Anxiety is a natural human instinct, dating back to our primitive ancestors who benefited from being on high alert in potentially dangerous situations. Effective awareness and intuition was often the difference between life and death.
While anxiety is still useful for modern humans in certain contexts, some people struggle with ever-present symptoms that interfere with their ability to lead a happy, successful life. Therapy and medication can help in extreme cases, but there are also various ways to manage anxiety through cognitive awareness and calming techniques. If you have anxiety that won’t go away, try the following suggestions:
1. Cope, don’t fight
The first thing to remember when trying to manage your anxiety is that it isn’t a matter of willpower. Anxiety cannot be suppressed, so simply “making it go away” is a goal that will end in disappointment and further anxiety about your failure to escape it. Accepting the nature of anxiety is the first step toward successfully coping with it.
2. Identify patterns
Sometimes anxiety is triggered by random occurrences, but it’s often the result of familiar triggers, like getting called into your boss’s office. Keep a “thought journal” to list your known triggers and identify patterns. You can also use this journal to list “positive outcome thoughts” to address some of those triggers. For example, you can train yourself to focus on all the normal, conflict-free reasons your boss might want to speak with you rather than focusing on worst-case scenarios.
3. Edit your inner dialogue
Sometimes, avoiding negative, unhealthy words and phrases may keep your anxiety from escalating. When considering a potentially anxious situation, try to edit out harsh words such as “hate,” “never,” “always,” and “stupid,” and replace them with softer terms such as “dislike,” “sometimes,” “often,” and “unwise.”
4. Utilize relaxation techniques
When your mind and body are calm and clear, you can heighten your awareness of your thoughts and feelings in order to manage them better. When you feel anxiety creeping up, try employing relaxation techniques such as meditation, slow breathing, or physical exercises, or visualization. These tools and techniques can create measurable changes in the body, including lowered heart rate and lowered blood pressure.
5. Drink more water
Dehydration can have side effects that are much more serious than a dry mouth. It can affect blood flow, which can in turn impact hormone distribution and cause your muscles to tense. While this doesn’t mean drinking plenty of water will “cure” your anxiety, it will at least ensure your existing issues aren’t exacerbated by easily fixable factors.
6. Get plenty of sleep
Another habit that can negatively affect your anxiety management is poor sleep. If you don’t get between 7 and 9 hours every night as recommended for adults by the National Sleep Foundation, you’ll likely become irritable, sluggish, and drained—which means you’ll be less capable of managing your anxiety in healthy ways.
7. Talk to a professional
If you’ve tried to manage your anxiety on your own but the techniques above aren’t as effective as you’d like, it might be time to seek outside assistance. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses among adults and children, and while every individual case is unique, mental health experts can customize a treatment plan that’s right for you.
We’re here to help
At Alvarado Parkway Institute in San Diego, we offer diverse therapies, individualized treatment, and a continuum of care that is tailored to each patient’s changing needs. If you need help managing your anxiety, call our 24-hour crisis line at 619-667-6125 to start your recovery today.