It’s completely normal to get nervous or worked up about things out of our control or over important life changes and events. However, about 40 million Americans live with an anxiety disorder, which is more than the occasional worry or fear. Anxiety disorders can range from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which is intense worrying that you can’t control, to panic disorder — sudden episodes of fear, along with heart palpitations, trembling, shaking, or sweating. If you are experiencing frequent anxiety, this post is for you! I will provide some tips and strategies for managing anxiety.
Tip 1: Focus on the present.
Anxiety is a future-oriented state of mind. So instead of worrying about what’s going to happen, “reel yourself back to the present,” says Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Freeing Yourself from Anxiety. Ask yourself: what’s happening right now? Am I safe? Is there something I need to do right now? If not, make an “appointment” to check in with yourself later in the day to revisit your worries so those distant scenarios don’t throw you off track.
Tip 2: Assure yourself that you are fine.
Panic attacks can often make you feel like you’re literally “dying” or having a heart attack. Remind yourself: “I’m having a panic attack, but it’s harmless, it’s temporary, and there’s nothing I need to do.” Make sure you also keep in mind that panic attacks really do not cause any real physical harm. Keeping this in mind reminds you that the sensations you experience originate from your mind, not your body.
Tip 3: Check your thoughts.
Oftentimes when people experience anxiety, they fixate on worst-case scenarios. To combat these worries, think about how realistic they are. Getting into a pattern of rethinking your fears helps train your brain to come up with a rational way to deal with your anxious thoughts.
Tip 4: Breathe.
Deep breathing helps you calm down. While you may have heard about specific breathing exercises, you don’t need to worry about counting out a certain number of breaths, Chansky says. Instead, just focus on evenly inhaling and exhaling. This will help you slow down and recenter your mind.
Tip 5: Ask for a second opinion.
Call or text a friend or family member and run through your worries with them. Get their opinion and see if you should really be worried or frightened. Saying your thoughts aloud to someone else can help you see them clearly for what they are.