7 Ways to Manage Your Daily Anxiety
Everyone has anxiety! It is normal to feel anxious about an upcoming job interview, important social event or the future. It is human nature to have feelings of apprehension and fear that can manifest in both our thinking and behaviors.
Anxiety actually serves a purpose! Anxiety protects us from danger and motivates us to do our best and be prepared.
However, there is a difference between “healthy” and unhealthy anxiety. Here are a few common signs that your anxiety is starting to become a major problem in your life.
- Physical symptoms that occur on a regular basis (2-3x per week)
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach issues
- Panic attacks
2. Avoiding specific situations or tasks that cause anxiety
3. Engaging in unhealthy behaviors to manage anxiety
- Drinking or drug use
- Using obsessive or compulsive behaviors
- Eating disorder behaviors
- Acting out sexually
If you could relate to any of the above symptom’s, chances are your anxiety is having a negative impact on your life. You are not alone. Anxiety is one of the top 5 treated mental illnesses.
Anxiety symptoms are very uncomfortable, and when you are an anxiety sufferer, you are always looking for a quick way to manage symptoms. What I have learned is that each person responds differently to various coping skills. I would suggest trying out many different techniques and identifying which ones work best for you and your anxiety. It is important to remember that trying new skills takes practice and the skill/tool itself is not a cure all. Solutions to anxiety occur when an individual is committed to exploring and practicing various techniques, until finding one that works best for them and their anxiety.
Here are 7 ways to help manage your daily anxiety:
1. Deep Breathing
When our bodies are in stress, we immediately start to engage in shallow breathing. A very common symptom of anxiety is trouble breathing or shortness of breath. You can easily engage in deep breathing on your own by using breath counting to measure inhalations. Try breathing in for 6 seconds, hold for 2 seconds and breath out for 8 seconds.
Mindfulness is a Dialectical Behavior (DBT) skill that focuses on identifying thoughts and behaviors without judgment. When you are practicing mindfulness, you are becoming more aware of your thoughts, behaviors and emotions without classifying them as good or bad. Some of the core principles of mindfulness are focusing awareness, practicing a nonjudgmental stance and staying in the present.
Try this mindfulness exercise to help manage anxiety thinking or behaviors.
Take a mindful moment and without judgment identify a few anxiety thoughts. When identifying these thoughts focus on what emotions you are experiencing when these thoughts come up. Again, try not to judge your emotions. If judgment comes up just acknowledge it and let it float away. Take a mindful moment and notice your experience while trying this activity. Acknowledge any thoughts, feelings or physical sensations that came up. Again, try not to judge them.
3. Healthy Distraction
We all use distraction as a way to cope with situations that are uncomfortable. Distraction is not a bad thing. However, it is important to be mindful of what distractions you are using and identify the motive and purpose behind it. Distractions can become problematic if you rely on them every time you feel any kind of discomfort. When you are feeling anxious some healthy distractions are:
- Listening to music
- Watching a movie or TV
- Being social with friends and family
- Playing with a pet
- Creating art or completing a DIY project
- Moving your body (taking a walk, yoga class, bike ride)
Visualization can be a very powerful tool when managing anxiety and I often use it in sessions with clients. Visualization is most successful when it is guided, but there are quick and easy visualizations you can try at home.
First, begin by visualizing what in your life is causing your anxiety. Try and imagine all of these separately. While you are visualizing, identify each anxiety as an object. For example, if work is causing you anxiety, try visualizing it as a notepad or a laptop. If you have anxiety about your health, try and visualize it as a band aid or another object that comes to mind when you think of your health. Once you have identified all of your anxiety objects, you are going to think about a strong container. Some common containers are a trunk, suit case, box or balloon. This container can be ANYTHING that holds things. After you have identified your container, you are going to visualize putting your anxiety objects inside and sending it far far away. You can send the container to another country on a plane, out into the ocean or into outer space.
5 .Essential Oils
Now I know some of you are reading this and thinking “How can an oil help me with my anxiety?”. Not only are essential oils proven to decrease anxiety but they can also improve your overall mental well-being. I recommended using various essential oils to help combat physical anxiety symptoms. Some common anxiety symptoms are: heart palpitations, shaking, shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness and stomach upset. There are many essential oils that have been scientifically tested to calm down the nervous system and alleviate symptoms of anxiety. You can safely use essential oils in a diffuser or apply small amount topically.
**It is important to note that I am not a medical doctor and these are suggestions.
Essential Oils for Anxiety
- Lavender *One of the most common essential oils*
- Holy Basil
6. Reframing your thoughts
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most commonly used intervention to treat anxiety. A key technique that is taught in CBT is the ability to reframe your thinking. It is true that we can’t control all of the thoughts that come into our mind. However, we can challenge the thoughts that hurt us or impair our wellbeing.
Some common anxiety reframes and challenges:
This feels like too much-I may be uncomfortable right now but it will pass
I can’t handle this-I can handle anything
I don’t want to do this its too hard-Even though its challenging I will overcome it
Affirmations can be a very powerful tool to get you through difficult or uncomfortable experiences. The power of positive thinking is real and when used regularly can be very effective in treating anxiety.
Here are some common affirmations that may help with anxiety:
With every breath I release my anxiety and become more calm.
All is well in my world and I am safe.
I can and will overcome my fear.
I am prepared for change.
Daily anxiety can be frustrating and sometimes hard to manage. Finding the right tools to allievate your symptoms can really help combat daily anxiety symptoms. Don’t expect it to happen over night, but with practice, I hope that one of these techniques can assist you in bettering your feelings of anxiety.
Written by: Abby Bernstein LMHC
Abby is a licensed mental health counselor who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, adolescents, mood disorders and addiction in Boca Raton FL.