For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with anxiety. Both generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety. At one point, my social anxiety was so severe I couldn’t even leave my house and when I did leave, I obsessed over how I looked and felt like everyone was looking at me, judging, and talking about me. I couldn’t make phone calls; I couldn’t place orders. My anxiety was crippling. As the years passed, anxiety has made it difficult to do other things such as keep a job and go to school. I’ve had several anxiety attacks at both school and the workplace which makes me constantly live in fear of it happening again. For the most part, meditation has helped ease my everyday worries, but anxiety still negatively impacts my life.
We all experience anxiety at some point throughout life, whether it be from starting a new job or having to give a presentation. But for those of us living with anxiety disorders, the constant worrying is debilitating. An anxiety disorder is a mental health condition characterized by constant feelings of worry and fear. Individuals with anxiety disorders experience these feelings persistently and they interfere with daily activities. Some examples of anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) – This anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive, unrealistic worry and tension with little or no reason.
- Social anxiety disorder – Overwhelming worry and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. You might worry about being judged by others or embarrassed.
- Panic disorder – Random episodes of intense fear. During an episode you might experience symptoms such as heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and sweating. It could feel like you’re choking or having a heart attack.
- Obsessive–compulsive disorder – Uncontrollable reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions).
- Post–traumatic stress disorder – A disorder in which an individual has a difficult time recovering after they experience or witness something that was terrifying.
- Specific phobias – An individual feels intense fear about a particular object or situation and may avoid it.
So how does a person struggling with anxiety cope? A good place to start would be identifying your triggers. Something my therapist recently recommended is writing down what I was thinking about prior to feeling anxious. In some cases, there won’t be a specific trigger.
Coping with anxiety
- Meditate. Even just a few minutes of meditation can be effective when battling anxiety. For tips on beginning mediation check out my 30-Day Meditation Challenge.
- Focus on your breath. Trying inhaling for a count of 4 seconds, hold for 4, then release for 4 seconds.
- Go for a walk. Carving out time to take a walk can reduce your anxiety by focusing your attention elsewhere. It also helps to get some fresh air.
- Journal. Aside from meditation and spending time in nature, journaling has been my go-to coping method. There’s something about writing down your thoughts and feelings that helps alleviate stress. Journaling allows you to get everything out and can also help you identify your triggers.
- Try yoga. Moving your body and focusing on your breath can be extremely healing and beneficial to those of you struggling with anxiety.
- Turn on a video. Whether it be a movie, your favorite show or something on YouTube, find something that’ll make you laugh. This serves as a great distraction from your anxious mind.
- Make a warm drink and read. Making time for relaxation is essential when you live with anxiety. Sipping on something warm and reading a good book is a great way to de-stress.
- Pause to examine your thoughts. Pause, examine your thoughts, and challenge them. How likely is it that what you’re thinking about will actually happen? Anticipation is usually worse than reality. If what you fear were to come true, ask yourself how you’d cope with it.
- Seek therapy. I’m a huge advocate for therapy and believe working with the right therapist can help you manage anxiety.
While all of these are useful when it comes to managing anxiety, your anxiety might be so severe that you need medication. If it comes to this, realize there is nothing wrong with taking medication. If you need it so that you can live your life to the fullest, that’s ok.