5 Tips to Effectively Manage Anxiety
How many times have you found yourself looking into the future? Perhaps you have a big work project coming up, have a pending offer on a home, or are unsure of where your relationship stands with someone important in your life. No matter what it is, we often find ourselves living in our future, especially when there are certain “unknowns” in our lives. Living in our future world often increases our anxiety and makes it difficult for us to tolerate the uncertainty of not knowing what is going to happen next. Here is a list of 5 ways to manage your anxiety more effectively and keep it in check.
Tip #1: Relax the Body. Without getting too scientific, it’s important to understand the impact of anxiety on our body and vice versa. Your body has a nervous system built in which prepares your body for action in the case of an actual threat (i.e., bear chasing you in the forest) or perceived threat (i.e., public speaking). Some people know this as the flight, fight, or freeze response in our body. Often, when our nervous system is activated and sustained for a long period of time, our body does not turn on the “relaxation” part of the nervous system. This, in turn, leads us to feeling activated and anxious most of the time and it’s not healthy for our bodies. Try to keep this in mind when you find your mind and body activated for feeling anxious.
Tip #2: Breathe! When we are bracing ourselves for the unknown, we might at times forget to breath. Breathing is really important in regulating our emotions and grounding ourselves. One of the best things we can do in the moment is deep breathing from our diaphragm. Taking in deep breaths helps activate the relaxation response in our body and it allows us to take a moment to think about our decisions.
Tip #3: Keep your Thoughts in Check. Anxiety is the fear of the unknown. When we don’t know the outcome about a specific worry in our future, we tend to get anxious which also increases unhelpful thought patterns about the future. When this happens, our thoughts reflect the perceived fears in our future, rather than what the reality of our current situation. Keeping our thoughts in check can help manage that anxiety better. Consider challenging unhelpful thought patterns and asking yourself, “Is this based in my reality or in my mind?”
Tip #4: Ground Yourself. One of the best ways of getting ourselves out of the land of our future is by physically bringing ourselves back to our present moment. We can do so by engaging in different grounding exercises such as tapping into our senses. We want to identify several things in our environment that we see, things that we hear, and things that we small or feel in the moment. This type of grounding reminds us that we are not living in our future, but rather in our present moment.
Tip #5: Positive Distraction. Yes, there is a different between positive and negative distraction. We want to understand the intent behind engaging in a behavior to avoid another behavior. Positive distraction is helpful when our mind is preoccupied with worry and we are having difficulty engaging in the other tips defined above. In these cases, it could be helpful to engage in some HEALTHY coping behaviors such as engaging in brief physical activity, reading a book, or meditation. Try to engage in healthy behaviors that could reduce your worry in the moment.
Take Away: Living in the future and having fears of the outcomes of our future can increase our anxiety. While some anxiety is adaptive for real threats, living in constant fear of the future is not helpful or adaptive for healthy living.
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