Many Americans struggle with anxiety symptoms every year. In fact, according to the NIH a little over 18% of adults in the U.S. struggle with symptoms of anxiety annually. It is important to remember that not everyone who has symptoms of anxiety has an anxiety disorder. Anxiety might be situational, related to another disorder, or even normal. However, for many people it is a terribly uncomfortable feeling to try to cope with. We have put together nine helpful tips for people who are seeking relief from anxiety.
1. Try Meditating
One way to cope with anxiety is to try meditation. Meditating can help relieve symptoms of anxiety by helping the person calm down the nervous system. Some meditations might be more helpful than others. For example, a progressive muscle relaxation meditation can help with acute anxiety symptoms. This is a type of meditation where you clench and release each muscle in the body starting at the brow and working your way down to the feet.
Other types of meditation, like breath meditation, can help with chronic anxiety but might not be best for someone having a panic attack. While deep breathing is often helpful, for some people focusing on their breathing when they are short of breath can actually make them feel more anxious. Get yourself a buddha statue, meditation cushion, and settle in!
2. Use Grounding Sandbags
Another technique that can be helpful is to try placing a 10 pound sandbag on your thighs or feet. Some people who struggle with anxiety feel like they are floating outside of their bodies. This can be a very uncomfortable sensation and it is sometimes called dissociation if it gets bad enough. When people dissociate they feel like they are not themselves or like they are observing their body from above. It can be helpful if you have this feeling to do something that grounds you back in your body. Placing a weight on your thighs or feet helps some people reconnect with their body.
3. Seek Help
It is always important to seek help for anything related to mental health. This is especially true of anxiety because it is a symptom of other disorders including depression, bipolar disorder, addiction disorders, and many many others. Of course anxiety can also be a disorder by itself. The key is to seek out a mental health professional who might be able to help you figure out the source of your anxiety. Sometimes, just knowing what is going on makes it better. Other times you might be in need of some targeted treatment in order to get relief from your symptoms.
4. Learn Breathing Techniques
There are different breathing techniques that some people find help symptoms of anxiety. One that we have found helpful for people is what we call the “finger breathing technique”. In order to do this you hold you hands on your lap with palms facing up. As you inhale you slide your thumb up your forefinger. As you exhale you slide your thumb back down your forefinger. You repeat this process sliding you thumb up your middle finer on the inhale and back down on the exhale. You continue with each finger for as long as you need.
What we love about this is that by engaging the sense of touch it can take some of the attention off anxiety and help you to slow the breath down. People are also more likely to remember something and be more engaged with something when they are engaging more than one sense.
5. Go to a Yoga Class
More and more people are trying yoga as a way to help with anxiety. Although yoga has become a little bit of a fad, there are still some great classes that focus on connecting with the body and mind. Doing yoga can be a great way to do a couple of other things already mentioned in this post, it can be grounding, meditative, and include breathing techniques. Going to a class and practicing yoga can also be a great way to take your mind off of symptoms for a while.
6. Take a Walk
Exercise in general can be a great way to improve mental health. However, if the thought of starting a whole new exercise regime gives you more anxiety, you can start small. Just going on a walk regularly can help reduce anxiety according to a 2015 study. You might start with just a short walk around the block and work up to something longer or more rigorous down the road.
7. Pay Attention to Nutrition
It might seem basic but many people forget about what they are drinking or eating throughout the day. If you are prone to anxiety you might want to be especially cautious of your caffeine intake. We cannot stress this enough. We have seen many clients who even think they are having a panic attack and it turns out that it is from drinking too much coffee. If you are looking to reduce your anxiety it might be as simple as lowering your caffeine intake.
8. Watch Out for Side Effects
It isn’t just illicit drugs or prescriptions drugs that can cause anxiety side effects. Over the counter meditation like some cold medicines can increase feelings of anxiety. Additionally, it is important to remember that nicotine is a stimulant and therefore might give the body a speedy or anxious feeling. If you are struggling with these symptoms talk to your doctor about what medications you are taking and try to reduce or eliminate nicotine use.
9. Take a Break
Many Americans are simply stressed out and overworked. Stress can increase feelings of anxiety. Americans are also notorious for working more hours and taking less vacation days than people in other industrialized nations. We know that it can be hard to take time off or even take short breaks throughout the day. However, it can be incredibly helpful for reducing stress.
Who Wrote This?
Crownview Co-Occurring Institute is mental health and dual diagnosis facility in sunny San Diego. Visit them at www.CrownviewCI.com.
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