Conquering Anxiety—Strategies for Regaining a Sense of Calm
For some of us, “going with the flow” doesn’t feel like an option. We plan, overthink, worry, and plan some more as a means of coping with not knowing what the future will bring. Anxiety, or feelings of worry, dread, or nervousness can leave us feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and unsure of how to move forward. Typically, as we grow and change, feelings of anxiety can wax and wane as we learn to navigate through life’s challenges. A new job, relationship, school, and family changes are just a few items off the laundry list of common worries that can keep us up at night. Just how can we regain a sense of calm over our anxieties? Read on for some helpful tips and strategies for getting ahead of those worries!
Deep Breathing—Stay in the Moment
When we’re feeling worried or anxious, it’s not uncommon to begin thinking way too far in the future. It’s easy to find yourself thinking about things months or even years into the future, or even things we just simply cannot control. Deep breathing exercises are an easy strategy for dealing with peaking anxiety in the moment and can help ward off panic episodes.
• Find a calm & quiet place. Close your eyes and clear your mind. Focus on your breath and ignore the rest. If thoughts pop into your mind, don’t let yourself stay distracted—get back to concentrating on your breath.
• Utilize some of the apps out there available on tech devices! These can help guide the breathing process and help guide you through the process.
Give Meditation a Try
A lot of us can benefit from implementing calming exercise into our daily routine, as maintenance. Try starting your day with a brief meditation, adding in a lunchtime exercise, or ending a long day with a few minutes to get calm and focused. Again, there are plenty of great apps out there for guiding the process and these can help you to stay on track with making time for meditation.
Keep an Eye on Your Diet
When anxiety begins to build, it’s common to let healthy eating go out the window. When you find yourself feeling anxious or overwhelmed, be mindful of how you’re fueling your body. Soda, junk food, and other treats may help us feel better in the moment, but those sugar crashes or high levels of caffeine aren’t healthy for our body or mind. Food journaling can be a helpful strategy if you find yourself engaging in “stress eating” during times of high anxiety.
Clean Up Your Finances
For lots of us, financial stress can be a major contributor to our anxiety level. Making effort to track, plan, and gain control over finances can be a helpful strategy for managing worries.
• Track expenses and take a look at areas where you may be spending more than necessary.
• Budget some funds for things you enjoy, and plan for saving, larger purchases, or emergency funds when possible. Being ahead of surprises can help with managing anxiety.
• Check out apps that can offer some solutions—there are now apps available that examine bills for extra feels, renegotiate rates/prices of services, and help hold us accountable for how we’re spending.
Ditch the Clutter
It can feel impossible to feel calm and relaxed if your space is cluttered or disorganized. Pitching the junk or donating unneeded items can helps create a more comfortable space.
• Give the Konmari Method a try—gather up and sort items into keep, donate, and discard piles to declutter your home or workspace.
Plan a Day Trip
Sometimes we just need a little getaway to re-center ourselves. Look for some inexpensive options for a quick day trip to get out in nature, spending time with family and friends, or try something new. No need for anything elaborate– a new park or beach is a good option for breaking away from stressors.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Often times when anxiety is running high, sleep is the first thing to go. Feeling exhausted is a common trigger to increased anxiety, so do what you can to get rest.
• Our bodies have an easier time with sleep when we feel tired. Get active, with an evening walk or a quick workout.
• Cut down on soda or other high sugar or caffeinated drinks.
• Create a calming nighttime routine that’s easy to stick to.
Feelings are NOT Facts
Negative thoughts cause negative feelings. Often times, many of our negative thoughts are automatic, and deeply internalized. When you find yourself struggling, ask yourself for proof:
• How do I know what I’m thinking is true?
• What evidence do I have that my negative thoughts are factual?
Challenge Negative Core Beliefs.
Remember, feelings don’t just happen to us. Thoughts precede feelings. Working hard to identify negative thoughts helps us to change our feelings.
How to challenge your negative mood:
• Record your thoughts periodically. Bullet journaling can be a very helpful strategy for doing this. Even a quick note in your phone offers the ability to review the situation later when you’re in a different state of mind. While it’s challenging to do this in the moment, over time we can develop skills for tackling thinking errors as they come. We all have triggers–pay attention to when you feel stressed out.
• Challenge your current version of reality. This is hard, because we tend to lack objectivity about what’s real vs a negative thought.
• Working on these may allow you to see that many of your negative feelings are created in your mind and not based on reality. Fortunately, we have the ability to undo our negative thought patterns and regain control over our moods.
In times where anxiety becomes overwhelming, it can be easy to lose sight of what we have to be thankful for. Practice gratitude via gratitude journaling to keep yourself focused on the good in life. This can help us to feel that overcoming and managing anxiety is possible.
When dealing with worries, it can be easy to allow ourselves to withdrawn socially and become isolative. Instead, challenge yourself to reach out. Make plans with friends and family and create opportunities for seeing the positives in life.
Seek Out Professional Help
Doing what you can to manage anxiety on your own and still having a tough time? You’re not alone. The National Institute of Health estimates that nearly 1/3 of U.S. adults will struggle with an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Untreated significant anxiety can sometimes result in panic attacks which can result in physical symptoms (such as headaches, chest tightness, or stomachaches), or at times, symptoms of OCD. If physical symptoms become overwhelming, it may also be beneficial to check in with your general practitioner to rule our medical causes or consider medication in instance where it is needed. Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help from an experienced therapist skilled in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness interventions. Please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Orlando mental health counselors.
Esposito, L. (2014). 21 quick tips to change your anxiety forever. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anxiety-zen/201405/21-quick-tips-change-your-anxiety-forever
National Institute of Mental Health (2018). Anxiety disorders. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml