Reclaim your power over anxiety

Anxiety is part of our fight-or-flight wiring. With the right tactics, you can whittle it down to manageable levels so that worry doesn’t hold you back from doing what you want to do.

Anxiety is a blanket term for general feelings of worry that appear in response to uncertainty. Has your heart ever beat faster in response to a stressful situation? Have your palms gotten sweaty with something daunting? That’s anxiety. Common triggers can include starting a new job, meeting your partner’s family, or public speaking.

A “healthy” degree of worry drives us to make appropriate decisions and will generally subside after the trigger event passes. An anxiety disorder, on the other hand, is characterised by persistent, excessive worrying that negatively affects your quality of life.

It can distort the severity of whatever you are facing, making it easy to overestimate an obstacle and underestimate your ability to deal with it. Common contributors to anxiety disorder are trauma, phobias, illness, pain, mental health issues, or having a genetic predisposition.

Experiencing an anxiety attach can provoke severe physical and emotional symptoms such as feelings of dread, nervousness, restlessness, sweating, trembling, fatigue, weakness, hyperventilation, mental blankness, sleep difficulties, a fear of dying, a feeling of losing control, detachment, chest pains, numbness or tingling, dizziness and hot or cold flushes. Identifying what triggers these symptoms is important in managing them.

Ask yourself; is this worry reasonable? How likely is it that my fears will come true?

Challenge your negative beliefs!

There are lots of quick exercises that can help to calm anxiety:

  • Focused, deep breathing to slow your heart rate.
  • Scented oils, incense and candles can be very soothing.
  • Exercise releases brain chemicals that counteract anxiety. It is also a way of distracting yourself and working off nervous energy.
  • Write down your worries to get them out of your head.
  • Relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, can alleviate physical symptoms.
  • Distract yourself with enjoyable things, especially those that have helped in the past.
  • Sometimes you just need to walk away and come back later.

Quick coping methods aren’t the only arrows to keep in your quiver. Eating balanced meals, getting enough sleep and staying connected to people who care about you are all great ways to stave off anxiety. Certain nutrients are beneficial; such as Omega-3 fatty acids, green tea, and small amounts of dark chocolate, whereas substances like caffeine, alcohol, nicotine or prescription medications can amplify anxiety. Remember, it’s important to consult with you doctor when making any dietary changes.

It might also be helpful to consult a mental health professional. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, for instance, teaches how to interrupt negative thought patterns and behaviours before they spiral. Working through your anxiety with a therapist can also be constructive if it stems from a past trauma.

It’s impossible to avoid all stressful situations. Learning to manage anxiety will support you to continue to do the things you want to do. Once you find what works best for you, life is likely to be a lot more enjoyable and a considerably less daunting.

By Grant J Everett, Panorama Magazine

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