Anxiety is something that is ingrained in humans. It developed as part of the fight or flight response that helped our ancestors make quick decisions in the face of an external threat: to either confront it or run away. While it doesn’t help us evade predators any more, it still floods our bodies in sometimes helpful, mostly negative ways. Public speaking, job interviews and first dates are all scenarios that are likely to trigger anxiety. For some people, it can be debilitating. In this piece, we’ve come up with a number of different strategies you can employ to combat your anxiety.
Mindfulness is an increasingly popular method of staving off anxiety. A number of apps with easy to understand guides to mindfulness have rocketed into the top positions of app stores on Apple and Android alike. In its most simple terms, mindfulness is the study of trying to stay in the moment. When you are able to take in only your immediate environment and limit your focus to the task at hand, you can achieve a state of mindfulness. Learning how to free your mind of things you can’t control – like things that have happened in the past – can leave you feeling like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Great Minds at Work recommend learning the principles of mindfulness and putting them into practice over time.
Controlling your breathing
It isn’t always easy to deploy a technique or strategy when you’re in the middle of a stressful situation but breathing exercises are one way you can attempt to regain a level of calm regardless of where you are. Lying on your back, sitting upright in a chair or standing up, you can try these techniques anywhere. One NHS endorsed breathing technique involves breathing in through your nose (counting for five seconds) and breathing out through your mouth (counting for another five seconds) and repeating this process for a few minutes.
Anxiety is a human response to an external stimulus. By putting your body through its paces, you can counteract the paralysing effect of anxiety by prompting your body to release serotonin and dopamine. Exercising regularly can provide you with a steady stream of mood boosting endorphins. You can condition your body to fight back against the debilitating effects of anxiety. Going for a walk to ‘clear your head’ is one example but you’ll need to challenge yourself if you want to reap the liberating rewards of sustain physically demanding exercise. A runner’s high isn’t just a figure of speech; it’s a real thing that is worth pursuing. There can be a temptation to turn to alcohol, drugs or gambling as outlets for living with anxiety. Exercising regularly is an extremely healthy way of dealing with it.
Anxiety isn’t necessarily something that can be completely overcome but it can definitely be managed. Taking the time to test a variety of strategies will help you decide on the ones that really work for you. Don’t expect instant success, slow and steady progress is something worth aiming for.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.