Anxiety can be debilitating. It comes in many forms. For some, it’s the gnawing feeling in the back of your mind that you’re not good enough. For others, it’s a sickening, full-body sensation that is paralyzing and alarming at the same time. It feels like a combination of a stomachache and a nightmare. As WebMD writes, “Anxiety disorders can range from a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which is intense worrying that you can’t control, to panic disorder — sudden episodes of fear, along with heart palpitations, trembling, shaking, or sweating.”
I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder several years ago. Until then, I didn’t really understand why I seemed so much more uptight than other people. As it turns out, I have a real disorder that can make life difficult. However, I also learned that almost all of us have anxiety.
How do I handle anxiety? There are several ways that we can reduce anxious feelings and stop the panic. Most articles list many helpful ways to deal with anxiety, but most don’t separate out one of the most helpful distinctions: long-term solutions versus immediate calming techniques.
When you are in the middle of an anxiety attack, a panic attack, or a mental health crisis, you need immediate attention. It’s critical to calm down, feel better, and begin to breathe normally again. This can be extremely difficult, an all-consuming mission until you feel better.
However, what most people forget is that once you’ve calmed down and life goes back to normal, it’s very important to work on long-term solutions so that you feel less anxious.
Here, I’ve put together a few of my favorite tips, broken down into “immediate” and “long-term”. If you are in the middle of an anxiety attack or feeling a lot of anxiety right now, try the “immediate” tips. Once you’ve achieved a calmer state and are feeling better, it’s tempting to forget about your anxiety and move on with life as usual. However, don’t forget that your “life as usual” may have contributed to your anxiety attack. When you are in a calm state, it’s time to put some practices in place to make your life healthier.
Here are a few immediate tips for what to do if you are feeling anxious right now.
1. 4/7/8 breathing
Breathe in for four seconds. Hold your breath for seven seconds. Then, release for eight seconds. This breathing technique will calm you quickly. Try this technique for five to ten minutes.
Are you hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? Double check and see if you can fix any of these symptoms. Quickly resolving any of these by eating something, figuring out why you are angry, finding a friend to talk to, or getting some sleep can help curb anxiety.
3. Do something interesting
Ask yourself, what did you love to do as a child? Try doing that. Go on a walk or a bike ride. Start a painting. Go to a nightclub you love and dance. Make an interesting meal.
4. Change your posture
When we are anxious we tend to shrink. Try squaring your shoulders broadly, sitting up straight, and smiling in a confident way. Just changing your posture can make a huge difference.
5. Call a friend
If you’re anxious, being alone is one of the worst things you can do. Anxiety flourishes in the dark. If you’re in the middle of an anxiety attack, try finding a friend you can talk to.
6. Take a supplement
Taking a supplement can help you release your anxiety and feel better. Try something like GABA. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter and amino acid located in the brain that can contribute to feelings of happiness.
Here are some long-term techniques to make sure you’re ready to beat anxiety before it happens.
1. Get more sleep
As odd as it may sound, one of the most significant predictors of our mood and function is our sleep. Getting enough sleep can help us make critical life decisions and stay on top of things. You can reduce anxiety by making sure to get at least eight hours of sleep. It’s tempting to cut sleep out of your life because let’s face it, modern lives are busy. But
2. Get more exercise
Getting more exercise can help make your brain more alert and make your circulatory system function more effectively. The ADAA says, “According to some studies, regular exercise works as well as medication for some people to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and the effects can be long lasting. One vigorous exercise session can help alleviate symptoms for hours, and a regular schedule may significantly reduce them over time.”
3. Cut negative people out of your life
Some people contribute to your anxiety. If someone is making you anxious, it’s worth deciding what to do about it. You don’t have to have that person in your life. If your boss is making you anxious, look for another job. If it’s a family member, limit your contact with them. If it’s a friend, stop spending time with them and look for new friends. Sometimes, we need to cut negative people out of our lives. Other times, we can simply talk to people about how they are making us feel. Try talking to the people who are making you anxious before cutting them out of your life. But if they don’t respond or change, don’t hesitate to give them the boot.
4. Have an Anxiety Plan
Make an Anxiety Plan for when you begin to feel anxious. Make a list of things to try first. Start out with breathing techniques, eating something, or calling a friend. You can add specific things that you know reduce your anxiety, like taking a walk by the pier, going to the woods, painting a picture, or going for a run. Try not to list behaviors that are destructive. At the bottom of your Anxiety Plan, write the numbers 1-10. When you finish going through your Anxiety Plan, circle a number to rate the plan’s effectiveness. Then, write down what was effective and what you can change.
5. Have supplements on hand
Make sure you have supplements ready to take in your bag or at home. Being ready when the anxious symptoms come can help you manage your state and stay ready. You don’t have to suffer through anxiety attacks. Have the tools you need on hand for when you feel anxious.