Everyone gets stressed out on occasion. It’s a natural reaction to the challenges and obstacles that life puts us through on a daily basis. And while a healthy amount of stress can motivate us to get things done, sometimes we become overburdened and develop what is known as anxiety. Anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association, is an “emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”
The reason we feel anxious can be traced back to the earliest days of humanity. When mankind needed to be alerted to the approach of predators or incoming threats, we relied on our “fight or flight” response to send a surge of adrenaline in case we needed to act to protect ourselves. Nowadays, we aren’t faced with as many physical threats to our person. But we are faced with a whole slew of other problems surrounding work, relationships, health, and finances. Since we can’t just run away from these problems or physically fight them, that surge of adrenaline just results in a nervous feeling in our stomachs, or in increased blood pressure, or sweaty palms.
We can’t turn off mother nature, but what we can do is minimize the negative effects of anxiety through the use of stress management relief tactics. We can also learn to recognize thought patterns and situations that cause us to feel anxiety and dissemble them so that they have less power over us. The last thing you should do is turn to substances in order to manage stress. Relying on drugs or alcohol to bring relief is not a long-term plan and will never help the body learn how to help itself.
Non-Medicinal Methods of Coping with Anxiety
Relaxation skills are one way to address anxiety that can be used at nearly any time. These skills can involve simple breathing techniques, mindful thinking, and even yoga. Relaxation techniques help you lower blood pressure and heart rate to help you feel calm. Here are some simple exercises to try at home, at work, or on the go.
- Sit down with your chest up
- Inhale slowly through your nose and hold for seven seconds
- Exhale through the mouth for eight seconds (or until all the air is released from your lungs)
- Repeat four to five more times
There are many different methods for meditation. Practicing meditation can help you to regulate emotions and react in a more thoughtful and careful manner. Some guidelines to follow when meditating are to focus your attention on breathing, find a quiet place, and have an open mind. Sit down, close your eyes, and focus on something simple, like breath, music, or the sounds of nature. It’s easier said than done, but anything from twenty minutes to an hour can be hugely beneficial.
The physical and mental benefits of exercise have long been considered vital to the treatment of anxiety and even depression. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins in the brain, giving your body a natural high that can help reduce stress, support health, and improve sleep.
Studies have shown that exercise can quickly improve a depressed mood, and that physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people. However, it shouldn’t be assumed that simply running or lifting a weight will cure any form of anxiety or depression. It’s simply another method for managing stress that may work better for some people than others.
The most up-to-date guidelines for physical activity for Americans advocates for at least 2.5 hours of moderate to intense physical activity every week.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a tested and effective method for treating anxiety and other disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy is more effective than just using medication or exercise/meditation. This is because therapy helps to address the underlying causes of the problem, and not just the symptoms of the problem.
CBT addresses the way we think by looking at negative thought patterns and distortions in the way we view the world. The idea, similar to the cartesian notion of “cogito ergo sum”, is it’s not the external world that determines the way we feel, but our internal perceptions of the situation that decides our feelings.
The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to identify negative thoughts, trace their false construction down to the root, and rewire the way we think in order to promote positive thinking as opposed to negative.
Tips for Keeping Anxiety Away
Taking deep breaths helps stimulate blood flow and cognition. Inhale and exhale slowly a few times when you’re feeling stressed and you’ll find your brain will be gracious for the extra oxygen.
Daily exercise works in a similar manner to deep breathing because you’re getting extra oxygen cycling in and out of your body. Daily exercise can help you relieve tension, and if done routinely can improve your overall health.
Talking through your thoughts with somebody else
Keeping your stress balled up inside your own head doesn’t do any good. Talk to friends and family about what’s on your mind and you’ll find it helps relieve some of the tension. If needed, seek out a clinical therapist or physician to share with.
Abstaining from drugs and alcohol
Mood altering substances often give us a temporary boost to the way we are feeling, but those effects rarely last more than a few hours. In the ensuing come down, your body can actually respond by becoming more anxious, and possibly trigger a panic attack.
Eating well balanced meals
You’ve heard it since you were a child but eating well balanced meals actually goes a long way towards improving mental and physical health. The best approach is to incorporate a wide variety of nutritional sources.
If you’re struggling to manage your anxiety, or if you believe you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. It’s important that you don’t develop a dependence on drugs and alcohol to manage your stress levels. If you or a loved one may be suffering from drug use or alcoholism to treat anxiety, Landmark Recovery has the staff and resources to assist you on the journey to health and sobriety.
About the Author:
Sara Janae Niemiec is a marketing analyst at Landmark Recovery. Sara graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a minor in psychology. Sara enjoys combining her passion for marketing and psychology to help individuals in her society. When she is not keeping up with SEO trends and marketing blogs, she enjoys reading true crime novels, cooking new recipes and playing with her dog.