“Me: What could possibly go wrong? Anxiety: I’m glad you asked…hold my beer.”
Yesterday was one of those days when bad news seem to be the order of the day.
From denied educational grants for obscure reasons, to broken down vehicles, to health related issues, bad news were pouring like rain in July, and they didn’t seem to want to stop.
It was as if the universe was angry and out to spread the sentiment everywhere. My blood pressure went over the roof, and by 1 PM I was exhausted from trying to process the bad news, multitask, and control my anxiety at the same time. I tried some mindfulness and progressive muscle relaxation exercises to bring the heat down, but even my happy place was not feeling jolly today.
Millions of people suffer from anxiety. Some have the ability or have learned coping skills to manage the symptoms, many others opt for prescription medications to alleviate the awful physical sensations brought on by an anxiety attack. I choose to adopt a personalized self-calming routine of breathing and muscle relaxation exercises that can lessen all those life’s stressors that trigger anxiety. It doesn’t always work, especially when life decides to throw you those fast curve balls, but adhering to that self-calming routine and practicing relaxation exercises even when an anxiety attack is not imminent always helps.
I know I am not alone in my battle against stress and anxiety, so here are a few quick steps to follow if anxiety decides to creep up and try and ruin your day.
STEP 1: Take a Slow and Deep Breath
Anxiety has the potential of making you want to react immediately, often causing us to act impulsively to solve a problem. When you start feeling that warm sensation up your spine, or your heart begins to beat faster, take a slow and deep breath and count to 10. Heck, count to 20 if it’s really bad, but taking a few seconds to give yourself a time-out from the overwhelms of life will help you reduce the likelihood that you will react immediately and impulsively, and will help you make better decisions.
STEP 2: Ask Questions
Anxiety is our body’s adaptive response to a stressful or dangerous situation. It’s our body’s way of telling us that something doesn’t feel or seem right. Anxiety is often a cause of or a reaction to unmanaged feelings or emotions, especially when we jump to conclusions and fail to put things in perspective. Perhaps you feel powerless or seem to be losing control over the matter. Stop your mind and ask yourself if the anxiety provoking person, situation, object, or problem is truly as bad as it seems. Perhaps you are overreacting, and this is contributing to your feelings of anxiety. Ask yourself if there is a better way to handle the issue, or if you can enlist someone’s help or even delegate the task to properly tackle the issue. Asking questions will help you realize that while you don’t have control over all the forces around you, there are solutions that will reduce your anxiety.
STEP 3: Reduce Triggers
Triggers are all around us. They are present in everyday situations, people, thoughts, emotions, or objects that can send anyone with anxiety problems into a panic attack. Reducing your triggers as much as possible will decrease the chances of having a full blown anxiety attack. Taking the time to analyze issues and finding solutions that help you solve problems and dilemmas in a logical and productive way will help you identify, reduce, and even eliminate daily triggers.
STEP 4: Get Some ZZZZZs
Anxiety causes sleep problems, and sleep problems cause anxiety. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body and mind can’t recharge to get you ready for the next day. If your batteries are not properly recharged, your ability to cope with triggers and stressors will be affected, and will worsen until you manage to get enough rest. So, try your best to get plenty of sound sleep, as the effects of a restless body and mind will compound over time, leaving you vulnerable to deal with and cope with anxiety. Sleep recharges your brain.
STEP 5: Physical Activity
Regular exercise will help you get your mind off the vicious anxiety cycle.You don’t have to be a marathon runner to reduce your anxiety, but you cannot be a couch potato either. There are a variety of activity choices to stay active, one of them should work for you. Take a walk. Go for a jog. Dance. Take a cardio/fitness class near you. Lift some weights. Take a yoga or Tai Chi class. Any of these choices will help ease your anxious mind and improve your overall physical, emotional, and mental health.
STEP 6: Maintain a Balanced Nutrition
Your stomach health plays a huge role in the maintenance, behavior, and exacerbation of your anxiety. Your gut can affect your behavior because stress depletes nutrients. Proper nutrition is essential to ward off most anxiety related problems, especially those that affect you physically. When anxiety kicks in, your heart start beating faster, you hyperventilate, insomnia arrives unannounced and planning to stay, and your overall mental capacity is reduced. A healthy and balanced diet (and exercise) are key to helping you reduce anxiety, and simple tweaks on your daily diet will go a long way. For example, replace the Doritos for some healthy nuts.
STEP 7: Music, Music, Music
I have never met a human who doesn’t enjoy some type of music. Listening to calming music to relax and recenter your mind and body can be very beneficial in helping you reduce your anxiety, especially when things get tough. You don’t have to play Mozart of Chopin, any type of music that provides a sense of calmness would work. If Pink Floyd helps you relax, then that’s what you should listen to. Most people prefer relaxing soundscapes or uplifting tunes, others resort to religious music. As long as it has the potential of reaching you emotionally, it will work.