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Managing Anxiety

stress-bomb-illustrationIf you are dealing with anxiety or an anxiety disorder, you are hardly alone. The National Institute of Mental Health reported that just over 19% of American adults will experience at least one anxiety disorder over any 12-month period. The former U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, has brought attention to the association between the absence of social connections during the pandemic and how this loneliness is linked to worsening physical and mental health, including anxiety and depression. With this in mind, it is imperative to find ways to offset and heal anxiety, even at a time when it might feel easy to dissociate and slip into solitude completely.


Here are a few techniques to help you cope with the anxiety that you may be enduring throughout these tumultuous times:


Identifying “the why” behind emotions can be helpful. Ask questions like “What bothers me the most right now? What do I want to control?” These questions or types of questions can help to determine whether you’re dealing with anxious thoughts that are lying underneath the surface. Anxiety can be a way of unintentionally burying other feelings thus obstructing them from your attention and problem-solving abilities. Once you have sorted out some of the answers to these types of questions, you can begin to create a boundary between the things that you can control and the things that are out of your control. There is a considerable amount of anxiety that surrounds attempting to ‘control the uncontrollable’. By accepting the unknown, perhaps even embracing it, you can help lift some of the weight off your shoulders. 


Distracting yourself temporarily can also be effective. Indeed, temporary distractions can be a good thing. Temporary distractions can offer the space needed in order to let emotions calm down, which is especially necessary when you are feeling overwhelmed with anxiety. Some distractions that can be utilized include going: for a walk, practicing yoga, reading a novel, or completing a chore. 


Surround yourself with the right people. The people that you spend time with can hinder or help your emotional well-being. Remind yourself that it is good to surround yourself with people who are great for your mental health. Take note of how certain people make you feel and the people who make you feel like your happiest self. These are the people who you need to be around more frequently – especially when you feel anxious or fearful. Take breaks from the people who bring you down. 


Learn how to respond, not just react, to your anxious thoughts and feelings. This begs the question, ‘What is the difference between responding and reacting?” Responding means pausing between the stimulus and the following action. It enables you to use that pause to evaluate what a beneficial or harmful response will look like. On the other hand, reacting is impulsive. A great way to make responding, not reacting, a habit is to stop and breathe for 60 seconds amid an anxious thought. This will give your emotions time to calm down so you can figure out what your emotions are trying to tell you. 


Have a game plan when you start worrying about the future. Worrying about the future tricks us into believing that the future can be controlled. Worry is an understandable attempt to reduce uncertainty but can often cause more problems. In order to turn worry into something constructive, create a game plan like planning for the best and worst outcomes, or talking to someone you trust.


Don’t go to bed anxious. If you feel anxious at night, try writing down your thoughts and feelings before going to sleep. You do not have to analyze or fix them – just get them down on paper. The simple act of writing things down often brings balance back into the brain and helps produce feel-good chemicals. Writing also makes things seem a little less scary and overwhelming thereby weakening the impact and hold that anxious thoughts have over you. 


Try to view worry and anxiety as signals, warning you that something is going on around you or in your life that needs attention. Try to avoid viewing them as something to fear or suppress. These techniques can assist you to a place where you can address the roots of your anxiety so that it no longer has power over your thinking. 

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