What to Do When Anxiety Rears Its Ugly Head

What to Do When Anxiety Rears Its Ugly Head

Anyone living with anxiety knows the struggles and exhaustion of battling your mind. Incessant worrying might leave you with a racing heart, tense muscles, sweaty palms, and an overwhelming sense of dread. Unfortunately, these feelings also make it difficult to truly feel a sense of peace.

Anxiety is the body’s natural stress response and can be helpful in certain situations, like alerting you to danger. On the other hand, too many worrisome thoughts that interfere with everyday tasks and your well-being need to be addressed. Here are some strategies to cope with anxiety when it isn’t helpful.

1. Move Your Body

Physical activity is one of the best ways to move through your anxious feelings. Exercise produces endorphins, the natural feel-good hormone that combats stress. Hitting the gym, attending a yoga class, and taking a walk are just a few ways to treat anxiety naturally. Boosting your mood, reducing tension, and alleviating stress are just a few benefits that come from moving your body.

Regular exercise also produces long-term benefits for managing your mental health. For example, consistent physical activity leads to higher-quality sleep, which supports better cognitive function and emotion management. Additionally, the movement offers a welcomed distraction for your brain, which is extra beneficial during anxiety spells. So the next time you feel the anxiety waves rise, lace up your shoes and get into motion.

2. Try Meditation and Breathing Exercises

Meditation and breathing exercises allow you to counteract the physiological symptoms of anxiety and promote much-need relaxation. Meditation helps calm the mind and center you in the present moment. Future events outside of your control fuel anxiety, so find ways to exist in the now. Start by sitting comfortably, close your eyes, and turn your gaze inward. If you’re new to the practice, use mindfulness apps and instruction videos to learn how to start meditating.

Breathing exercises also provide numerous benefits and encourage you to enter a state of peace. For example, diaphragmatic breathing helps lower blood pressure, ease tight muscles, and slow heart rate. Start by sitting or lying down on a flat and comfortable area. Next, pull back and relax your shoulders while putting one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Then breathe in through your nose, press your stomach gently, and exhale. Box breathing — inhaling, holding, exhaling, and holding for four seconds each — is another effective technique.

3. Talk It Out

You may find the listening ear of a friend as a great source of relief when you’re feeling wound up. Call up a trusted companion or family member during the moments you notice your thoughts begin to spiral. Mental health struggles like anxiety often come attached to some level of shame that stems from the stigmatization of these issues. Giving voice to your emotions reduces shameful feelings and releases pent-up emotions.

Discussing your feelings with a trained professional and neutral third party can also do wonders. Talk therapy is a tremendous asset for working through your anxiety and other emotions. For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy lets individuals delve deep into their thought patterns and feelings that contribute to anxiety. In psychotherapy, psychologists and patients work hand-in-hand to understand mental health concerns while creating skills to manage emotions.

4. Write About It

Self-reflection through journaling is a beneficial tool for dealing with anxiety by deepening your connection to yourself. Anxious thoughts can feel like a big, tangled ball of feelings and persistent worries. Putting pen to paper allows you to begin to unravel the knots, providing a sense of clarity and relief. Journals are safe havens for your most private thoughts, fears, and hopes. Next time you feel worked up, start listing your worries and brainstorm possible solutions for addressing those issues.

A journal focusing explicitly on gratitude is a fantastic tool for switching the gears in your mind, too. Instead of writing out the negativity weighing you down, focus on the things that lift you up. Identifying what you’re grateful for can help improve your overall outlook and approach to stressful situations. It also gives you reminders of what you value most in life.

5. Know What to Avoid

Be mindful of behaviors that exacerbate your anxiety and leave you worse off. While some coping mechanisms seem fun and easy, they can make you feel worse. Steer clear of mind-altering substances like alcohol, and try not to consume too much junk food. What you eat directly correlates with your mood, so fill your body with healthy foods when anxiety comes to the table. You should also avoid nicotine and caffeine, which increases your heart rate and mimics other physical anxiety symptoms.

Inactivity might seem appealing when you’re overwhelmed, but movement allows you to work out some anxiety and produce endorphins. Isolation might also seem safe and appealing, but retreating can cut you off from valuable connections. Likewise, social withdrawal increases feelings of loneliness and the risk of excessive rumination. Cultivating relationships and support is a much better strategy, even when your anxiety tells you otherwise.

Calming an Anxious Mind

While anxiety is a normal response to everyday stressors, too many of these feelings impair your ability to function properly. Work, home, and school tasks may feel insurmountable, and social relationships can also be affected. Identifying your anxious thoughts and pinpointing your triggers allows you to develop healthy coping strategies.

Medications and behavioral treatments can help manage mental health disorders, and it may take time to figure out the right plan for you. Be patient with yourself as you navigate these thoughts and difficult emotions. Identifying your support network and safe spaces is crucial to remember you’re not alone. Anxiety may be a part of your life, but it doesn’t have to dictate it.

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