Do you struggle with anxiety? Do you feel like you’re constantly on edge- no matter how “safe” the environment is supposed to be? You’re not alone. In fact, this unwelcome and unfortunate guest affects nearly 7 million people in the United States, making it the most common mental illness in the country.
When left untreated, anxiety can progress from a mild inconvenience to downright debilitating. Fortunately, many strategies can help you in overcoming anxiety and reclaiming your mental well-being.
Identify How You Feel
When we feel anxious, it sometimes feels like that’s the only emotion renting space in our minds. However, our brains tend to experience and process multiple emotions at the same time.
The next time you feel anxious, check in with yourself to determine if you’re feeling any other emotions. What about anger? Excitement? Guilt or shame?
While identifying our emotions alone does not change (or solve them), it gives us powerful insight into our inner psyches. This insight allows us to learn patterns about ourselves, which ultimately provides us with guidance for change.
Take Deep Breaths
You have probably heard the cliched advice in the past, but have you ever put it to practice? When we’re anxious, our bodies naturally tense and clench. We hold the stress in our bodies, and we also constrict our breathing.
Deep breaths allow us to practice mindfulness (which can reduce anxiety) and ground our mind-body connection. If you’re looking for one of the simplest anxiety self-help strategies, this is one of them.
Use Positive Affirmations
When experiencing acute anxiety, it can become so easy to feel overwhelmed. The anxiety clouds our thoughts and judgment. What may have seemed manageable only an hour ago now feels impossible.
Affirmations are gentle reminders that provide a tiny sense of relief and optimism during these dark moments. They don’t need to be complicated, but they do need to believable. Some examples include:
I am always loved.
My universe knows what’s best for me.
I am safe.
I can manage my anxiety.
I am calm and relaxed.
This is all part of a learning lesson.
Keep a collection of affirmations that resonate with you. Write them down in a journal or even in a note on your phone. Refer to them when you need a small boost.
Research continues to emphasize the numerous benefits associated with getting into nature. That said, you don’t need to trek arduous mountains (unless that’s your thing) to enjoy what the great outdoors has to offer. In fact, research shows that even just spending five minutes outside can provide a significant mood boost.
Enjoy eating lunch or sipping your afternoon tea outside
Take a longer walk with your dog
Plan a picnic
Exercise outdoors at least once a week
Take up gardening
Talk To A Friend
When we feel anxious or distressed, we tend to isolate. Unfortunately, isolation often exacerbates the anxious thoughts we’re desperately trying to change or eliminate.
Breaking the cycle by talking about how you feel can help. However, you need to choose the right person for the job. This is a friend who should feel “safe.” Otherwise, your efforts may backfire, and you may end up feeling worse. He or she should know how to validate your feelings, provide general feedback (if needed), and offer words of encouragement.
Listen To Music
Music has a profound impact on our emotional well-being, and research on music therapy shows that listening to our favorite songs can decrease symptoms of both anxiety and depression.
Consider downloading a list of your favorite “feel-good” songs. We all have those songs that just feel amazing. Keep them on hand and turn up the volume when you’re feeling anxious. Allow yourself to enjoy the music- and don’t forget to sing along!
There is a powerful and undeniable connection between physical activity and emotional health. You already know that exercise is good for your body, but it’s also a fantastic agent for decreasing stress and anxiety.
Remember that exercise doesn’t need to be “hardcore” to be effective. You don’t need to spend hours sweating at the gym. Exercise merely refers to moving your body. From yoga to swimming to dancing around the house, the more you can get yourself moving, the better!
Dial In Your Nutrition
When was the last time you ate your daily, recommended serving of vegetables? Or swapped a soda for plain, old-fashioned water? If you can’t remember, there’s a problem.
Not only does poor nutrition wreck havoc on your physical health, but it can also ravage your emotional well-being. Your dietary choices play a fundamental role in your brain functioning, energy levels, and overall mood.
Cultivate A Hobby
Are you feeling stagnant in your life? Feeling more stressed or anxious than usual? You may need to fuse some passion into your daily routine.
Hobbies give us a sense of purpose and fulfillment. They provide us with the opportunity to learn about ourselves, develop new skills, and interact with like-minded people. They also give us something fun and exciting to do!
Consider drafting a list of all the activities or hobbies that have ever appealed to you. Don’t think too hard- just write them down! Commit to trying one or two of them in the next month and see how it goes!
Seek Professional Support
Even if you do everything “right,” you may still struggle with anxiety. That doesn’t mean you’re defected or doomed. It simply means that you have a mental health concern that requires treatment.
By seeking professional support, you are honoring your self-worth, and you are making the brave decision to share your struggles with another person.
Final Thoughts On Overcoming Anxiety
While there is not a single “cure” for any mental illness, help and relief for overcoming anxiety are available. As a Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional (CCATP), I use a variety of evidence-based, proven methods to help clients struggling with all types of anxiety.