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Coping with Anxiety

Updated: Jul 30, 2023

Anxiety is on the rise. In fact, you or someone that you know may struggle with anxiety. Patience is important as you learn new ways of coping and combating anxiety. New habits take time. There are a few factors to consider when initially targeting your anxiety symptoms.



1. Educate yourself on the nature and presentation of anxiety.


2. If anxiety is intense or interfering with life, seek professional help. The sooner you have the correct diagnosis and treatment options, the sooner you may find relief.


3. Identify triggers for anxiety.


4. Examine your diet for anything that could contribute to anxiety. For example, caffeine is known to lead to anxiety in some people. If you consistently consume caffeine, remember that there can be significant withdrawal symptoms if you choose to cut down your caffeine intake. In this case you may ask your medical doctor the easiest and safest way to taper off of caffeine.


5. Have a medical evaluation to rule out any physiological causes for anxiety. Certain physical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism, can create anxiety symptoms.


6. Examine your lifestyle and focus on healthy habits. For example, making sure you obtain adequate sleep and eat a balanced diet (talk to a registered dietitian or medical doctor for more information on how diet can affect mood).

After learning about anxiety and examining triggers and lifestyle factors, it is important to move on to strategies to cope with anxiety. Common strategies for combatting anxiety include:


1. Learn about emotions…how to label emotions, how they feel in your body, and how to put words to emotions. Simply labeling emotions can be very powerful. There are many books that can aid in learning about emotions (e.g., Brent Brown, Atlas of the Heart).


2. Journaling: This practice provides a place for emotional expression and can be done through writing or art. You may find patterns in your thinking (e.g., rumination) that you could challenge or possibly underlying roots to why anxiety springs up.


3. Art can be a powerful way to express emotions and soothe heightened emotions such as anxiety.


4. Exercise can be helpful for coping with anxiety, as long as you are cleared by your medical doctor for exercise.



5. Mindfulness: A practice that helps people learn to be fully present in the moment, mindfulness can help you learn to take control of your thoughts rather than your thoughts (including anxious thoughts!) Controlling you. There are a variety of apps or websites dedicated to the practice of mindfulness.


6. Relaxation exercises: This could include progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, etc.


7. Breathing techniques: When we are anxious we tend to breathe in a more shallow manner. This results in less oxygen and more carbon dioxide in our bodies. This ratio makes anxiety worse. The act of exhaling also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which help to bring a sense of calm. So when you hear, “take a few deep breaths”, it might be helpful to give it a try. There are even apps that will take you through breathing exercises. Find something that works for you.


8. Study and meditating on passages in the Bible that can counteract anxiety. For Example:


Psalm 91:1-4: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge...” (New International Version)


9. Grounding techniques: These exercises help you to feel more present and grounded in the moment. For example, if you are feeling panic you can focus on the feeling of your feet on the floor or how your chair feels. Counting objects (e.g. 5 blue objects) in the room or stating your location aloud are other ways of grounding yourself in the present.


10. Learning to set and maintain consistent boundaries: Boundaries allow us to avoid taking on too many activities and responsibilities, thus limiting stress and sometimes anxiety.

11. Avoid using alcohol or other substances to try to numb emotions or escape. These substances can actually result in an increase in negative mood states (e.g., depression and anxiety).


12. Combat Avoidance: Avoidance does not allow someone to master whatever is causing the anxiety. Backing away from that which creates anxiety is only a temporary relief. That being said, when the feared object or situation is actually dangerous (e.g., a bully, abuser), other strategies should be utilized. A therapist can help you design strategies to combat avoidance.


Conclusion


Anxiety is treatable, but takes consistency. If you have significant anxiety on a daily basis, reach out to a healthcare professional so that they can point you in the right direction for treatment.


Crisis Line: Dial 988


Disclaimer: This article is not intended for medical advice. Please consult a healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.



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