Do You Suffer From Anxiety? Help Yourself with These Coping Strategies
By: Dr. Andrew Lakin
Have you been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder? Even if not, you may be one of the many people who manage their symptoms without a formal diagnosis. Whatever your situation, what is crucial is that you control your condition to limit the impact it has on your life. Health professionals recommend developing coping strategies for when panic attacks occur.
What is Anxiety?
To cope with your condition, it helps to understand what anxiety is. Many people are surprised to learn that anxious thoughts are a perfectly natural response to a threatening situation. Under pressure, stress is essential to improve performance. For people who suffer from an anxiety disorder the body overshoots this optimal level, leaving them crippled with fear.
Signs You May Suffer From Anxiety
Anxiety can manifest in several ways. One of the most common symptoms is a constant worry that may not be specifically about anything. Other signs may be more explicit. Do you avoid certain situations because of the stress they will bring about? Do everyday tasks such as cleaning, using the phone, or going to the shops cause you significant worry? Perhaps you are excessively alert to a situation, expecting the worst at all times. If any of this sounds familiar, you may well suffer from anxiety.
Anxiety can also show itself through physical symptoms. Most frequently, people experience sweating, headaches, or a pounding heart. However, it can also induce nausea, shortness of breath, or muscle spasms. These symptoms can often be mistaken for other medical issues, resulting in repeat trips to the doctor and an unsatisfactory diagnosis.
What is an Anxiety Attack?
An anxiety or panic attack is when the stress levels in your body rise to a point where you are unable to function. Episodes are generally short-lived, up to around 30 minutes, although they can be terrifying for the sufferer. In extreme cases, the fear can be so frightening that people may think they are about to die.
Other common symptoms include strong heart palpations, breathing difficulties, and hyperventilation. Sufferers also often report feeling overwhelming panic and a loss of control. If you recognize these symptoms, then coping mechanisms are essential to help improve the condition. Fortunately, panic attacks are easily treatable with the right approach.
Helping Yourself to Overcome Anxiety
Overcoming an anxiety disorder is not an overnight process. Coping strategies revolve around the long term benefits, rather than a quick fix to your problems. Each method aims to gain more clarity over your thoughts and boost your self-confidence, to allow you to control your stress levels in challenging situations.
Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of remaining present with your thoughts. How often have you done menial jobs like cleaning up or washing the dishes, and your mind is elsewhere? The idea is to catch yourself and return to the present by focusing on something immediate. Perhaps the scent of the dishwashing soap, or the sound of the vacuum cleaner. With practice, you can then remain present throughout a stressful situation, and rationalize your thoughts to bring things under control.
Exercise. As with several mental health issues, exercise can have a profound effect on your symptoms. A regular work-out, around 30 minutes, on most days, can go a long way towards reducing symptoms. Studies suggest that aerobic exercise has the most benefits, so you could try running, walking, swimming, or dancing, among others.
Sleep. It can be tough to get enough sleep in the chaotic world of modern society. However, getting between seven and nine hours of sleep a night can lift your mood and help ward off panic attacks. A regular bedtime routine, comfortable sleeping arrangements, and a device-free period before sleep will all help you get high-quality sleep.
Cut out recreational drugs. People have a habit of turning to substances for comfort during anxious times. However, caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine all exacerbate anxiety issues. Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants that will immediately increase stress, not reduce it. Although alcohol is a short term depressant that will temporarily help, the long term adverse effects on your mental health far outweigh any short term benefits, even in small amounts.
Overcoming your anxiety issues is not something that will happen immediately. It takes time and commitment to reach your goal and live a manageable, happy life. However, by implementing the coping mechanisms listed, you will see considerable benefits in almost all cases. Give it time; you deserve it!