Anxiety is so incredibly draining that our friends over at YourTango have compiled a list of coping mechanisms to help you manage it.
Say bye bye.
Having anxiety isn't fun, but it seems like anxiety is continuously making its way into my life. And that means I've got to fight anxiety right back. After having my first panic attack in February and then multiple ones in August, I decided I had had enough.
I wanted to tell anxiety to sit in the back seat while I drove the car, and I haven't looked back since. Does anxiety sometimes try to grab the wheel, swerving me off the road? You betcha. But it doesn't mean I'll take it quietly. Instead, I work every day to kick anxiety's little tiny butt. Here's how to stop feeling anxious and stop anxiety in its tracks.
1. Admit you have some form of anxiety disorder.
Admit you have a problem or sometimes have anxiety, whatever the case may be, and accept it. This is the single biggest step toward kicking anxiety's ass. If you pretend you don't have it or try to make excuses for your behavior, you won't improve. Realizing that anxiety affects you and that you need to take back control is the best way to have a happier life.
2. Realize that getting help doesn't mean going on medication.
I'm not a big fan of meds, even for panic attacks. But it's on a case-by-case and personal preference basis. Either way, getting help for your anxiety is the only way to gain control.
I highly recommend cognitive behavioral therapy, otherwise known as CBT, because anxiety is so rooted in our way of thinking — negative thoughts, catastrophizing, projection, and fear. CBT addresses ways to change your thinking and point of view.
For me, I'm now able to tell when I'm buying trouble where there is none, or if I'm catastrophizing about the future. CBT is helping me to do this. CBT can also help you gradually address fears and phobias with the guidance of a therapist to which it becomes a fear no longer.
3. Get moving and start exercising.
Anxiety takes up a lot of energy. I sometimes joke that it's not just my fast metabolism that makes me thin; I must burn calories simply from worrying. Physical activity helps bring feel-good endorphins to the brain and is also a great way to reduce stress and step away from your life for a moment.
Yoga is a must. I'm totally lazy about yoga, but I love the gym and running. Get yourself moving to clear your mind and refocus.
4. Practice deep-breathing techniques.
Yeah, you may feel silly taking deep breaths and stretching in the middle of your room each morning, but it's how I start my day. I've noticed a big change in myself since I started. In fact, if I feel a panic attack coming on, I immediately focus my attention on taking deep breaths. Making this a morning habit is a great way to start off your day and keeps anxiety at bay.
5. Note the proper way to react to symptoms.
Everyone experiences anxiety differently. Taking inventory of your symptoms is an absolute if you want to tell anxiety to go the hell home already. Do you sweat profusely or turn red? Perhaps your stomach turns and you find yourself running to the bathroom?
Noting the signs of anxiety will help you to take a step back and say, as the symptoms come, "Why am I feeling anxious? How can I manage these feelings? Can I take deep breaths? What are the ways my thinking is feeding into my anxiety?"
6. Keep a daily journal.
Writing a daily blog or journal entry can help you spot moods and periods of time in which your anxiety is worse than others. This will help you learn how to stop feeling anxious and cope with anxiety effectively, especially if you're doing cognitive behavioral therapy.
7. Recognize a panic attack for what it's worth.
Instead of freaking out when you have a panic attack — which is a normal response, especially when you have your first attack — recognize that the attack doesn't mean something is wrong with you. In fact, the attack is essentially an evolutionary response to fear.
Your body is reacting to fear almost as if a bear is chasing you down in the woods or some horrible creature, much like our ancestors were — the fight or flight response, as it were.
Instead of taking Xanax, I've dealt with a panic attack through deep breathing and the recognition that my body believes it's being attacked by a horrific creature, but isn't. No, it's not a heart attack or some other vile disease; it's simply a fight or flight response to something I'm anxious about.
If you need to medicate, do so under a doctor's care, but if you can at least recognize the biological components of the fight or flight response, it can make a panic attack less scary. It's a scary experience to have a panic attack, but over time, I understood what was happening and have prevented myself from having full-blown attacks.
8. Don't let anxiety hinder your everyday life.
I thank my therapist for this one. When your anxiety is bad, it can cause you to retreat from others or stay inside. One time over a few vacation days, I had the beginnings of a panic attack quite a few times, which almost kept me home until I told myself that if I stayed home now, I'd start to retreat more and more, feeding my anxiety.
Instead, I did exactly what I had planned — with my anxiety along for the ride. It meant taking a long road trip while wondering if I might have an attack. It meant going on playdates with my daughter while wondering if again, I might have an attack. I didn't put my life on hold so my anxiety could take over; I kept moving.
Anxiety is a b*tch, and that's why it takes a lot of insight, patience, and love to tame that beast. But if you put the work into the fight, you'll come out victorious.
Watch the video below to learn about the signs and symptoms of anxiety:
Laura Lifshitz will work for chocolate. The former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate is currently writing about divorce, sex, women's issues, fitness, parenting, marriage and more for YourTango, New York Times, DivorceForce, Women's Health, Working Mother, Pop Sugar, and more. Her own website is frommtvtomommy.com.
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