Dictionary.com defines anxiety as “distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune.” That uneasiness, tension, eagerness, apprehension, fear, and other emotions you feel when you’re anxious is very draining and taxing on a person both physically and mentally.
Physically? Yes, anxiety can have a physical effect on the body. We always hear about the mental/clinical side of anxiety, but sometimes we tend to overlook the physical aspects of it. There may have been times that you have been or felt anxious, exhibited a physical response to that anxiety, but didn’t know it was anxiety because you probably didn’t know anxiety could cause something like that.
How can anxiety be physically taxing on the human body? Having anxiety, or being very anxious, can create physical effects such as a stomachache, nausea, insomnia, fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches, sweating, trembles, and the list goes on.
From a very young age in elementary school, I remember getting butterflies in my stomach, trembling, and feeling very cold even in a hot room when I became anxious from public speaking, talking to a stranger, being in a strange place, or hearing someone yell or scream. I didn’t know it was anxiety at the time because I thought my body was just acting weird, or maybe the heat wasn’t working. But as I got older and gained more knowledge about anxiety, I realized that those physical symptoms I experienced as a child were anxiety.
How do we go about coping with anxiety?
Researchers describe different anxiety types, such as phobias, social anxiety, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Anxiety can take many forms and is specific that that individual person since no two people are the same. Although there are broad categories of anxiety disorders, the way they can manifest themselves may be different from person to person.
Is there anything we can do about it? Yes, there is a wide range of coping mechanisms to help those with anxiety manage it in their own way. What may work for one person may not work for another. Either way, these are 5 tips for dealing with anxiety.
1. Seek Professional Help
I think it is ok to seek help from a mental health professional or from your doctor. If you are experiencing anxiety, whether it is mild or so severe that it is impacting your daily routine, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. These informed, trained professionals can discuss with you the anxiety you’re experiencing, the potential triggers triggering your anxiety, and can give you some resources or tips on how to manage your anxiety.
2. Attempt to Avoid Triggers
This is a lot easier said than done, but try your best to avoid the things that trigger your anxiety. Now, in life, we cannot avoid all of our triggers, and at some point, we need to face them, but if you are aware of the things that make you anxious, try your best to avoid them. If you’re afraid of heights, try your best not to be in situations where you’re up very high. Like mentioned before, avoiding all of your triggers isn’t possible as you’ll encounter situations in life where you have to eventually face them. However, the more you try to avoid or limit your exposure to things that make you anxious, the more you’ll be able to cope with your anxiety, manage your stress levels, and overall lead a better life in the long run.
3. Relaxation Techniques
When one is anxious or stressed in a triggering situation, sometimes practicing some relaxation techniques can be a great coping skill. Some examples of relaxation techniques are being in a quiet place, doing yoga, meditating, calming music, and deep breaths. These are just a few of the many techniques you can practice, and even incorporate into a daily routine, to help you manage and cope with anxiety.
4. Positive Thinking
This isn’t a quick or easy fix, but you can increase your ability to manage anxiety by changing your mentality and thinking. From personal experience, one of the many reasons why I become anxious is because of the negative thoughts that race around in my mind when I’m triggered or in certain situations that make me anxious. Clinically speaking as well, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that seeks to aid people in learning how they think when reacting to anxiety and how to turn those negative thoughts into positive thoughts. The ultimate goal is to change your mentality and behaviors, gradually over time to create positive and healthy patterns to better manage or reduce anxiety (or any other disorder/problem).
Start by trying to look at the positives in situations. Start to train yourself to turn those negative thoughts into positive ones. Instead of telling yourself, “I can’t do this because I know I’ll fail,” try to tell yourself, “I’m going to try something new, and it is ok if I do not succeed this time. I can try another time again”. It is harder than it sounds, and I struggle with this myself, especially when I am flying.
My anxiety increases when I’m flying, but I love to travel, and a lot of the places I want to visit- requires flying. Negative thoughts race in my mind like “this plane is going to crash” or “we’re going to hit bad turbulence, and something is going to happen to the plane.” Now, when I’m on the plane, I try to think in my mind, “this is going to be a smooth ride,” “I’ll be fine, I just need to breathe,” and “it’s ok to be scared, but I’m not going to stop traveling and flying!”. These are just a few examples of trying to think positively when feeling anxious, which can help you with long-term healthy anxiety management.
5. Physical Activities
Finally, the last thing you can do to cope with or manage your anxiety is to participate in physical activities. Not only will this aid with your mentality, but it will help you physically to manage anxiety and stress levels. Being physically active is a great way of allowing your body to have a physical output for your emotions and thoughts. Instead of keeping those thoughts and feelings inside, being physically active provides a type of release for your mind and body to decrease stress levels and avoid tension buildups.
Some examples of physical activities you can try are exercising, participating in a sport, walking, running, and yoga. The list is endless, and you have to find the right type of physical activity for you. For me, I love exercising (strength training, HITT, cardio, barre), and walking when I can. Walks are amazing when I feel very anxious as it helps me clear my mind, practice breathing and control my emotions, and allow a physical output for my body.
As mentioned earlier, anxiety can and does look different for each person. These are just a few of the many tips that are out there that will help you manage your anxiety. As always, please seek help or consult a professional to determine the best treatment plan for you and your anxiety. But I hope these tips will help and know that you’re not alone in this struggle.