Strategies to Cope with and Manage Anxiety

Strategies to Cope with and Manage Anxiety Feeling threatened or under pressure while facing a challenging situation like a job interview, exam, or moving to a new place, is quite normal. Feeling anxious is often considered healthy as it motivates you to work harder and to do a better job.  But when anxiety persists or becomes overwhelming, and when worries and fears interfere with your relationships and daily routine, you may have an anxiety disorder which needs medical treatment.

What is an Anxiety Disorder?

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” The duration or the severity of an anxious feeling can sometimes be out of proportion to the original trigger, or stressor. This leads to physical symptoms like increased blood pressure, nausea, and so on. These responses move beyond anxiety, leading to an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are the most common form of emotional disorder and can affect anyone at any age.  There are many types of anxiety disorders:

  • Panic disorder: feeling recurring panic attacks at unexpected times. People who suffer from this condition may live in fear of a panic attack.
  • Phobia: excessive fear of a specific situation, object or activity.
  • Social anxiety disorder: extreme fear of  being judged  by other in social situations
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder: recurring irrational thoughts that lead to specific, repeated behaviours.
  • Post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): This anxiety disorder follows a traumatic event.
  • Separation-compulsive disorder: fear of being away from home
  • Illness anxiety disorder: anxiety about your health

Anxiety causes different reactions in different people, ranging from stomach pain to racing heart rate. Anxiety can also generate symptoms such as increased heart rate, rapid breathing, trouble concentrating, difficulty falling asleep, and restlessness.

An anxiety attack is a feeling of overwhelming apprehension, worry, distress, or fear. For many people, an anxiety attack builds slowly and it may worsen as a stressful event approaches. Symptoms include feeling faint or dizzy, shortness of breath, dry mouth, sweating, chills or hot flashes, apprehension and worry, restlessness, distress, fear, numbness or tingling, etc.

Here are some quick methods and long-term measures to deal with anxiety:

Quick Methods to Deal with Anxiety

Question your thought pattern: Negative thoughts can grow in your mind that may distort   the severity of the situation. One way to challenge your fears is to see whether you can take control of the situation.

  • Deep breathing helps: Breathing for 4 counts and breathing out for 4 counts for five minutes is useful to slow down your heart rate and calm the nerves.
  • Consider aromatherapy: Using oils, incense stick, candles with good fragrance like lavender, sandalwood, etc., can be soothing. They work by activating certain receptors in the brain to ease anxiety.
  • Take a walk or do yoga: One of the best ways to stop anxiety is to walk away from the situation. Doing yoga shifts the focus to the body and may help relieve anxiety.   
  • Put down your thoughts: Writing down the thoughts that make you anxious is one way to getting them out of your head. This is very useful for people who experience anxiety sporadically. It may also work well for someone who has generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). However, if you think you have GAD, you should consider long term measures to treat the condition.

Long Term Measures to Deal with Anxiety

  • Identify and learn to manage your triggers: Identify your triggers with your therapist. Some can be obvious whereas others would be less obvious. Some common triggers are a stressful job or work environment, driving or travelling, genetics, withdrawal from drugs or certain, medications, side effects of certain medications, trauma, phobias, such as agoraphobia (fear of crowded or open spaces) and claustrophobia (fear of small spaces), some chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, or asthma, chronic pain, and having another mental illness such as depression.
  • Meditation: Mindful meditation, if done regularly, can help to train the brain to dismiss anxious thoughts.
  • Take supplements or change your diet: Taking supplements and changing your diet can help ease anxiety. Research shows that things like lemon balm, green tea, dark chocolate, and omega 3 fatty acids can help anxiety.
  • Medication: Talk to your doctor about taking medications to ease anxiety.
  • Keep your body and mind healthy: Exercising regularly, eating balanced meals, getting enough sleep, and staying connected to people who care about you are great ways to stave off anxiety symptoms.
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy: CBT helps people learn various ways of thinking about and reacting to anxiety-causing situations. A therapist can help you develop ways to change negative thought patterns and behaviours before they spiral out of control.

Anxiety may always be a part of your life, but it shouldn’t overtake your day-to-day activities. Even the most extreme anxiety disorders can be treated so that the symptoms aren’t overwhelming.