3.6 % of the global population suffer from an anxiety disorder. However, it is a very treatable condition. Here are 3 of the most effective strategies to help you to reduce your anxiety.
1. Change Your Thoughts
How we feel is determined by how we think. So, the anxiety that you feel is being generated by the way you are thinking about things.
The first type of thought that creates anxiety is one in which we overestimated the chances of something bad happening, this could be (us) doing something bad (e.g. losing control), other people doing something bad (e.g. criticising and/or rejecting us) or something bad happening in the world (e.g. an accident). So, when you feel anxious try and identify the ‘bad’ thing that you are predicting and then consider whether you are mixing up possibility with probability i.e. it might be ‘possible’ that your prediction will come true but how likely is it. Making a more accurate assessment will go some way to reducing the anxiety that you feel.
The second type of thought that creates anxiety is one in which we underestimate our ability to cope. So, think about what you could do if the ‘bad’ thing that you are predicting did happen, because if you are able to cope with this worst-case scenario, all other possibilities will be a walk in the park.
2. Change Your Breathing
When we feel anxious our sympathetic nervous system is activated and this leads to unpleasant physical sensations including, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, dizziness, sweating and tingling in extremities. However, by changing the way that we breathe it is possible to turn our sympathetic nervous system off and our parasympathetic nervous system, the system responsible for rest and recharging, on. This will eliminate the unpleasant physical sensations and bring about a feeling of calm.
There are a number of ways to change your breathing to achieve this:
- Cup your hands and place them over your nose and mouth. Breathe as slowly and as deeply as you can into your hands until you feel calmer.
- Inhale for the count of 3, then exhale for the count of 3. Repeat 5 times. Inhale for the count of 4, exhale for the count of 4. Repeat 10 times. Inhale for the count of 5, exhale for the count of 5. Continue until you feel calmer.
- Breathe in a little and pause, breathe in a little more and pause, breathe in to completely fill your lungs, hold for a moment and then fully exhale. Continue to breathe in this way, dividing your inhale into 3 parts and exhaling fully in 1 go until you feel calmer.
3. Don’t Avoid
A natural response when we are anxious is to avoid the thing that is making us anxious. However, although in the short term this will bring us some relief from anxiety, over the long term it will make anxiety worse. This is because avoidance eats away at our confidence to handle things and low confidence raises anxiety.
If you are avoiding lots of things, make a list and rank the activities in terms of how much anxiety each one causes you. Begin with the easiest and do that activity as much as you can until your anxiety dissipates. Then move on to the next activity and repeat. Continue in this way working your way up the list to the top.
If it is just one (big) thing that you are avoiding, break that activity into smaller steps, practicing each step and adding the next as your confidence increases until you are able to complete the whole task all in one go. Using travelling on the train as an example:
1. Stand on the platform and watch trains come and go
2. Get on a stationary train for 5 minutes
3. Travel 1 stop on the train
4. Travel 2 stops on the train
5 .Travel 3 stops on the train etc
Each of these strategies will bring you some relief from your anxiety. If you are able to do all 3 and if your anxiety is mild to moderate in severity, your anxiety should resolve. If your anxiety is severe or if these strategies do not lead to a substantial reduction in your symptoms, you may need some professional help in the form of counselling to resolve the problem.