What Helps Anxiety? Five Tips
Most people experience feelings of anxiety at some point in their lives. Anxiety can involve worried thoughts, tense feelings, and even physical symptoms. It can be uncomfortable to experience, but there are often effective strategies to cope with this feeling. For example, you might prioritize getting adequate sleep, practicing deep breathing, eating a healthy diet, taking note of stressors, and challenging your anxious thoughts. Online therapy can also be a beneficial tool to address anxiety with the help of a licensed mental health professional.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety can be defined as a common feeling that is typically characterized by worry or apprehension, and it often includes physical symptoms like tense muscles, faster breathing, and a rapid heartbeat. If you have a big presentation or an important test, you may feel anxious about how you will perform. When you don’t know how an event will turn out, you may feel stressed, worried, and anxious about it.
In many cases, a feeling of anxiety makes sense and may not be cause for larger concern. However, when you are anxious for a long period, or your anxiety is negatively affecting multiple aspects of your life, it could be an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders usually involve anxiety that persists for an extended period of time, and they can include panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and various phobias. Anxiety can also coexist in the presence of other mental health conditions, potentially including depression.
Within the general public, sometimes anxiety and depression are used interchangeably, however they are two unique health conditions and people with anxiety should seek treatments for anxiety. Panic disorders and panic attacks are most common in people experiencing anxiety, rather than depression.
Here is a look at some of the potential signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders:
- Increased heart rate
- Feelings of panic or intense fear
- Trouble breathing
- Focusing only on your fear or worry
- Avoidance of certain situations
- Sleep issues
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Excessive sweating
Tips to decrease anxiety symptoms
Experiencing anxiety can be uncomfortable and disruptive, but there are often ways to address the symptoms and find some relief. Included below are a few tips to consider for people who wish to ease anxiety.
Get adequate sleep and build a healthy sleep routine
Getting adequate, quality sleep at night can be important for several reasons. Sleep usually gives your mind and body a chance to reset, which can help you feel more in control when you wake up. It can stabilize your mood and enable you to get through your daily tasks more smoothly. It may be helpful to try to go to sleep at the same time each night, even on the weekends. After doing this for a while, your body may start to get tired at the same time each day, which may mean you will have an easier time going to sleep each night.
Try deep breathing in the moment when you're feeling anxiety
Breathing deeply may relieve some of the anxiety you’re feeling. Anxiety often causes faster breathing or short breaths, so when you breathe deeply, you can not only give your body a chance to steady your breathing again, but you may also give yourself a moment to change what you are doing and shift your focus. Sometimes, when you take yourself out of a stressful situation for a few minutes, you can gain a new perspective on it. Try to stop and take deep breaths whenever you start to feel anxious or stressed.
Eat nutrient-rich meals consistently
Eating a healthy diet can be beneficial for more than just your physical health. It can have mental health benefits as well. When we’re stressed and anxious, many of us reach for sugary foods, junk food, or other “comfort foods”. While this can be understandable, it may not be the best idea. Instead, try to eat a balanced diet, and consider limiting caffeine, which may exacerbate anxiety. In addition, certain foods may also ease anxiety. For instance, a randomized control trial in 2011 found that increasing omega-3 in the diet can lessen anxiety in some individuals.
Pay attention to stressors when they arise
Take time to challenge anxious thoughts
Challenging anxious thoughts may also be a useful approach for reducing anxiety. For example, if your brain tells you that you need to feel apprehensive about a situation, you may be able to recall a time when you did something similar, and it turned out well. This is a technique that may work best with the help of a professional therapist as well. A licensed therapist can explain how this process works, provide further guidance, and offer tips as to how to implement this in your life.
How online therapy can help
While the above tips may be helpful, sometimes managing anxiety can be too difficult to handle on your own. For those who want additional support, seeking professional help through therapy may be another option. Therapy may be able to help you challenge anxious thoughts, manage your anxiety in healthy ways, and gain key tools to help you handle certain situations more effectively.
For individuals with anxiety, the prospect of finding a therapist, going to a new location, and navigating an unknown situation can feel very daunting. Online therapy typically has the benefit of being available from wherever you have an internet connection. You can simply match with a therapist online and then have therapy sessions from wherever you feel most comfortable, potentially including your own home.
Research has shown that online therapy can be an effective treatment option for a range of concerns, including anxiety. For example, a 2019 study published in JMIR Formative Research examined an internet-based cognitive therapy program for social anxiety disorder. The researchers found that the online treatment was generally effective for individuals with social anxiety disorder, and that “there was evidence to suggest that the patients’ clinical outcomes were sustained at 3-month follow-up”. Online therapy may be able to provide lasting results for those experiencing social anxiety.
It is possible to find relief from stress, anxiety, and panic attacks.
Anxiety can feel uncomfortable and cause significant disruptions in your life, especially if you have an anxiety disorder or panic attacks. However, there may be steps you can take and approaches you can try to manage your anxiety and find relief. If you are experiencing anxiety, you may consider taking deep breaths, challenging your anxious thoughts, eating healthy foods, and getting plenty of sleep. Taking note of stressors can also offer insight. For further support, reach out to your primary care physician or an online therapist with a mental health organization, such as BetterHelp.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Are there foods that generally worsen anxiety?
There may be several foods and drinks that can make you feel more anxious than usual, potentially including alcohol, caffeine, and sugary foods. You may consider monitoring alcohol intake, and if possible, it may be beneficial to switch to drinking coffee with no caffeine and caffeine-free sodas. Sugary snacks and drinks can also have a negative impact.
Can mental disorders have physical symptoms? What are some examples of physical symptoms that might arise?
Yes, individuals living with mental disorders can experience physical symptoms. Some physical symptoms may include:
- Trembling or shaking
- Heart palpitations, increased heart rate
- Excessive sweating
- Stomach aches
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Muscle tension throughout the body
- Chest pain and shortness of breath
While some individuals may experience many of these physical symptoms due, others may not. Physical symptoms can also range in severity and frequency.
How can you reduce physical symptoms of mental disorders?
If you are experiencing physical symptoms, you might consider some of these approaches to reduce your symptoms:
- Avoid triggers
- Practice deep breathing
- Get adequate sleep
- Avoid eating certain foods or drinks, such as caffeine
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