When you feel anxious or panicky, the symptoms can be terrifying. They can include tightness in the chest, rapid breathing, raised heart rate, and dizziness. Anxiety is usually caused by a build-up of adrenaline which your body can’t cope with - you then become even more anxious, creating a vicious cycle. It almost feels like your body is under physical attack.
Here are four ways to help you manage anxiety and take control of your life.
1. Identify the symptoms
By learning to recognise when you are feeling anxious, you can identify exactly what is going on and take steps to reduce anxiety, such as deep breathing, or even just removing yourself from a situation. The more often you do this, the easier it will be to reduce your anxiety levels.
Anxiety is often associated with the 'flight fight response'. In animals, this can be described as a switch which easily turns off when fear has passed. However, the human switch is left on, as our ability to think, imagine, and feel means we can create a virtual world including things we have never seen before. The resulting stress response includes a never-ending spiral of emotions fuelled by what we create in our imagination and the constant flow of adrenaline produced by everyday stressors.
2. Stop it before it starts
When you are feeling anxious, there are steps you can take to reduce it, but you can also stop it before it starts by identifying the cause or trigger. Do you get anxious in certain circumstances, such as having to do a work presentation, or in crowded public places? Or, you might have a fear of spiders, dogs, flying, or something else?
If you find that there are times you regularly get anxious, then avoiding them might be a solution in the short-term. If you can’t avoid them, then there are steps you can take, such as breathing techniques, meditation, and even self-hypnosis. It’s also worth remembering that you have been in this situation before and you got through it, and you will again - positive self-talk can be a great help.
3. Learn to relax
When you feel anxious, it’s like your mind and body are going at 100 miles an hour. The good news is that we can train our minds (and our bodies) to relax. After all, we were born relaxed. One of the most effective ways is through diaphragm breathing, which helps slow down your breathing and heart rate, and the thoughts that may have been racing through your mind. You can practice this both when you are feeling anxious or if you know a stressful event is going to come up. With a relaxed, clear mind, you can empower yourself and take charge of your life.
4. Be kind to yourself
If anxiety is part of your everyday life, then self-care is vital. Get regular movement and exercise to flush away unwanted adrenaline from the body. Eat natural foods, unprocessed foods and drink plenty of water. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as they are known to increase anxiety. Get outdoors and interact with people more, and spend less time with IT and gadgets. Don’t overload yourself. Simple is good. Getting regular time out, in a quiet place, to relax and unwind is key.