Hello lovelies! Let’s chat about a little seven-letter word that has been buzzing in everyone’s ear: anxiety. Sounds familiar right? Just like that tune you can’t quite get out of your head, anxiety can keep playing on loop. However, today, we are going to learn some tips to help you master the volume control and play a mellower, more enjoyable tune.
Anxiety, The Uninvited Houseguest
Anxiety, to put it in layman’s terms, is like that pesky uninvited guest who crashes your peaceful Sunday brunch. It’s that gnawing feeling of unease or worry that pops up, particularly when we are facing stress or uncertainty. It’s as universal as a bad hair day, but while a hat can easily cover the latter, the former needs a bit more finesse.
In the science world, anxiety is referred to as a normal and often healthy emotion that acts as a response to stress. However, it becomes a concern when its persistent, seemingly uncontrollable, and overwhelming. If anxiety were a breakfast dish, it’d be burnt toast; nobody wants it, and it leaves a bad taste in your mouth!
Know Thyself, Know Thy Anxiety
Identifying your personal anxiety can be as tricky as finding a needle in a haystack. It’s subtle, and it blends well. But once you’ve spotted it, it’s impossible to ignore. Often, anxiety manifests itself through physical symptoms like a racing heart, quickened breath, sweaty palms, or feeling a bit like a shaken, fizzy drink. On the mental front, it can lead to a cascade of worrying thoughts that seem impossible to switch off.
Anxiety: The Modern Epidemic
In the bustling 21st-century world, anxiety has become as common as TikTok dance trends. In fact, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States, that’s roughly 19.1% of the population every year. And, only about 36.9% of those affected receive help. That’s almost one in every five people! Additionally, if left unchecked or untreated, it can impact our overall health, becoming the pesky rain cloud on our sunny health parade.
If anxiety were a superhero, it would be The Invincible Intruder - always there, always ready to jump into action, and quite hard to get rid of. But just like any superhero movie, there’s always a way to save the day.
7 Ways to Address Anxiety Naturally in a More Long-Term Way:
First, let’s address the more long-term techniques that can help you to become an anxiety-taming guru.
- A Balanced Diet: They say you are what you eat, and it turns out the brain is no exception. Consuming a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains provides essential nutrients needed for good mental health. Additionally, limiting caffeine and alcohol intake can be a great way to lessen your internal chaos as they can often trigger or worsen anxiety.
- Mindfulness and Meditation: Mindfulness is a great practice to put into your daily hygiene routine. Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help you to stay grounded in the present moment, effectively lowering your anxiety levels.
- Regular Exercise: An active body fosters an active mind. Regular exercise is a proven method to reduce anxiety. It’s like hitting the “reset” button on your stress levels. Plus, who can feel anxious when you’re busy feeling like a superhero at the gym amiright!?
- Adequate Sleep: Skimping on sleep is like forgetting to charge your smartphone when the battery is dead. Lack of rest can heighten feelings of anxiety. So, let’s prioritize those eight hours!
- Social Connections: It’s easy to forget that we are social beings. A strong social network can serve as a buffer against anxiety and simply sharing your feelings or engaging with loved ones such as a friend, family member, or support group can take a weight off your shoulders and help to increase feelings of safety and understanding. So don’t be shy, make a date with a mate, it’s cheaper than therapy!
- Self-care Rituals: Whether it’s a long bath, reading a good book, listening to your favorite music, or dancing around your living room, make time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation. It’s not just pampering, it’s about treating yourself as you would treat your best friend; with kindness, patience and of course, the greatest of all things, love.
- Professional Help: If your anxiety feels too overwhelming to manage alone, there’s absolutely no shame in seeking help from a mental health professional. After all, you would’t try to mend a broken leg without a doctor right? Therapists and psychiatrists are the unsung heroes ready to support you.
5 Ways to Address Anxiety Quickly in a More Short-Term Way:
Next, let’s discuss ways for more immediate relief that you can apply in the heat of an anxious moment.
- Box Breathing: This technique is as simple as it sounds! Breathe in for a count of 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for 4. This square (or box) pattern can help slow your heart rate and calm your mind. It's almost like telling your brain, "Hey, we've got this under control.”
- Grounding: Try the 5-4-3-2-1 method. Identify five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This technique helps you to stay present and focus on your surroundings, rather than spiraling into anxious thoughts.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Start at one end of your body (such as your toes) and work your way up, tensing and then releasing each muscle group. This can distract your mind from your anxious thoughts and help your body feel more relaxed. It's like giving yourself a mini massage without the spa prices!
- Aromatherapy: If you have a calming scent on hand (like lavender), take a moment to inhale deeply. This is not just some hippy-dippy advice; research has shown that certain scents can have calming effects. And no, the smell of fresh pizza, although wonderful, does not count!
- Mantras or Positive Affirmations: Have a few calming phrases ready to repeat to yourself, such as "I am safe," "This too shall pass," or "I can handle this." It may sound cliché, but sometimes, you just need to hear (or tell yourself) the right words. Come up with some of your own that suit you and keep them on hand and at the ready!
As an additional idea, I love what Brené Brown says she does to stay calm in the midst of anxiety in her book Atlas of the heart. She says she asks herself 2 questions…
Do I have enough information to freak out?
To which she says the answer is almost always no.
Will freaking out help the situation?
To which she says the answer is always no.
I love these two questions because they can serve as a reminder that it is usually not necessary or helpful to get all worked up and disrupt our mindset over something we most likely have intensified in our minds. Freaking out will only exacerbate our thoughts and create physical repercussions such as increasing our blood pressure which does us no good. Not to say it won’t happen or that sometimes it feels necessary to freak out, but keeping these questions in mind could help us out in the long run.
So, remember my friends, anxiety might be a persistent visitor, but with these tools, you have the power to set the house rules. Don’t forget it’s ALWAYS okay to ask for professional help if anxiety continues to be a challenge. Everyone’s experience with anxiety is unique, and what works best will depend on you and your situation. It’s all about finding your anxiety kryptonite. Here’s to creating a healthier, joyful, and more peaceful you!