Feeling on edge. Worried. Tense. These are all synonyms for anxiety, an emotion that millions of people have experienced in their lifetime. However, some do not realize the difference between feeling anxious every now and then, versus having an anxiety disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health goes on to describe this condition: “For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The feelings can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work and relationships.”
Millions of people, myself included, suffer from an anxiety disorder. For those who know what it feels like to have constant anxiety, it can feel like being inside your head is the worst place to be. Whether it be someone being afraid of speaking to others, another person being afraid of physical contact or someone assuming the worst scenario in every situation, anxiety comes in many, many debilitating forms. If you or someone you know finds themselves in a moment of intense anxiety, here are some things that can be done to lessen its intensity:
If you’re ever caught in a moment of intense panic, deep breathing is one of the best things that you can do. The best part about this technique is that it can be done anywhere – in class, in the car, with friends or alone. One technique to steady breathing is to breathe deeply through your nose for about three seconds, then exhale through your mouth for four. Doing this will slow your heart rate down, and you will begin to feel calm after a few repetitions.
The mental health blog Mental Illness Mouse defines grounding as “a technique that helps keep someone in the present. They help reorient a person to the here-and-now and in reality.” The blog continues on to describe it’s benefits: “Grounding skills can be helpful in a variety of situations: with dissociation symptoms; and managing overwhelming feelings or intense anxiety. They help someone to regain their mental focus from an often intensely emotional state.”
Some useful grounding techniques would be observing your surroundings, listening to soothing music or planting your feet firmly on the ground. There are tons of different ways to practice grounding, and they are all within a quick Google search.
3. Listen to Your Body
Did you sleep? Did you eat? Are you exerting too much energy? These are all factors that can create feelings of anxiety, or make it even worse. It is important to treat your body like a temple, since it is the only thing you will be with your entire lifetime. Make sure to eat healthy foods, engage in physical activity or do something that makes you happy. This way, you can spend more time enjoying yourself then harboring negative thoughts about something that may not be in your control at the moment.
4. Talk to Someone
Sometimes having someone be there to listen when you are worried about school, work or a relationship is the best solution. It is important to have a trustworthy friend or family member that you can confide in, or someone who can reassure you if you begin to feel apprehensive about anything. It can be therapeutic to hear yourself work out your thought processes. In turn, this can help you in convincing yourself that your fear is irrational, and that you don’t have to worry. Having a friend or family member to remind you of this is extremely helpful.
5. Learn to Love Yourself
This may be the hardest one to accept. Often times, we are too hard on ourselves or set our expectations too high for ourselves, and then we can feel angry or upset when we do not perform how we expected. With anxiety, there is so much pressure to achieve a sense of self worth that we forget to remind ourselves that we don’t have to jump through hoops just to congratulate ourselves. If we got out of bed today, that’s an accomplishment. If we did well on an exam, that is another thing that we could recognize as an accomplishment, and give ourselves a pat on the back. We need to remind ourselves that we are deserving of love and praise.
Just because mental health cannot be seen, doesn’t mean that it does not need to be addressed. Mental health is just as important as physical health, because it impacts how we move in the world, as well as our relationships and interactions with others. So if you or anyone you know is having a rough time due to a stressor in their life, refer to the steps above. I guarantee that you will be on the path to a life where you have more control over how you feel!