You’ve probably heard it from everyone you know, but regular exercise is an effective method of controlling your anxiety.
It’s believed that physical activity allows your body to practice responding to stress. This way, when difficulties arise, you are better able to respond.
There is no denying the positive feelings that are associated with exercise either. Often referred to as a “runner’s high,” many people report feeling happier and calmer post-workout.
When it comes to exercise for mental health, just about anything will do. Most adults should aim for at least two and a half hours of moderate physical activity per week.
In order to succeed, you have to work physical activity into your routine and make it a priority. If you don’t, it can become too easy to stop suddenly.
If the thought of hitting the gym makes you groan, research clubs or sports teams in your area instead. The comradery that many people feel when they belong to a club or a team can make the whole experience more than just exercise for you.
Partaking in a new sport or activity can help you work towards a goal, while your teammates can help keep you accountable by noticing when you decide not to show up.
Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. Take the time to find something that you enjoy doing to ensure that you keep going!
Remember to Breathe
If you begin to experience symptoms of anxiety, despite your attempts to minimize them, don’t panic. Recognize those symptoms and remember to breathe.
Diaphragmatic breathing, or deep breathing, has been proven to be a successful method of dissipating those feelings of anxiety as they arise. There are many different ways to breathe deeply, but keep it simple to start.
Try breathing in through your nose for four counts, hold your breath for a count of four, and then control your breath out to a count of six. If any of the above is particularly difficult, alter the pattern to better suit you.
Pacing your breathing can help you regain control of your body as those symptoms of anxiety begin to arise. If you can breathe out for longer than your breath in, you will begin to slow your heart rate and relax your muscles.
Focusing on counting your breaths will also distract you from whatever it is that’s triggering your anxiety. Continue with the breath pattern that suits you until you feel your symptoms begin to dissipate.
Deep breathing can also be the first step in exploring meditation techniques, which many individuals use to control their anxiety and stay in the present moment.
Building off of deep breathing techniques, meditation can be an effective long-term method of managing anxiety. Meditation is all about remaining within the present moment, rather than allowing the mind to wander between the past and the future.
When we are too focused on the future at what might happen, we become anxious. For most people, this is an issue because it is a persistent worry that we can do little to change.
As we cannot predict or change the future before it happens, it is best to learn to appreciate and live in the present moment. It is here that we have control and can make decisions.
The easiest way to begin practicing meditation is to focus on the breath as it enters and exits your body. You will begin to learn to pay attention to how your body feels and reacts to your breath, remaining in the present by examining what is happening within yourself.
Many websites and apps support the practice of meditation and can get you started on your journey. It can be challenging to meditate, especially the first few times you attempt it.
Guided meditations are a great resource for beginners, as you will be given gentle instructions every step of the way. If you are lost or confused, your meditation teacher will help to guide you.
The best way to learn is to start off slow, meditating for no more than one minute, once or twice per day. Most people feel the most anxious first thing in the morning and right before they go to bed at night.
In order to make meditation part of your daily routine, find a time that works for you and meditate at that same time, every day. Remember to keep it short in the beginning, to ensure that each meditation experience is positive and successful.
As meditation becomes easier for you over time, you can challenge yourself with longer, non-guided meditations.
Join a Support Group
Do some research to discover the support groups that exist in your area. Many of these programs are tailored to specific disorders, so you can feel safe in a room full of your peers and supporters who understand what you’re going through.
These groups are often free to join, as local mental health clinics create them and run by volunteers who have lived experience with anxiety disorders. These groups are an affordable alternative to expensive individual psychotherapy, which is often out of reach for many individuals with mental illness.
Support groups offer talk therapy in a social setting, allowing therapists and volunteers the chance to help multiple people at one time. You are also given the opportunity to develop new techniques to cope with your anxiety, as some groups explore cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT.
CBT is considered the most effective form of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders. It is designed to teach skills to improve symptoms of anxiety, before gradually returning to the activities that are being avoided due to anxiety.
It may feel uncomfortable and unnatural at first to openly discuss your struggles with anxiety to a room full of strangers, so it might take some time before you begin to open up. This is perfectly normal, and no one should pressure you to participate.
Remember that you are surrounded by people who understand how you feel and are also going through similar situations in their own lives. Eventually, you may come to discover that there is more to learn than to fear.
Talk to Your Doctor
Whether the above techniques for controlling your symptoms have worked for you or not, keep your doctor informed. If at any point you feel like your anxiety is becoming too overwhelming, your doctor may suggest exploring the possibilities of anxiety medications.
If you feel that your anxiety is negatively impacting your work, relationships, or life in general, it is time to discuss all of your options with your doctor. There is no need for you to continue to suffer when there are alternate solutions to try.
Depending on your anxiety disorder, your doctor may prescribe anti-depressants, beta blockers, or both. There are many anti-depressants, known as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (or SSRIs), that work to restore the balance of chemicals in the brain.
For more short-term use, some anti-depressants and beta blockers are designed to act quickly, relieving the symptoms of an anxiety attack or a similar episode. These are only used when required to calm you down immediately, so that you may regain control of your symptoms.
By keeping the lines of communication open between you and your doctor, together, you will be able to explore what does and does not work when it comes to managing your anxiety. If there are any symptoms that are particularly difficult for you, a doctor may be able to shed some light on how to mitigate that issue and control your anxiety.