You can learn to manage your anxiety better over time to decrease the number of panic attacks you experience. The strategies listed below can help you cope and prevent anxiety before it starts.
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. Chills, shortness of breath, and rapid heart rate are just some of the alarming reactions that occur during an anxiety attack. These symptoms can intensify and increase leading to:
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Feelings of danger or dread
You can’t control when an anxiety attack hits, and trying to control it can sometimes make it worse. At Windermere Medical Center, our mission is to work in partnership with our patients to develop an individualized health plan that is focused on prevention including proactive strategies to help them achieve and maintain optimal health. Below we break down 7 measures you can take to help you relax, feel better, and take control of your mind.
1. Breathe through Your Belly
Deep breathing can help you during an anxiety attack. However, it’s essential to practice the right type of deep breaths. Namely, you want to inhale deeply down to your diaphragm and belly.
Close your eyes and take deep breaths making sure your belly expands as you breathe in and empties when you breathe out. It helps to imagine that you have a balloon in your stomach. Try breathing in for four counts and breathing out for four counts for about five minutes. By evening out your breath, you’ll slow your heart rate, which will help calm you down.
Deep breathing sends a message to your brain that you’re okay and helps your mind and body relax. You can also try lying down on a flat surface and putting one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Take a slow breath in and make sure it fills your belly enough that youcan feel it rise slightly. Hold it for a second, then slowly let it out.
2. Know Your Triggers
Everyone has different triggers, and identifying them is one of the most critical steps to coping and managing anxiety. If you haven’t recognized your triggers yet, here are some common ones:
- A stressful job or work environment
- Meeting your partner’s family
- Driving or traveling
- Side effects of specific medications
- Giving a presentation in front of people
- Phobias, such as agoraphobia (fear of crowded or open spaces), and claustrophobia (fear of small spaces)
- Chronic pain
Identifying your triggers can take time and self-reflection. You can pinpoint triggers on your own or with some extra support through therapy or with friends. Long-term problems, such as financial or work-related situations, may take some time to figure out — is it a due date, a person, or a specific situation?
When you do figure out your triggers, you should try to limit your exposure if you can. If the trigger is unavoidable — if it’s due to a stressful work environment that you can’t currently change — using other coping techniques may help.
3. Limit Caffeine and Alcohol
Both caffeine (an “upper”) and alcohol (a “downer”) can kick your anxiety into overdrive. Therefore, cutting back on them can help you reduce anxiety attacks and the overall level of anxiety you feel.
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. Consuming too much of it can aggravate anxiety because it stimulates your fight-or-flight response. Coffee and soft drinks aren’t the only things with caffeine. It can also pop up in:
- Diet pills
- Energy drinks
- Some headache medicines
Alcohol is classed as a depressant drug, meaning that it slows down vital functions—resulting in slurred speech, unsteady movement, disturbed perceptions and an inability to react quickly.
Alcohol’s impact on your body starts from the moment you take your first sip. While an occasional glass of wine with dinner isn’t a cause for concern, the cumulative effects of persistent alcohol consumption can take its toll on the body, including:
- Heart and liver damage
- Pancreatitis and stomach distress
- Sexual dysfunction
Exercise is considered vital for maintaining mental fitness, as it can reduce anxiety and stress. In fact, just a few minutes of exercise can help you decrease symptoms of anxiety and improve your mood.
Regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, enhance sleep, and improve self-esteem. About five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
When you exercise, your body gets flooded with endorphins—chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers — and also improve your ability to sleep. Moreover, as your body heat naturally increases during exercise, you’ll enhance the neural circuits that control cognitive function and mood and boost your serotonin levels.
Studies show that exercise is effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when anxiety (or stress) has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate.
Bottom line: When your body feels better, so does your mind.
5. Focus on the Present
Feeling stressed or anxious often coincides with dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Focusing your mind on the present moment can help you feel more relaxed and put things into perspective.
Healing arts like tai chi, yoga, and mindfulness meditation can provide potent tools to stay present amid anxiety. Mindful meditation, when done regularly, can eventually help you train your brain to dismiss anxious thoughts when they arise.
6. Get a Good Night’s Rest
Many people with anxiety disorders have You can learn to manage your anxiety better over time to decrease the number of panic attacks you experience. The strategies listed below can help you cope and prevent anxiety before it starts.
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. Chills, shortness of breath, and rapid heart rate are just some of the alarming reactions that occur during an anxiety attack. These symptoms can intensify and increase, leading to:
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Feelings of danger or dread
You can’t control when an anxiety attack hits, and trying to control it can sometimes make it worse. But you can take measures to help you relax, feel better, and take control of your mind.
7. Exude Confidence
You can better manage your fear of what might be by manifesting confidence and conviction that you can get through any experience that may arise. The more you safely pass through each anxious moment and overcome it, the more confident you become. You’ll be able to build off those moments, one by one. Coming to trust in yourself and your ability to get through life’s inevitable difficulties will help decrease the “what ifs” of tomorrow.
Just remember when experiencing anxiety that you’re going to be okay. Challenge any dark or anxious thoughts that come up by asking, “Are these thoughts serving me in a positive manner right now? Is there another way I can look at this situation?”
Feelings of anxiety can be painful and debilitating. However, if you can find the strength to sit with them, they will eventually lose their power and pass away. Evoke the saying, “This too shall pass.” When they have faded away, remember you have survived, and you are resilient.
If you have any questions or want to learn more about how you can manage anxiety better, please feel free to contact us.