We all have been nervous about something – a wedding, an MA or a PhD defense, an important business presentation, or a graduation speech. This is more or less a normal reaction of the body that generally does not impede our performance.
However, if you are one of the forty million Americans that have been diagnosed with some kind of anxiety disorder, read on, because this article is for you!
In it, I will be looking at the ten simple steps you’ve got to take so as to regain control over your life. No matter if you’ve got a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or a panic disorder, you can rely on these strategies to help you reduce your anxiety in the long run.
Before I get to the flesh and bone of this article, suffice it to say that GAD is when you worry too much about ordinary things that seem pretty OK to those around you, while panic attacks are far more intense, but only occur occasionally.
Some preparatory steps
As a first step, you’ve got to convince yourself in that you are perfectly capable of dealing with your fits of anxiety on your own.
For better results, here are some factors to take into consideration.
- Reduce your daily intake of caffeine
- Stop drinking, or cut down on the number of drinks (beers, shots) you have on a typical night out
- Watch what you eat and how much you eat; cut down on sweets and chocolate
- Find a work/life balance
Having taken care of the four points listed above, you can now read about the ten anxiety-relieving hacks that’ll never fail you!
1. Instead of worrying about the future, anchor yourself in the present!
Anxiety overcomes you when you start worrying too much what might happen in the future. But in his book Freeing Yourself from Anxiety (2012) Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., emphasizes the importance of anchoring oneself in the present.
By shifting the perspective from the future to the present, you’ll easily find out that you’re perfectly safe and that there’s nothing to worry about. If you happen to feel anxious again later during the day, you can return to this routine for reassurance.
2. Accept your panic attacks as part of your life
A panic attack can be a really daunting experience – your heart is pounding and racing, you feel short of breath, and, on the whole, just a step away from a massive heart-attack!
This exaggerated reaction of your body is known as the “fight or flight syndrome”. In reality, you’ve got to do neither, so just try to relax and convince yourself that you aren’t in any danger.
3. Try to look on the bright side of life
People with chronic anxiety often focus on worst-case scenarios; so much so that they see them as the only possible outcome of every situation, Chansky writes.
Before giving in to the signals of imminent and unavoidable danger that your body is sending to your brain, try to rethink your fears and analyze your anxious thoughts. More importantly, try to accept failure as part of life.
On the whole, optimists have been found to worry less than pessimists, so try to be as optimistic as you can!
4. The importance of proper breathing
Deep breathing works wonders when it comes to countering fits of anxiety. The best news is that you needn’t be a practicing yoga to breathe properly, neither should you focus too much on counting how many times you breathe in and out.
According to Dr. Chansky, it’s enough to just take a few deep breaths whenever you feel anxious or nervous.
This will oxygenate your bloodstream and will naturally relax your muscles. On the contrary, the flight-or-fight syndrome that triggers anxiety forces your body take short, rapid breaths that make your muscles tense and stiff.
5. Your brain is in overdrive, learn to slow it down!
When one is anxious, he or she feels their brain to be going too fast, making them unable to control their thoughts and emotions. Tamar Chansky says you have to do three simple things, so as to return your brain activity back to its normal levels.
To distract yourself from your current fit of panic, look around and name the first three things you see. Then name three sounds you can hear. Finally, touch three parts of your body.
6. If you suddenly get too stressed up at work, stand up and do something trivial
While working on a particularly difficult task in the office, you may suddenly feel very stressed up. Sometimes, this surge of stress hormones can even unleash a full-blown panic attack. You’ve got to act fast, so as to regain control over your perceptions.
The right strategy here is just to get up and do something trivial. Throw a sheet of paper into the dust bin, make yourself a cup of coffee, or have a short walk to the shredder or the copy machine. You know what I mean.
7. The Body posture that helps you overcome your anxiety
The next time you feel anxious about something, Dr. Chansky recommends that you pull your shoulders back, plant your feet apart and open your chest.
She calls this position “an immediate physical antidote to anxiety”, because when we feel panicked, we tend to hunch over in an attempt to protect our heart and lungs.
8. If you have a sweet tooth, take it out!
It’s a common myth that chocolate is a comfort food that helps you relax. In reality, it stimulates your brain and makes it work faster. If you go back to that part about overdrive, you’ll easily get it why it’s not a good idea to gorge on sweets when you’re anxious.
Instead, Tamar Chansky recommends to have balanced, protein-based meals with plenty of water. If you feel you need to munch sometinig, grab a rice cake or a plain biscuit.
9. Don’t be alone dealing with your doubts and fears
Now, I know that some of your fears may seem pretty groundless to those around you, and for this reason you probably eschew from sharing them with your family and friends.
Dr. Chansky says you should instead adopt the opposite strategy. By sharing your fears with your family and friends, you’ll be able to see their groundlessness for yourself and easily deal with them.
10. Tom & Jerry isn’t just for kids
By this I mean that your fit of anxiety will vanish into thin air, if you just take the time to watch a short, funny video. The more you laugh, the longer you’ll live and the healthier you’ll be.
If you find out that this strategy works well for you, you may even want to sign up for some group activity that gives you a lot of fun. You see, there are so many nice things happening around us every minute! So why should you worry about our Sun running out of fuel?