In understanding anxiety, it’s important to remember that everyone feels tense, nervous or worried from time to time. This is our body’s natural response to stress. We have an inbuilt response system that alerts us to danger and ensures our survival.
Anxiety in appropriate amounts can be a positive thing. It can motivate us, make us work harder to achieve our goals and make us more productive. It becomes a problem however when anxiety gets in the way of our day to day activities and prevents us from living our lives the way we want to. At this level symptoms such as obtrusive, worried thoughts, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, trouble sleeping, and digestive problems can become an issue. Read more here about the signs, symptoms and types of anxiety .
Regarding treatment for anxiety it can be very helpful to talk to a qualified Counsellor or Psychotherapist. Working together you can discuss any anxious and debilitating behaviours, understand the source of your anxiety and develop ways to alleviate and manage it with a view to eliminating it completely. See our Find a Therapist page here for professional help.
Self Help for Anxiety
In terms of self help there is much you can do which alleviate this stress and distress:
- Stop, Sit and Breathe
When anxiety takes over, take 5 minutes and sit somewhere quiet, on something solid, with your feet firmly on the ground and just BREATHE, slowly and deeply, until your body settles down. Try to let your thoughts just drift by without focussing on any of them for now.
- Remember your thoughts are not reality
Often what makes us anxious is the possibility of something happening. And our sense that we would not be able to handle it if it did. But the things that do actually happen are only a tiny proportion of these. And we have tremendous capacity to manage all sorts of situations we never thought possible when we trust our own resources and our own capability.
- Challenge your thinking
For the things you are feeling anxious about now:
-what are all the possible outcomes?
-what are the more likely outcomes?
-for the worst possible outcome – could you handle it and survive? Have you handled a difficult situation in the past and managed through it? Remember also that you would have the love and support of your friends and family in any situation you might have to deal with.
- Accept things you can’t control or change
A certain amount of anxiety is natural and appropriate as it keeps us alert and on our toes. But there are things we can’t control or change and we have to accept this and have faith in our ability to handle situations as they arise.
- Foster a positive attitude
This is the difference between seeing the glass half full or half empty. Situations are rarely as catastrophic and we tell ourselves. Adopting a positive attitude of ‘I will be able to deal with this IF it happens and if I need help to manage through it, I will ask for help’.
- Look after yourself
Eat well, get regular sleep, and get some regular exercise, even a walk. Avoid alcohol and drugs as while it might seem it could help you relax, it will just make your anxiety worse later on or the following morning.
- Get outdoors and spend time in nature.
The benefits of spending time connected with our natural environment are very well established. Go for a walk in your local park, forest or by the sea at the weekend or during your time off and you will notice a decrease in your stress and anxiety levels.
- Practice Mindfulness regularly.
-Sit comfortably into a chair.
-Pay attention to your breathing in and breathing out.
-Allow your thoughts to come in but gently send them on their way again. A good way to do this is to place them on an imaginary leaf and then watch them float away on a breeze.
Keep bringing your mind gently back to paying attention to your breathing in and out.
The idea is not to allow yourself to become hijacked by your thoughts, but if you are to just keep centering yourself by gently focusing back again and again on your breathing. This mindfulness practice helps take us out of our heads and therefore out of the busyness and sometimes even the chaos of our thoughts and anchors us in our bodies and in the here and now.
If you need professional help with Anxiety or Stress you can Find a Therapist here.