“Living with anxiety is like being followed by a voice. It knows all your insecurities and uses them against you. It gets to the point when it’s the loudest voice in the room. And the only one you can hear.” Quotes like these are what I have related to for almost the entirety of my life. I have struggled with anxiety since I was a young child. Stress can often make matters worse. But even when your life is going perfectly, you can feel a mental heaviness telling you that things are not okay.
For example, while at a family bowling night, it’s entirely possible to catch the glance of someone bowling in the lane next to you. Someone with anxiety would be stuck on the thought that this person is judging them or begin to imagine all of the negative what-if scenarios that could occur. Thoughts like these can take control of the moment and have you stressing about the thought that the person is staring at you. This can take you away from the fun of bowling with your wife and kids. You should be listening your kids cheer you on and your wife’s laugh when you accidentally gutter-ball. But instead you are trying your best not to show that anxiety when it is your turn and your mind is focused completely elsewhere.
Chances are if you are reading this article you know exactly what I mean. Or maybe you’re taking a look at this to help someone you know battle their anxiety. Either way, these three ways to combat anxiety changed my life. When carrying what feels like thousands of pounds on your mind, these steps helped me manage the need to overthink and feel anxious.
1. Grounding Techniques for Easing Anxiety
Grounding techniques are used to help one remain in the present. Often with anxiety we find ourselves feeling literally swept away like an umbrella in a hurricane by our mind. When your mind is constantly preoccupied with too many thoughts at once, this will make anxiety worse. However, being present in the current moment and trying not to let your mind take you elsewhere can be difficult.
Breathing Relieves You From Anxiety
One way to combat this, is with grounding techniques. When you are alone in a peaceful environment will be the best place to master this exercise. The more you practice it, the sooner you can use it in more stressful or louder places when you might need it most. Begin with your feet on the floor, sitting up straight and your hands resting in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and try to take breaths with only your stomach moving which is known as diaphragmatic breathing. Many people only use the top 1/3 of their lungs by breathing with their chest only. Applying this technique will assist you with making deeper breaths. By opening up the blood vessels that deeper in our lungs, it allows more air in.
Tip: If your having trouble, place your hand on your chest and try to breathe without your hand moving. Feeling the movement of your hand will help you know if you are doing this right and also help you correct if needed.
Mindset (Decreasing Anxiety)
After getting your breathing under control, notice the sounds and feelings around you. Hear the busy street or the birds chirping. Are you sitting on a hard chair or a soft couch? Is it cold? Once you are aware of your surroundings, try and clear your mind. I know it can be hard to think about absolutely nothing because I thought it was impossible at first, but this can be done. When a thought comes into your mind, see it, acknowledge it, and send it away. At first, many thoughts may be rushing to the forefront of your mind but persevere. Continue this process and your breathing and when you’re ready, proceed to the last step.
Stability Subsides Anxiety
Now we can focus on your stability and keeping your presence in the moment. With both feet flat on the floor while keeping your breathing steady and your mind clear, imagine your feet being drawn to the floor. Feel the firm ground below you. Try pushing your toes downward to feel the hard carpet, hardwood or whatever surface is below you. Imagine there are roots growing from your feet into the Earth. Let the roots multiply, expand and become solid anchors for your body and mind. Feel yourself be in that moment and that moment alone. Let these roots encompass you and help you feel sturdy and unwavering like a large oak.
Now for the skeptics out there, I too thought this would be a waste of time. My thinking was that meditation could not be possible for a mind like mine. However, try to make time for just 5 minutes of your day to give this a shot. You will be amazed how your anxiety can be combated just by centering yourself.
2. Self Care to Reduce Anxiety
Anxiety can cause you to become out of tune to your body. To make matters worse, your body could be in need of basic necessitates that your mind cannot communicate properly due to your mind racing about other thoughts. I often found myself frustrated and easily overwhelmed when I realized I hadn’t eaten anything all day. Our days can be hectic but in order to keep up with our fast-paced lives, we need to ensure our bodies are taken care of, especially when battling anxiety.
