Did you find it difficult as a child to mingle with other kids while they were happily jumping, rolling, and running around? Were exams and their results anxious moments during your teenage years? Did you feel very nervous before attending an interview or standing in front of an audience for a presentation?
Anxiety can mercilessly choke your mental ability to address an overwhelming situation. You may end up reacting irrationally to a worrisome situation because you find it difficult to control your fear.
Does that sound like you?
You’re not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States. The situation is grim in Asian and European countries.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety is an uneasy and troubled state of mind that can happen to anyone at any age, from time to time. Unnecessarily worrying about the outcome of a situation can trigger fear and anxiety. For example, facing an audience at an event can set off a weird feeling of insecurity and disgust. Whether it is the audience’s stares, giggles, or even their silence, it can uncannily give rise to unpleasant thoughts of being ridiculed about your appearance or style of presentation, causing anxiety.
The symptoms can be physical or emotional depending on the situation you are facing.
Physical symptoms and behavioral changes include:
- rapid heartbeat
- tense muscle
- often feeling tiredness
- difficulty focusing or remembering
- sleep disorders, including insomnia and restless, unsatisfying sleep
Emotional symptoms of anxiety include:
- social isolation
- restlessness or nervousness
- dreadful expectations or anticipation
- difficulty controlling fear or worry
- panic attack
Causes of Anxiety
Although experiencing occasional bouts of worry is considered normal, people with anxiety disorders frequently have serious, excessive, and haunting uneasiness or phobias about situations they face almost every day.
Some well-known anxiety situations include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, substance-induced anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and separation anxiety disorder. It is possible that you may have more than one type of anxiety disorder.
Many anxiety disorder cases are genetic or hereditary; however, your anxiety may have a medical cause. Some medical conditions that can be linked to anxiety include:
- Heart disease
- Drug misuse or withdrawal
- Withdrawal from alcohol
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Chronic pain or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazepines) or other medications
Treat Your Anxiety Without Medication
You may have turned to medication for help to address your anxious moments. Medications like anti-anxiety drugs may temporarily relieve your worrisome disorders, but this quick panacea can come with serious and uninvited side effects that can unwittingly fuel your anxiety.
Sleep disorders, decreased libido, jitteriness, and hunger pangs are some of the most common fallouts of treating anxiety with medicine. These side effects may vary for each person.
The good news is that popping pills isn’t the only way, and definitely not the best way, to keep a tight leash on your worries and phobias. There are natural ways to bring you back on track.
Here are eight simple and effective ways to shoot down those dreadful bouts of anxiety, and they require no medication. But before attempting these techniques, it is important to realize and accept that you are anxious. By realizing that anxiety is simply an emotional reaction, you can deal with it better and bring it under your control.
Take a Deep Breath
Deep diaphragmatic breathing is a powerful anxiety-reducing technique. It activates the body’s relaxation response. Marla W. Deibler, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and director of The Center for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia, LLC says “it helps the body go from the fight-or-flight response of the sympathetic nervous system to the relaxed response of the parasympathetic nervous system“.
To practice this technique:
- First, take a normal breath.
- Then, take a slow but deep breath to a count of 4. Allow your abdomen to expand fully. The air coming in through your nose should feel as though it moves downward into your lower belly.
- Gently hold your breath to a count of 4.
- Now breathe out slowly, exhaling through your mouth to a count of 4. You may exhale through your nose if that feels more comfortable.
Swap between normal and deep breaths several times for 15 to 20 minutes every day. Pay attention and understand the variation when you breathe normally and deeply. Shallow breathing usually feels tense and constricted, while deep breathing produces relaxation.
Blame the Brain Game
Your brain can trick you into believing that you may die soon! When your mental health is weak and hit by anxiety, such feelings would appear to be real. A panic attack can be a tricky situation when visualized as a heart attack by the patient.
Realizing the true nature of your condition may require a calm and gentle reassurance from your physician or your loved ones. Understanding that your brain is playing tricks on you can give you a lot of relief. And curbing such negative thoughts is ideally the best medicine rather than drugs.
With that realization, you can also practice different relaxation techniques to slow down the heart rate or relax tense muscles using relaxation exercises and cognitive techniques. These techniques, with regular practice, can calm the body and reduce the intensity of anxiety.
Be Rational to Question Yourself
As the brain keeps playing tricks while your mental health is down, an alert presence of the mind can minimize the impact of anxiety. It would be prudent for you to always analyze an overwhelming situation you are experiencing by questioning your thoughts.
Generally, you may have weird thoughts about the outcome of a situation when feeling anxious. Chances are, such thoughts and opinions could be unrealistic, as they are creations of overthinking. For example, you cooked a sumptuous meal for your guests but were unsure if they would like it. You may think they would not only dislike it but make mean comments about your culinary skills. What if someone throws up after eating the meal? This could even become the latest topic of gossip in the neighborhood.
