Wednesday, May 23, 2012
10 Tips for Managing Anxiety
Sometimes managing anxiety seems to always be an upward battle. However, we aren't left defenseless. It's a good practice to involve those who are qualified when creating a plan for managing anxiety. I have tried several different tactics. Some have worked. Some haven't. Below are ten suggestions to help manage anxiety but they are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor.
1.) Watch What You Eat
- I know it sounds so repetitive but what we eat really does affect our emotional health, especially when there may be some form of hormonal imbalance. I don't know about you but when I have been eating a bunch of junk food my body just feels sluggish and "sick." My confidence starts to slide and my desire to change diminishes. It makes it hard to fight anxiety when you already feel so down. Our body needs the nutrients of fresh fruits and vegetables, of complex carbs (meaning whole grains). When we physically feel good our ability to help our mental state increases.
2.) Exercise and Sunlight
- This goes hand in hand with watching what we eat. Endorphins help to balance the hormones. They are the happy hormone and give us that "high" feeling. Even better is exercising in the sunlight. We all can use a good dose of vitamin D. There is a connection between mood and sunlight. I know anxiety is more than just a "mood" but anxiety is closely related to depression with the sunlight being a deterrent of both. I know how hard getting out of my dark cave and exercising can be. Sometimes it can take every ounce of personal will power and at first I really really don't want to do either. However, I feel a small victory when I win over my desires. I have yet to ever come back from even a short walk feeling worse than I already did. There are days when all I can muster up is a walk around the block but I soon find the more I do that, the more control I have over my anxiety. Then my exercise begins to increase as a burden is lightened.
3.) Aroma Therapy
- You've heard me talk about my essential oils before and I really can't say enough. My husband has started calling my Peppermint Oil my new perfume. When I feel anxious I often put just a little bit of oil on my upper lip. For those who deal with anxiety on a regular basis, you know that one of the first signs is the feeling like you aren't getting enough air. I have found that the smell of peppermint is so refreshing that I begin to feel like I'm breathing normally again. It also leaves that icy hot feeling on my lip which often times is enough to help break up my thoughts that are feeding my anxiety. It forces me to think about the tingling sensation. Another favorite is to take a lemon and lavender bath. I just put a few drops into my bath water of each. The lavender helps our bodies to physically relax and I use the lemon to help me bare the smell of the lavender.
4.) Talk with a Professional
- I am not ashamed one bit to admit that I have seen a counselor on more than one occasion. In fact, it empowers me. So much of my anxiety was not understanding it. I didn't know why I was feeling the way I was? What thoughts got me to that point? Why I felt so helpless? The list could go on and on. As I talked with a professional I learned more about myself. I learned that my anxiety is driven by my feeling of having "no control." I had no control over my miscarriages, I had no control over the tornado that hit our house. I have no control over the decisions the other drivers make. My counselors have taught me how to relinquish that control somewhat. That feeling of no control is an essence fear. I've learned to face those fears and try and play out those fears. They've taught me relaxation techniques and given me tools to break my train of thought.
5.) Have a Confidant
- Talking with a professional helped me to know what I needed in those moments I feel most panicked. It also made me realize I needed to tell other people what I needed. Now this can vary from person to person. My husband is my first confidant with my mom being my backup. I can tell my husband, "I'm feeling really anxious right now." and not feel like he is going to judge me. He understands that often times anxiety in completely irrational but very real. He doesn't try to "fix me" unless I ask him to. Often times I just need him to hold me, so that I feel safe. He helps to create a relaxing environment by grabbing some soothing music. He'll engage me in conversations outside of my anxieties. My mom does that same things. There are times when I need to work through my anxieties in the moment and others where I just need her to distract me.
6.) Take a Media Detox
- As the years have gone by and I get to know myself better I've started seeing a pattern. My anxiety is linked to my use of technology. If I'm watching too much T.V., spending a lot of time on the internet, or always have the music blaring my anxiety often goes up. I think some of it is all of the flashing lights and constant sound of noise. Movies and shows are full of people killing other people, bad guys doing bad things, and natural disasters that change the world. It's not very peaceful and uplifting. Thus when I feel my anxiety rising I will often to a media detox. I will try to find other activities to engage in such as calling a friend, reading a book, doing a puzzle, cleaning my house, exercising, or service projects. As I keep my media in check my anxiety becomes easier to manage.
7.) Be Prepared to Battle
- I have finally come to realize that I will most likely have to battle anxiety for the rest of my life. Its in my genes. I also have learned that I am not my anxiety and that I am the one with control, not my anxiety. I have anxiety over a lot of things and it can vary from day to day. Sometimes I have social anxiety, or anxiety that I'm going to get sick while I'm out. I might have anxiety over the weather or an upcoming trip. I can't let it run my life. Thus, if I'm anxious about going out in public, I go out in public. If I have anxiety over a trip, I go on the trip. Sometimes it makes my anxiety rise even more and I am slightly miserable but in the end it makes me feel powerful. I won that battle. It didn't keep me from living my life. This is where it comes in handy to have someone to talk to. I can go on a trip with my friends, tell them I'm feeling a little anxious, and then find that sometime throughout the trip my anxiety started dissipating. You have to face the fears at some point. When that point is... can be very personal and vary depending on what stage you are at.
8.) Take the Losses
- Knowing that I will struggle with anxiety the rest of my life I've also come to accept that it is ok to not win every battle. We don't have to be perfect at managing our anxieties. I have this irrational fear of throwing up in public. As a result I often start feeling nauseous and start to panic when I'm in public. There are days when I have decided, "You know what, today I just can't do it and that's ok. I will cancel my plans and stay home. However, tomorrow's battle will be mine."
9.) Learn What Works for You
- What works for one person won't work for another. I can't use the medications. My body is too sensitive and they make my anxiety worse. However, I have had several friends who find great relief in using the medications, under a doctor's supervision. For me, concentrating on my breathing often makes me feel more panicked so yoga is not always a great option when I have moved past anxiety and into the realm of panic. Taking a shower often works better. What tips our anxiety off is so personal and our bodies and minds are so unique. It's ok to be different. Just don't give up.
10.) Have a Plan
- Finally, have a plan. In talking with a professional I learned what makes me anxious and the signs of a panic attack. Now when I start feeling that shortness of breath and nervousness I have a plan of what to do next. Like I said, my anxiety is built off the fear of not having control. Having a plan of action helps to relinquish some of that control. If my husband is home, I go to him immediately and try to not sit stoically, hiding my fears. If he isn't that's when I may call my mom. Sometimes I don't even need other people's help. I may fill the bath tub or talk through my thought pattern of what the underlying fear is. Knowing what to do in the heat of the moment is half the battle.
I'm still learning and trying out new things to help in managing anxiety. For example, I have recently found that acupuncture really helps me. The point is to take Winston Churchill's advice and, "Never, never, never give up."
What tools have you found to be most helpful in managing anxiety?