Nutrition Aides Anxiety Battle
When you encounter moments that are more chaotic mentally, ask yourself if you have fulfilled your basic needs. Your body is a machine. To continue to keep up at work or with the kids, it is imperative your body has fuel to operate. Your body needs that food to convert to energy, otherwise you’re running on fumes and just like an engine, it can rattle you to your core.
Other than food you would be surprised how much water can help you throughout your day. Dehydration directly influences how we think and feel. Lack of water can impact blood flow and circulation, decreasing the amount of oxygen reaching our body including your brain. I find myself going days without drinking a glass of pure water, so I know it is easy to do. We can intake water in incredibly small proportions through coffee, soda or other drinks, but not enough for our bodies to enable prime functionality.
Taking a Break Counteracts Anxiety
Besides food and water, sometimes we pack our schedules so tight that there is no margin for yourself. Making time for doing what brings you joy and peace can make a big difference. Just because we don’t always make it a priority doesn’t mean it is not productive. Some people enjoy exercise which can help you exert your stress out in a healthy way like pushing yourself to that higher weight press or a faster pace when running. I personally enjoy playing guitar and writing to express my thoughts and feelings. Instrumental music is a great way to help calm the mind like solo piano or a soft jazz depending on your taste. Drawing, reading a book or learning a new hobby can all be beneficial for your mental health.
Self care is entirely individual. Only you know what you need and how to take care of yourself, and it is only you standing in your way of making time for that imperative self care. Sometimes adjustments like getting up a few minutes early or finding a babysitter for an hour can make huge difference. This way you can establish yourself mentally and be the best parent and/or person you can be.
3. Releasing Thoughts and Worries Verbally to Ease Anxiety
When our minds are constantly cluttered with thoughts or worries it can increase anxiety. Not only that, it can also make it harder to embrace the moment or reach our goals. Releasing these thoughts verbally can really help get out the long overdue need to express these issues. Thankfully, there are many ways to be able to clean out our mind and focus on each day at a time.
Writing Out Your Anxiety
One way that can be helpful is keeping a log of your life. Try writing down what your day was like and the positive and negatives. If you had a hard or overwhelming day, write what you struggled with. Write how you think you handled the situation or feeling and try and think about what you could do next time to prevent it in the future. If you had a good day, write about what you feel you did good at. Write down the moments you enjoyed or what details you found yourself succeeding at. Be proud of those moments and try to stay positive knowing that without the valleys there would be no peaks.
Talking Releases Your Anxiety
Another great way to express yourself is having a family member or a friend you trust in your life. Tell them how your day was or what you are going through in that present moment. It can be helpful to not only say it out-loud, but also to receive positive feedback from someone. I would also make sure this is a person who encourages you and cares for you unconditionally to ensure your thoughts and emotions are in the right hands.
This can also be tricky because relying on one person too heavily can possibly cause them to feel overwhelmed as well and can be draining on their end. You may not even realize the impact it can cause by relying on just your spouse or just your friend until it has caused a rift. That’s why I personally recommend a therapist or someone who is a professional in the field of mental health. They not only can be a great listener but also provide advice that is driven by a neutral party.
Medical Alternative For Anxiety
Sometimes, in severe or extreme cases medication may be able to assist in situations that are out of your control. Some people refuse medication for a long time and end up trying to manage these symptoms even when it is entirely out of there control. They do not want to feel dependent on anything or are scared of the reactions to the medication. I used to feel the same way.
However, if your body didn’t produce enough vitamin D to ensure strong bones, you would take vitamin D supplements to balance your levels. It is the same case with your brain. With some cases of anxiety your brain has an chemical imbalance of neurotransmitters (messengers in the brain) for you to function normally. Those neurotransmitters aren’t able to do their job properly and can only be balanced with anti-anxiety medications. Now, not every case of anxiety needs to go to this length but it can be an option if you are not able to get a handle on your anxiety on your own.
These 3 ways to fight your anxiety on your own is a great start to taking back control of your life and of your mind. Once you are able to get a handle on your anxiety, it can change your outlook on life. These techniques have reconfigured how I go about my daily activities and have tremendously helped me live in the moment and get my life back. Try and stay positive through your struggle and believe that you can get through this one step at a time.
You are strong, resilient and courageous. You are brave, you can get through this and you are not alone.
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