Is the food so bad that someone would actually puke? Would your guests be so unkind to you as to attack you behind your back? Could these not be just your overworked thoughts that are unlikely to happen?
Do what you can do with what you’ve got, where you are.– Theodore Roosevelt
Don’t unnecessarily attack yourself with too many thoughts. You may have actually cooked the food well but are just apprehensive about its acceptance. That’s normal and need not require too much attention. Even if it is not good, they may just ignore the taste yet enjoy it. Try it again next time.
The story ends right there. Stretching it further is what makes you anxious.
Get Fit to Hit Back
When the mind is in overdrive, exercise is probably the last thing you may want to do. Because of lethargy and an anxious state of mind, you will worry more about the post-workout soreness than the pain and discomfort in the initial few days.
Get past it. It will surprise you to know that fitness activity is one of the best natural anti-anxiety remedies that has been proven to be effective and powerful.
Physical activity raises endorphins and serotonin levels to help you boost your emotional health. And when you feel better on the inside, your choices, tastes, and preferences also change. You do not want to be down and out; come what may.
Set your fitness goals for at least 30 minutes of physical activity, five days a week. Don’t bother yourself by struggling through a painful workout regime. Any type of movement is healthy, be it running, jogging, or stretching. Or grab a mat and get into your favorite yoga poses.
Don’t Neglect Meals
When you skip meals, your blood sugar drops. This causes the release of stress hormones called cortisol. It would be interesting to note that cortisol naturally helps you perform better under stressful conditions. However, it can worsen your condition if you are suffering from anxiety.
This does not mean you need to overindulge in sugary stuff. Though sugar is not the cause of anxiety, a lower sugar level can make your body weak to overcome stressful situations. Likewise, a higher level of sugar in your body can cause physical symptoms of anxiety, such as nervousness and trembling. It can even lead to a panic attack.
What you need is regular meals comprising fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your diet. If your appetite is low, you can have 5 to 6 smaller meals throughout the day. This will help with better digestion and enable your circulatory system to efficiently distribute the essential nutrients throughout your body.
6. Sleep Well to Unwind
Whatever work you occupy yourself with throughout the day, your sleep time of 8 hours is what keeps you going the next day. The less you sleep, the lower your productivity will be. And as your sleep arrears keep piling up, your mental health deteriorates as well.
Did you know sleep deprivation can lead to anxiety? You are not a robot to remain sleepless as long as you want. Your body will refuse to work beyond a point. But before that, you would end up with bouts of anxiety and lose your full potential to be efficient.
The excretory system works when you are at rest. So, after a good sleep, you will have a normal bowel movement and be ready for a new day with full vitality. A groggy morning because of unsatisfied sleep is detrimental. Then, if you forced yourself to be active, you would obviously have anxious moments. Sleep is the “balm of hurt minds”. A good night’s sleep prepares you for a better morning.
7. Be Positive in Your Words, Thoughts, and Action
Positive thinking can have a powerful impact on your mind. It not only overcomes anxiety but also prepares you against negative thoughts. Conversely, negative thoughts can damage your health and send the wrong signals to others around you. They will see you as less capable of managing a task.
The good news is that an anxiety disorder, even though a serious illness, is definitely curable. Reassure yourself with positive coping statements. Say, “I’m more determined and committed than everyone else.” Be proactive and show enthusiasm while interacting with others.
Psychiatrist Kelli Hyland, M.D., says, “Practice observing (thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, judgment) with compassion or without judgment.” Being judgmental is the root cause of all anxieties. If your observations are devoid of judgments, the reciprocal effect will help you see others in the same light, making you less anxious.
8. Live for Today, Don’t Worry for Tomorrow
What are you worried about? Are you stressed about meeting your financial goals? Or you may be worried about a meeting you have next week. Or concerned whether you’ll be a good parent? Aren’t these worries about matters that are yet to happen? It’s about tomorrow, not today.
When you are anxious, you become obsessive about something that might happen in the future. And your mind churns out thoughts of uncertainties and insecurities. The reason is you cannot predict the outcome accurately. You get negative thoughts about whether the outcome might be against your predetermined expectations and end up becoming anxious.
The truth is, neither can you predict your future nor can you change your past. So, live at the moment as best as you can and take each day as it comes. Of course, you can learn from past mistakes and prepare for tomorrow. But worrying about past and future events will only damage your today and destroy your tomorrow.
Anxiety can produce a lot of negative energy. It builds upon your weak points and extracts all your strength. The more you are prone to negativities, the more you become anxious. Follow these 8 simple techniques and hold the bull by its horns. No storm can destroy your ship.
Calm yourself with meditation. Practice it regularly and increase the duration gradually. Fill your thoughts with pleasant emotions and feelings. Visualize beautiful images of natural beauty to feel God’s amazing creations.
There is a reason you are in this world. Fulfill it with a stronger body, mind, and soul.