Zaccaro, A., Piarulli, A., Laurino, M., Garbella, E., Menicucci, D., Neri, B., & Gemignani, A. (2018). How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 12. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2018.00353
  2. American Psychological Association. (2010, October). The power of the relaxation response. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2008/10/relaxation

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