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Managing Anxiety

Anxiety is our body’s natural response to stress. Feeling worried about certain situations is completely normal. You may worry about your family, your current financial situation, or a deadline at work, but usually these are good things! It forces you to work hard and strive for better [1,2].

Symptoms of common anxiety can include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Rapid breathing
  • Feeling nervous or restless
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping [3]

However, sometimes, feelings of anxiety can become overwhelming and interfere with your daily life and/or personal relationships. If it ever gets to the point that you are worrying for months on end, can’t get enough sleep, have sore muscles and difficulty concentrating, or even become depressed and have suicidal thoughts, it may be time to seek services and speak to a doctor/ mental health professional [1, 3].

No matter what level or intensity of anxiety you may be experiencing, here are a few things you can do and be mindful of to reduce your feelings of anxiousness:

[1]. Know that feelings of anxiety are okay and that you are not alone in feeling this way

One of the main issues people with anxiety have is refusing to admit when feelings of anxiousness are occurring. Rather than ignoring them and letting them build up over time, learn to recognize them and find the source. Why are these feelings occurring? Finding the root cause of the problem, and knowing that others feel the same way too, will help put you back in control rather than constantly worrying about the unknown. Writing down your worries can help too, forcing you to come up with actionable solutions to your obstacles and be more accepting of aspects that may be out of your direct control [4].

[2]. Practice relaxation techniques

Make sure to spend a little time each day on something calming. For instance, something as simple as being mindful of your breathing and counting your breaths can take your mind off stress, slow down your heart rate, and make you relaxed [4]. Progressive muscle relaxation (the practice of tightening one set of muscles at a time and then releasing tension in the same area) is also known to help control stress and anxiety [1, 5].

[3]. Stay active (i.e. exercise!)

Spending time doing something you enjoy can take your mind off worries. Exercising, specifically, also releases brain chemicals that counteract anxiety and a bad mood. Try to spend at least 30 minutes a day being active to work off your nerves and focus your attention on something else [1].

[4]. Make use of problem-solving skills and cognitive interventions

Use the 6-step structured problem-solving technique to minimize daily stressors:

  • Write down the exact problem
  • Write down all possible solutions (even the bad ones)
  • Think about the practicality of each solution
  • Choose the solution that is the most practical
  • Plan how you will carry out the chosen solution
  • Follow through and do it! [1]

Similarly, challenge the assumptions you hold about yourself and develop more realistic beliefs using cognitive interventions. For example, people with more intense anxiety tend to “overestimate” the likelihood of negative occurrences, and/or “underestimate” their own potential and ability to cope if something bad does actually happen. By being more cognizant of this, you can learn to recognize distressing thoughts and behaviors and look for more realistic alternatives [1]

[5]. Don’t be so harsh on yourself

Similar to #1, you are not alone, and therefore you are bound to feel anxiety from time to time, no matter how hard you try to prevent it. Some days will be worse than others, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Rather, try to be realistic about what you can do to solve any problems you may be facing, and don’t let other people’s fears and anxieties rub off onto you [4].

[6]. Seek care if and when it is needed!

Remember, the earlier you receive care, the better. The longer you wait, the harder anxiety can be to treat [3]!

REFERENCES:

[1]. How To Deal with Anxiety and Worry | THIS WAY UP [Internet]. This Way Up. 2020 [cited 13 April 2020]. Available from: https://thiswayup.org.au/how-do-you-feel/worried/

[2]. Holland K. Everything You Need to Know About Anxiety. Healthline [Internet]. 2018 [cited 13 April 2020];. Available from: http://healthline.com/health/anxiety

[3]. Anxiety disorders - Symptoms and causes [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. 2020 [cited 13 April 2020]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-2035096

[4]. Provenzano B. How to manage anxiety during a pandemic. Vox [Internet]. 2020 [cited 13 April 2020];. Available from: https://www.vox.com/identities/2020/3/21/21188362/manage-anxiety-pandemic

[5]. Ambardekar N. Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Stress and Insomnia. WebMD [Internet]. 2020 [cited 13 April 2020];. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/muscle-relaxation-for-stress-insomnia

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