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Will Anxiety Ever Get Better? Helpful Tips for Coping

There are times when it feels that anxiety will never get better. It’s worrisome, exhausting and overwhelming. But yes, anxiety is a very treatable disorder and with work and dedication to reduce the symptoms and implement coping skills, it can get better.

Anxiety disorder is the most common mental health condition in the United States with nearly 40 million adults experiencing it at some point in their life. Anxiety can impact people differently and have a wide variety of symptoms. Usually, the symptoms impact our cognitive, emotional, mental and physical wellbeing. Because the symptoms impact such a variety of areas, the coping skills should also target these different areas. 

Read more below about the common symptoms and some tips for coping.

Symptoms of Anxiety:

  • Feeling restless or nervous

  • Easily fatigued & feeling overwhelmed

  • Having trouble sleeping

  • Feeling irritable & restless

  • Impact memory & judgment

  • Increased muscle tension or headaches

  • Difficulty controlling worry

  • Increased sweating & trembling

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Having trouble making decisions

  • Increases self-doubt

 

Tips for Coping: 

Positive Thinking:

Altering your mindset can be a key factor in managing anxiety. In fact, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective treatment strategies in addressing and reducing anxiety. CBT aims to address the role of one’s cognitions and thoughts with how that is impairing their behavior and emotional state. CBT is quite effective in helping people to alter and adjust their negative thoughts while replacing them with more positive thinking. The power of positive thinking has had extensive research showing its effectiveness and usefulness when implemented during challenging times. So when you notice yourself worrying or feeling anxious, try your best to force positive thoughts, such as saying positive affirmations to yourself or even thinking of something in which you are grateful. These are small exercises that can actually have a large impact in reducing overall anxiety.

 

Mindfulness Meditation: 

Mindfulness can help to calm the mind and this is especially important when one is experiencing anxiety, stress, and high levels of worry. Even taking a few moments each day to just breathe can be extremely helpful. The idea of meditation and mindfulness means that we are creating a safe space for ourselves to engage in a calming experience where we will be keenly aware of our body, mind, and physical space. There are many mindfulness exercises that will guide you through practicing a meditation. You can try this for a few moments each day or even on a weekly basis.

 

Exercise:

There is extensive research on the mental and emotional benefits of physical activity. When people are experiencing high stress or anxiety, they can often forget the importance of making time for exercise. It is this activity that can actually help to reduce stress and anxiety so it is therefore very important. Physical exercise boosts certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and other endorphins, which can again, help us to manage our mood and emotional state. You can start small and set daily goals, such as a 20-minute walk in your neighborhood. Any physical activity can help in boosting your mood so get out and try a little exercise to improve your emotional wellbeing. 

 

Healthy Nutrition:

Eating healthy foods is an important aspect to maintaining both good physical and mental health. Healthy nutrition, just as exercise, plays a direct role in our mind-body functioning. People often notice if they eat more processed, high sugar or junk foods, they feel more sluggish, have difficulty thinking clearly and it often impacts their mood. Be sure to focus on maintaining a healthy diet during times of stress as this actually helps in reducing and controlling our mental health symptoms. Also, it’s important to limit alcohol and caffeine as both of these substances can play a direct role in feelings of anxiety. Alcohol, in particular, can work to numb the negative feelings; however, when you are not drinking alcohol, the feelings then return, which can ultimately worsen your situation.

 

Support System: 

Having a strong support system is an important aspect of managing anxiety symptoms. Support systems can be a variety of people, such as friends, family, sports clubs, therapy groups or even community-based groups. Depending on the situation, it can be helpful to talk to others about what you’re experiencing. If talking to your friends or family has not been helpful or if you are feeling that they may not understand, then perhaps joining support groups with individuals who are experiencing similar situations can be helpful. Support groups can provide a distraction, positive interaction, companionship or other general support needed during a difficult time. 

 

Master your Time: 

Time management is a critical skill in managing anxiety. This is because if we take on too many tasks or procrastinate and wait until the very last minute, this creates additional stress and contributes to an anxiety-provoking situation. By managing your time wisely and not waiting until the last minute or taking on too many projects, you can reduce the overall anxiety of situations.

 

Learn to say “no:”

Setting appropriate boundaries and not taking on too many tasks as discussed with time management, can be helpful in learning how to control your anxiety levels. Many people can get caught up in the worry and concern about others, which can lead them to have an increase in their own anxiety. It’s important to realize that by taking on other people’s worry, you ultimately increase your own. So if you are experiencing high levels of anxiety, stress, and worry, try setting better boundaries and say “no” when you need to in order to reduce tasks. 

 

Get a good night’s sleep:

Getting adequate sleep is actually crucial for both our physical and mental health. People can often find themselves in a negative cycle where worry and anxiety are keeping them awake at night and they find it hard to fall or stay asleep. However, it is also this experience of not getting enough sleep that will actually worsen the anxiety; therefore, adequate sleep is essential. 

There are a few strategies that can assist a positive bedtime routine and better sleep:

    Wind down before bed: For many, spending the last 30 minutes to an hour before bed, to wind down with calming activities can help them sleep better. This means reducing or completely eliminating over-stimulating activities such as watching tv, your phone or exercise. Calming activities may include lighting candles in your house to reduce bright lights, read a book, soak in a hot bath or shower, meditate or use aromatherapy.

    Write in a journal: Writing down your thoughts before bed can be helpful in reducing anxiety and worry that you might experience during the night. People often find that they are focused on their thoughts while trying to go to sleep or something worrisome wakes them in the night. By keeping a journal on your nightstand, you can write down some of these thoughts and attempt to get them out of your mind to create better sleep.

    Speak to your healthcare provider. Lastly, if you have attempted several strategies, repeatedly overtime and still feel that you are unable to get adequate sleep, then talk to your doctor as there may be physical ailments that are contributing to insomnia or perhaps a sleep aid or medication may be appropriate. 

Unplug Regularly:

It’s important that we take time away from technology on a regular basis. This doesn’t have to be something too complicated either. It could be something as simple as putting away your cell phone and turning off your ringer during dinner with your family or something bigger, such as a tech-free weekend. If you work in a job where you are on-call and need to be by your phone, and then schedule time away from tech when it’s your break from on-call. Make this a commitment that will work for you. Staying overly connected to technology, social media, email, and our phones do not give our minds time to actually take a mental break. It keeps us connected, distracted and stressed.


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Blog written by: Dr. Shelley Sommerfeldt, Clinical Psychologist, Relationship Coach & Founder of the Loving Roots Project, an online wellness practice specializing in personal growth, mental wellness, & relationship betterment.

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