One of the best ways to deal with anxiety is to have a support group. Talking about your feelings with a friend, your family, or any person you can trust will help sort out your negative thoughts. But there are times when expressing your feelings is not an option; to some, it could even be their main source of anxiety.
Many of us are left to deal with it on our own. This discussion will focus on that: looking after yourself when you’re feeling anxious. You need to navigate around your fear to be able to live a satisfying life. The first step is to have a deep understanding of anxiety, fear, and worry. They are your enemies. Knowing them levels out the playing field somehow.
Understanding Fear and Anxiety
People often confuse clinical anxiety with every day worries. One of them is normal; the other requires medical intervention. Occasional worrying is a normal part of life. It even helps us make good decisions in our lives or dodge unfortunate events by being extra careful.
So when does worrying become a mental health problem?
Are you feeling anxious all the time even when there are no signs of imminent danger? Are your worries excessive, irrational, and uncontrollable? Do you settle for a lower quality of life to avoid a feared event? If you say yes to all of these, you are probably suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). This guide explains the difference between “normal worry” and GAD.
Anxiety disorder is a blanket term that refers to a group of mental disorders, which includes:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Selective mutism
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
- Specific Phobia
- Separation anxiety disorder
It is possible to present with features of more than one anxiety disorder. For instance, a person with panic disorder may also develop social anxiety or social phobia. GAD is the most common anxiety disorder and it is characterized by persistent, exaggerated, and uncontrollable fear about everyday life events, often without provocation. You need a doctor to diagnose if you have any of these anxiety disorders. Getting treatment is crucial even though some of the therapies don’t work right away. Below are some tips to help you manage your worries:
Recognize the importance of finding an effective anxiety treatment
Perhaps you have lived with fear all your life that you think you are just “born that way.” Accepting that anxiety is a part of life is a good thing, but resigning yourself to physical and emotional discomfort should not be an option. Suffering in silence is not the best way to fight anxiety. You should know that various treatments are available: anti-anxiety medications, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, complementary and alternative medicine are some of them. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to anxiety; you need to tick a few boxes from the list to find out what works for you.
Make lifestyle changes
In her book The Anxiety Toolkit, Dr. Alice Boyes believes that “deep down, many people know what lifestyle changes they need to make to reduce their stress,“ but anxious people get stuck with different barriers, including self-criticism, social comparison, and excessive responsibility taking. Such things pull you back from incorporating the necessary changes in your life like ending a toxic relationship, saying no when your hands are full, or practicing self-compassion. The challenge is to overcome these psychological barriers in order to tackle your “real” problems, and hopefully, move toward a lower-anxiety life.
Master the art of list-making
List-making is a magical art, according to Bev Aisbett; in fact, it helped her overcome her severe anxiety. The process is simple: make a list of everything you want to achieve in a day and another list for things you will actually do. Unlike the regular TO DO list, you can’t move to the next item on your list without ticking the first item. It doesn’t need to include something groundbreaking; simple tasks like brushing your teeth or eating breakfast would do.
Take a social media detox
Studies confirmed that social media negatively affects your mental health. No one has the right to tell you to delete your Snapchat or Instagram account or to stop stalking your classmate in third grade who have just gotten married, but compulsive use of social media is also associated with a mental health disorder. Social media anxiety is a syndrome related to social anxiety.
Some of its symptoms include:
- Excusing yourself from important activities to check what’s happening on Facebook or Twitter
- Feeling anxious when your posts are not tagged or posted properly
- Experiencing anxiety when your post or photo does not have likes or comments
- Randomly adding strangers to your social media accounts
Keep yourself busy
Anxiety creeps up on you, often out of the blue. But it’s even more powerful when you are just sitting around and thinking about your fears. When you wake up the next day, try to do something right away. It could be reading, meditating, yoga, or knitting. How about finishing that DIY project you’ve been putting off? You can also reduce your anxiety by directing it into positive actions, so try volunteering for a good cause or helping a friend in need.
Smith, M., & Segal, J. (2018) Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Symptoms, Treatment, and Self-Help for Chronic Anxiety. Available at: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad.htm?pdf=12833 (Accessed: 28 April 2019)
Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. (2013). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Pine, D., Rothbaum, B., & Ressler, K. (2015) Anxiety Disorders: Translational Perspectives on Diagnosis and Treatment. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Boyes, A. (2015). The anxiety toolkit: Strategies for fine-tuning your mind and moving past your stuck points. New York: Perigee.
Aisbett, B. (2018). 30 days 30 ways to overcome anxiety. Strawberry Hills, N.S.W.: ReadHowYouWant.
Social Media Anxiety Disorder. (2015) Available at: http://etec.ctlt.ubc.ca/510wiki/Social_Media_Anxiety_Disorder (Accessed: 28 April 2019)