That exam did not go as well as planned? Broke up with a partner? Unable to perform at work? Health issues in children or family? Or simply, moving houses? Anxiety is an emotion that all of us experience in various phases of our lives. Some of it is absolutely essential, as, in most people, anxiety helps improve performance. Imagine a child is chilled four weeks before the board exams! Poor parents!
While this emotion is essential for our day to day lives, the intensity with which it affects people varies. The ability of people to use this emotion productively differs even more. When anxiety levels increase from having many thoughts and extend to making one fearful, stressed, having debilitating phobias or even affecting physical health; it becomes an impediment to leading a normal life. It is, therefore, important that anxiety is managed appropriately such that one remains sufficiently productive.
The first step to managing anxiety is, of course, being aware of it. So, Are you excessively anxious all the time? Here are some of the useful techniques to manage your anxiety.
Some General Lifestyle Changes:
- Yoga and Meditation: Deep abdominal breathing relaxes us and brings about a calming effect on our mind. Doing regular yoga and meditation under an experienced trainer will bring relief to many health related and emotional issues.
- Exercise: Just like Yoga and Meditation, physical exertion releases endorphins or happy hormones which helps in reducing anxiety or depression. Regular exercise, walking or playing sports will, not only keep you healthy and physically active but also calm your mind. So, pick your phone and call up your exercise buddy to keep you motivated and definitely less anxious!
- Adequate Sleep and Rest: If you have not adequately slept or partied all night over the last few days, it can trigger a panic or anxiety attack. Many times, we lay awake at nights worrying and ruminating. A set of ideas or thoughts keep repeating in our minds over and over making it impossible for us to sleep. If this happens often, keep a bedside diary and jot down all your thoughts. This will assure our mind that we will not forget the problem tomorrow morning and will help in sleeping soundly tonight! Sometimes even chanting God’s name or counting the sheep technique or counting backwards helps to distract from intrusive thoughts. Good quality and restful sleep are essential for a healthy state of mind.
- Avoid Alcohol or Caffeine: Though caffeine or alcohol temporarily help soothe our nerves, over a period of time it makes us more anxious and edgy. It is like seeing a mirage in the desert when we are thirsty. Research shows it is best to avoid both, especially if you have a predisposition to becoming depressed or anxious. As a rule, you could start with completely avoiding caffeine 8 hours before going to bed.
When Dealing with Specific Situations:
- Don’t Worry About Things, not in Your Control: Whenever one is worried about something, the first question that one should ask oneself is: what can I do about this? If there is anything that one can do about a worrisome issue: plan and execute a course of action. Invariably worries become anxious about things which are not in one’s control. Remind yourself that, I can do nothing about this issue and then stop worrying.
- Small Victories: Even after the litmus test of “What can I do about this?”, many times, a problem seems too large and insurmountable. At times this prevents us from taking the essential first step and puts us in a downward spiral of procrastination. Do you remember the first step to managing anxiety? Yes, be aware! Then start to break down the problem into smaller achievable targets. List them in an organizer. Start your day with what can I achieve today? When you break down that unsurmountable problem and achieve small victories, it will motivate you to go forward, step by step, to surmount the insurmountable.
An optimal level of anxiety is necessary for peak performance but many a times anxiety gets out of control and these simple tips might seem overwhelming during those times. Speak to people: confidantes, friends, professionals and colleagues. However, if you find that you are reaching panic levels, are anxious all the time, shy or scared to discuss with people or just caught in a limbo through the day, it is best to seek professional help from a Psychologist trained in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).
I hope that after spending 5 minutes, reading this article you are once again ready to take on this long journey called LIFE!