Written by: Amanda Levison, M.S., LMHC, LPC, CCBT
Anxiety is a prevalent issue affecting millions of individuals worldwide, stemming from various triggers such as stress, mental exhaustion, traumatic events, or an underlying mental health condition. Anxiety is a completely normal reaction caused by your body to alert and protect your well-being. Every human experiences anxiety and it doesn’t mean that they are weak if it becomes unbearable, it just increases the awareness of the level of protection their body needs. While it may seem overwhelming at times, the good news is that there are effective techniques and strategies available to help manage anxiety and work towards achieving a sense of inner peace and calmness. Although not all techniques will be beneficial to everyone, this blog post aims to explore a variety of practical and evidence-based techniques that individuals can incorporate into their daily lives to effectively manage anxiety.
Understanding Anxiety and Identifying Triggers:
The first step in managing anxiety is to gain an understanding of what anxiety means for you personally. Generally, anxiety is a feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness. It might cause you to sweat, feel restless and tense, and have a rapid heartbeat. Discover what makes you anxious and how your body responds when you are anxious. It can be a normal reaction to stress. Identifying your anxiety triggers is crucial as it enables you to devise a tailored management plan.
Keep a journal to track moments when anxiety appears, noting the circumstances, emotions, and physical sensations. Recognizing patterns can strengthen your ability to recognize triggers and develop coping mechanisms.
Identify big or major stressors for yourself. Do you get overwhelmed when moving, changing jobs, starting at a new school, or finding a new coffee shop? How does change affect you?
Work with a professional. There are so many families and psychotherapists who are trained to assist you in identifying triggers, find one and begin that journey of reflection to solidify who you are.
Reflect on past experiences. Trauma or any negative experience can be a trigger for you. Spend time thinking over the life experiences you’ve had and mapping how they have affected your life. This is a great exercise to find potential triggers.
Deep Breathing and Mindfulness
Deep breathing exercises are one of the simplest and most widely practiced techniques for anxiety management. Whether you were assisted by a friend or a professional many times the first response when someone is feeling anxious is to take a deep breath. Engaging in deep, slow, intentional breaths helps activate the body's relaxation response, signaling the mind to calm down.
Mindfulness-based treatments have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression. There's also evidence that mindfulness can lower blood pressure and improve your sleep. It may even help people cope with pain. Mindfulness involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. By paying attention to the here and now, individuals can reduce anxious thoughts and promote a sense of inner peace. Many people believe that mindfulness and even mindfulness meditation promote awareness that can lead to a person pinpointing the areas that cause them to feel anxiety as well as many other issues caused by stress-related symptoms.
3-3-3 Rule for Anxiety Exercise
Whenever you feel like your brain is overloading or going 100 miles per hour it’s time to calm it down so you can relax. The goal is to re-center your mind so that you can function throughout the rest of the day. The exercise is simple; look around you and name three things you see. Then, name three sounds you hear. Finally, move three parts of your body — your ankle, fingers, or arm. The challenging part is remembering to start the exercise when you are in a high-stress moment.
Regular Exercise and a Healthy Lifestyle
Exercise plays a vital role in combating anxiety as it releases endorphins in the brain, which act as natural stress relievers. Incorporating regular physical activity, whether it's walking, yoga, swimming, or any other form of exercise, can significantly contribute to managing anxiety. Additionally, adopting a well-balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption can optimize physical and mental well-being. Just a quick note: researchers have proven that sugar can increase anxiety, so be mindful of the amounts of sugar you intake as well. Below is a short list of the positive effects exercising can have on the body as it relates to anxiety.
Engaging in exercise keeps you from the very thing you are anxious about.
Moving your body decreases muscle tension, lowering the body’s anxious feelings.
Getting your heart rate up changes brain chemistry.
Exercise activates regions of the brain that help reduce imagined threats to survival.
Exercising regularly builds up resources that bolster resilience against emotions.
At this point, I’m sure everyone has heard the buzzword “self-care”. If you’ve been living under a rock or just out of social media, self-care is anything you do to take care of yourself so you can stay physically, mentally, and emotionally well. It works to create balance and peace in your body and life. Practicing self-care is crucial in managing anxiety. Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as reading, listening to music, gardening, or engaging in hobbies. Set aside time each day to focus on self-care activities that nurture your mind, body, and soul, promoting a sense of overall well-being and inner peace. The activities you engage in during self-care help to create a process to establish behaviors that ensure holistic well-being, promote health, and actively manage illness (physical, mental, and emotional) when it occurs.
Remember that you don't have to face anxiety alone. Seeking support from friends, family, or professionals can make a significant difference in managing anxiety. Surround yourself with a support network that understands your struggles and provides a positive environment to share your feelings. Additionally, consider therapy or counseling, which can be instrumental in learning coping strategies and gaining a deeper understanding of anxiety.
How do you know when you need to seek help? In general, if you are feeling or experiencing any of the following symptoms for longer than six months, you should consider seeking help from a healthcare professional:
Excessive worry about various events or activities, occurring more days than not.
Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy.
Spending increased time alone or avoiding social events.
Suicidal ideation (thinking about harming yourself).
Experience disruptions to daily life and/or relationships because of obsessions and compulsions.
Cannot control your thoughts or behaviors even when they impact daily life in a negative way.
An ongoing sense of impending danger, panic, or doom.
Difficulty concentrating, remembering things, or mind going blank.
Fear or anxiety about one or more social situations where the person is exposed to possible scrutiny by others.
Managing anxiety effectively requires a combination of self-understanding, self-care, and the implementation of various techniques and strategies. By incorporating deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, regular exercise, self-care activities, and seeking support from professionals like the Neurofeedback Counseling Center in PA, individuals can take significant steps toward managing anxiety and achieving a profound sense of inner peace. Remember, anxiety is a common challenge faced by many, and with time and practice, you can develop the resilience and strength to overcome it.