10 Suggestions To Managing Anxiety and Stress
Do you feel excessively anxious and worried more days than not? Has your anxiety lasted for at least 6 months in different areas of your life (i.e. events or activities)? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you may meet the criteria for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). The specific symptoms are associated with three (or more) of the following:
- Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
- Muscle tension
- Sleep disturbance
Often times when we feel scared or overwhelmed we may either find ourselves trying to control our environment to gain a sense of peace and calm or we try to escape by avoiding or withdrawing from the situation. However, these strategies are often short-lived and lead us eventually down the path of restlessness, uncertainty and self-doubt once again. If you feel powerless and overwhelmed by excessive worries, ruminating thoughts and/or the external stressors in your life, you may find yourself overly stressed, tired, irritable, depressed or uptight.
An alternative strategy is implementing habits and practices in your daily routine which help calm down your central nervous system and cultivate a sense of peace and inner tranquility. This post will offer you some helpful suggestions on how to slow down, manage your thoughts and start investing in your emotional, mental and physical well-being.
1. Take Action- Keep in mind GAD is not a life sentence if you are committed to taking action and making some changes in your thinking and behavioral patterns. The first step is choosing to commit to a new way of operating and prioritizing your self-care time by removing distractions and creating boundaries around your anxiety manage routine.
Invest time and energy towards improving the quality of your body, mind, heart and soul. Remember you are worth it and are more valuable than all the tasks you have to do. Although it may seem counter intuitive to put your well-being above your to-do-list, studies show that by taking occasional self-care breaks you are not only more efficient and effective, but also more productive and focused when doing your work. By practicing the following suggestions regularly and making them part of your daily routine, over time you will begin to find inner peace and clarity of mind.
2. Slow Down-People living with anxiety often are in survival mode (i.e. fight, flight or freeze response). When our defenses of Fight and Flight are set in motion the body releases an enormous amounts of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol.
The brain is flooded with norepinephrine to increase alertness and our ability to act. However, too much over an extended period of time causes the brain to malfunction.
Cortisol rearranges the distribution of energy to assist with prolonged stress (i.e. increases heart rate and increases blood pressure, etc.). However, elevated levels of cortisol and stress hormones can: damage the Hippocampus, cause a breakdown in memory and consciousness, affect mood leading to depression and fatigue, negatively impacts the immune system, creates Amygdala confusion, elicits an overabundance of fear response to non-threatening events (i.e. startle response, and Frontal Lobe difficulties).
To shift this negative cycle of stress and anxiety, we need to learn to be still and silent, to become conscious and aware of our urge and behavioral tendencies and to slow down the process so we are not automatically responding to thoughts, feelings and events in old, familiar, and unhealthy ways.
3. Meditation: Learning the art of meditation and practicing it regularly has many healthy benefits such as: reducing fears, helping to control thoughts, helping with focus & concentration, increasing emotional stability, improving relationships, lowering oxygen consumption, decreasing respiratory rate, increasing blood flow and slowing the heart rate, decreasing muscle tension, helping to keep things in perspective, providing peace of mind, increasing happiness, helping to discover your purpose, increasing compassion, growing wisdom, deepening understanding of yourself and others, and bringing the body, mind, spirit in harmony just to name a few. The following video is an example of a mediation exercise.
4. Exercise: Cardio exercise and physical movement is an incredible stress reliever. Just choose your favorite physical activity: dancing, running, outdoor biking, yoga or kick-boxing and get your heart moving today.
5. Get Connected To Your Body: Connecting to your body is an effective strategy to calming the mind. Our body is an important, yet often overlooked aspect, of our well-being.
In our fast paced world there are demands and pressures coming at us from all directions including ourselves. When we are under stress, our mind begins to process and solve problems to gain a sense of order, control and certainty; however, over-analysis and worry can become counter productive and lead to an increase in anxiety and tension.
A helpful way to get your body back into a state of balance is by connecting to the powerful resource of our body.
6. Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of focused attention and inward concentration. The hypnotherapist brings about deep relaxation and an altered state of consciousness, also known as a trance which allows people to tap into their internal resources, be able to make personal changes and learn how to manage their own lives more effectively. In using hypnosis or self-hypnosis people are allowed to gain more self-control and access more of their potential.
7. Just Breath: If we have a shallow breath our brain is not getting the appropriate level of oxygen it needs to manage stress effectively. By deepening your breath and practicing breathing meditations regularly you will begin to improve your mood and state of mind.
8. Get Out Of Your Head And Into Your Life: Over-analysis leads to paralysis. By using a thought stopping techniques you can begin to stop your active mind and begin taking action in your life. It is hazardous to over-think and ask fear-based questions without answering them. Start by saying STOP to the ruminating thoughts and begin to answer ONE of the questions you are asking yourself.
By just answering the questions in your head is not sufficient because you are maintaining an activated emotional state of mind. Instead get it down on paper by journal or writing your rational thoughts on a paper. A way of challenging unproductive thoughts is to use a Thought Regulation Technique.
9. Manage Your Time Effectively: Being realistic about how much time there is in a day is the first step towards time management. The second is learning to say no to yourself and others. Often times we become stressed and anxious because we have overextended ourselves or set unrealistic expectations on ourselves. Begin setting boundaries around your time so various aspects of your life are not blending into one. Review the Effective Time Management List to make positive behavioral changes in your life.
10. Build Mastery: Instead of being filled with self-doubt and rumination begin integrating these skills one at a time. Instead of getting stuck in the cycle of indecision and procrastination, get some perspective and start taking action. Begin focusing your attention on progress, NOT perfection otherwise you will self-sabotage your efforts. Fortunately with time, effort and consistent application of these strategies you can begin to enhance your well-being and decrease your anxiety level.
If you feel overwhelmed about implementing these strategies or have tried them but don’t make as much progress as you would like you may benefit from one-on-one attention with a Licensed Professional Counselor. EDMR is an effective and brief approach used in a counseling setting to decrease triggers, PTSD symptoms, Social Anxiety, Phobias, Obsessive Compulsive or Addictive tendencies as well as Depression and Complex Trauma. For more information you can contact me at True Potential Counseling.