As unpleasant as it may be, anxiety is a relatively unavoidable aspect of everyday life. While everyone experiences anxiety differently and from different places, the feeling of sweaty palms and a rapid heartbeat is all too familiar.
While we can’t rid ourselves of anxiety completely, there are coping strategies for anxiety that we can put into action to quell its effects and ensure it doesn’t consume us completely. Here are seven of the best strategies to fight back when anxiety begins to overwhelm you.
Exercising has a number of proven benefits on mental health, as it can divert our attention away from our daily worries and let us focus solely on the task at hand. Exercise additionally allows us to combat the physical effects of stress and anxiety, like muscle tension and fatigue.
Exercise energizes us and works muscles that tense up during periods of intense anxiety. Beyond that, exercise is integral to helping us build mental fortitude against feelings of anxiety. Exercise sparks activity in the region of the brain responsible for executive function, thus giving us more control of our anxious thoughts.
Sure, we’ve all heard that meditation is a calming practice that can have serious mental health benefits, but what does it really do? A myth about meditation is that the goal is to clear your mind of any anxious thoughts. In reality, the purpose of the practice is actually to recognize passing thoughts and attempt to understand them more clearly.
The nice thing about meditation is that you can’t “do it wrong.” As long as you allow yourself the opportunity to close your eyes and breath, you’re accomplishing an integral part of the practice. The biggest hurdle for effective meditation is doing it regularly. Once you’re able to nail down a meditation routine, you’ll find that you’re more in control of your anxious thoughts.
Get Healthy Sleep
Healthy sleep can be hugely effective in fending off lingering anxiety. What does this look like in practice? First of all, getting enough. You should aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night — and if possible, you should seek to fall asleep and wake up at the same time in order to maximize your REM state.
Other factors that can lead to good sleep include practicing a self-care routine before bed and limiting exposure to screens too close to bedtime. Taking a warm bath, journaling, meditating, and reading are all great activities to set you up for a good night’s sleep. If you decide to read before bed, opt for a physical book instead of an e-reader to limit blue light exposure to your eyes right before bed.
Talk it Out
If you feel that your anxious feelings aren’t letting up or they’re getting worse, then you may want to try talking through your emotions with a close friend, family member, or therapist. Not addressing the feelings can sometimes make them worse, and simply talking about them is an excellent first step to take.
Beyond that, receiving validation for your anxious feelings can be helpful in feeling slightly better. Simply hearing “I understand” can serve as reassurance that your feelings are valid and natural.
Cut Back on Social Media
The infinite amount of information accessible to us through our phones can be overwhelming and oftentimes a little too much to digest. As a result, sometimes it's good to stay away from social media and focus instead on yourself and the present moment.
Social media apps are designed to be addictive. They are built to release dopamine and create a sensation that you desire to repeat, like gambling or drinking. In order to not become too reliant on social media, it’s best to unplug often, as to not let your apps control your life.
Take a Day Off
If your job is a big source of stress in your life, then it’s healthy to take a day off every now and then to reset. Time off is more important now than ever. In the era of work from home with the boundaries between work life and home life more blurred, it’s pivotal to fully unplug from your job sometimes and take time to relax and focus on your other interests. Doing so will help boost your productivity when you return.
If your company has a lenient PTO policy, make sure you’re using it. If not, communicate your concerns to your manager and ask for time off or for your role to be restructured so it's less anxiety-inducing.
Seek Something Familiar
Why is it that we always find ourselves rewatching the same shows and going to the same restaurants? The answer is that there’s something very comforting about familiarity and knowing what to expect. And the best part? It’s a totally healthy way to deal with anxious feelings.
If you’ve had a particularly stressful day, there’s nothing wrong with returning to your favorite episode of your favorite show — even if you’ve seen it over 100 times. Or, you can reward yourself with ordering takeout from your favorite restaurant. There’s solace in familiarity, so when everything feels uncertain, return to something that won’t surprise you.
Fight Back Against Anxious Thoughts
Preventing anxiety is a near impossible task, but knowing how to put different strategies into practice to put your anxiety to bed is achievable. Using the tips above, you can create daily habits to “pre-prepare” for anxious thoughts. Having a healthy routine is pivotal in fending off anxiety, even when stressful situations arise (which they will).
Whether it’s a big first date, a job interview, or just the stress of daily life, anxiety can pop up in every situation, and knowing how to handle it is of utmost importance. For more tips on the best ways to cope with anxious thoughts, refer to the below infographic by Ness.
Author bio: Sam Brown is a native Mississippian currently living in North Carolina, Sam is a content marketer who specializes in writing content in the wellness space. An avid runner, hiker, cyclist, and reader, Sam strives to create accessible wellness content that anyone can put into practice. When he’s not creating content, he’s likely on the bike, in the kitchen, or perusing a local bookstore.