Anxiety can feel like a monster that is out of control and you have no way of conquering it: nothing could be further from the truth. You can make choices to reduce your anxiety. You have the power. By adopting these seven strategies and restructuring your habits, the anxiety monster gets less scary and slowly loses its power.
Schedule/Routine: Not everyone's anxiety is related to some deep-seated trauma hidden under layers of dysfunction and poor coping skills. Your anxiety could be due to a wonky daily, weekly schedule, and routine. “Wonky” is a clinical term, by the way. Okay, it's not really. It's not uncommon for me, as a therapist, to discover that a client's anxiety is largely influenced by a poorly managed and disorganized schedule. There will always be unexpected events throughout your week, but for the most part, you can structure your day and week in such a way as to reduce your anxiety.
What are some anxiety producers for people in regards to their weekly routine?
- Over-consumption of caffeine, and or alcohol.
- Fluctuating bedtime and wake-up routine.
- Irregular and changing meal times.
- Social isolation and no support network.
- Disconnected from one's local community.
What are some anxiety reducers for people in regards to their weekly routine?
- Mindful of circadian rhythm and that your body has a physical need for routine.
- Reasonable consumption of caffeine and alcohol.
- Bedtime and wake-up roughly at the same time every day.
- Eat at the same time every day.
- Schedule activities otherwise you might not do them.
- Stay connected with friends and build a support network over time by being a support to others.
- Get plugged in with your local community.
- Give yourself leisure time like watching Netflix as a reward and not a right.
Awareness: Having awareness of your anxiety is the first and biggest step in your battle against it. Anxiety has a way of creeping into your daily experience without drawing attention to itself. Therefore, you need to make friends with the anxiety monster and learn everything about it. You can't conquer an enemy you don't understand.
Deep Breathing: "Belly breaths", "deep breathing", "cleansing breaths", "diaphragmatic breathing", or whatever you call it, deep breathing is very effective at controlling anxiety. Below are simple steps you can follow to manage your anxiety.
- Inhale: Take a deep, cleansing breath through your nose.
- Hold: Hold the air in your lungs for four seconds.
- Exhale: Slowly release the air out of your mouth.
- Pause: Allow for a moment to pass before you take your next breath.
- Paying Attention: As you inhale, hold, exhale and pause, close your eyes and concentrate on the breath and the sensation of the air filling your lungs.
- Observations: Allow your mind to make observations about what you are experiencing physiologically and what are feeling emotionally. These self-observations can be very helpful in alerting you to an ignored issue. You may notice a pressure building up in your chest, tightness on the back of your neck, tension resting on your forehead, clenched jaw, or soreness in your back. After noticing, you then have the opportunity to relax that area of tension. On a deeper level, you can attend to the potential emotional issue that could be contributing to your physical state.
Finding Resolution: Possibly, the reason you are feeling distress is due to an unresolved conflict that you are not allowing yourself to deal with because it is uncomfortable. However, ignoring your hurt doesn’t do anything. The feelings remain despite your efforts to dismiss them. It is better to face the discomfort and find a resolution to the feelings.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation: When you have a free moment, sit in a relaxed position and tense every muscle in your body. Then, slowly, starting with your head, release the muscle tension throughout your body all the way down to your feet.
Accept It and Move On: Your anxiety may have its origin in a disappointment or failure which can infect how you feel about the rest of your day, week, or month. Or the anxiety can come out of nowhere and be like a dark cloud hanging over your head. However, just because one thing went wrong doesn’t mean everything will go wrong. Don’t allow your anxiety to be a dark forecast on everything else. Allow for a mistake to be a mistake, a failure to be a failure, or an out-of-nowhere anxiety episode to be an out-of-nowhere anxiety episode, and let that be that. Accept what happened and move on.
Find Distractions: As I said above, sometimes anxiety will impact your mood or thinking without cause. If that’s the case, sometimes there is no resolution to be sought and the best strategy is to distract yourself. Reading a book, watching TV, listening to music or going for a run can aid with distracting yourself from the anxiety long enough that it goes away. Below is a list of 15 ideas that can help with distraction.
- Listen to music
- Read a book
- Go for a run
- Call a friend
- Write an email
- Work on a project
- Take a nap
- Clean the bathroom
- Ride a bike
- Draw a picture
- Write in your journal
- Write a poem
- Reorganize your home
- Do a yoga routine
I wish anxiety were easier to vanquish, but the truth is, it takes a lot work. Most people aren't afraid of hard work, they are afraid of self-discipline, putting in the hard work day after day, even when they don't want to. But that's what it takes. You can achieve self-discipline by following the seven strategies discussed in this post and rolling them into daily habits. Before you know it, one day turns into two, and then three, and then a month and then a lifestyle, a lifestyle of managing and overcoming anxiety. You can do it.