One of the best things you can do if you have difficulties with anxiety is to learn as much as you can about it.
Whether it’s panic disorder, a specific phobia or generalised anxiety, the more you understand about your experience, the better you’ll be able to manage it.
Sometimes, small changes to your lifestyle can have a big impact. Make sure that your body and mind are getting the support they need to deal with anxiety. A healthy diet, plenty of sleep and frequent exercise will all go some way to reducing your anxiety levels. Likewise, try to reduce the use of alcohol or caffeine.
Medication can be a godsend for anxiety sufferers, but there is a high risk of developing tolerance or addiction to them. In most cases, sedative medication is best only as a temporary aid and not a permanent solution to anxiety. In any case, medication should be pursued along with other therapies, so think about speaking to your doctor to find out if medication has something to offer you.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Anyone who’s had a panic attack can attest to the power of the mind over the body – anxiety can make us feel like we are constantly in crisis, even when we are not. CBT tries to get to the root of the problem by addressing our thought processes. For example, if you have the thought that you will not be loved unless you do everything 100% perfectly, you are setting yourself up for stress when you don’t. Modifying that thought into something more realistic is the key to reducing your stress.
If the mind can stress us out, it can also relax us – if we know how. A counsellor can teach you many different techniques for improving focus and guiding your awareness into a more relaxed stat. But anyone can employ relaxation techniques. A simple but powerful tool is your own breath. When we are stressed, our breathing rate increases to prepare for a fight or flight response. If we consciously act to slow and regulate our breathing, we can interrupt this escalating cycle of stress from taking over.
Throughout the day, whether you are feeling anxious or not, take a few moments to simply pay attention to your breath, perhaps to the count of ten. Linger on the exhale and in the empty space between breaths, and perhaps close your eyes to visualise something peaceful as you do. The more this becomes a habit, the easier it will become to stop in a tense moment and regain your sense of calm.
For the person suffering from anxiety, it can often seem like worry and panic have taken over every aspect of their lives. Those who have learnt to live with it have realised, however, that anxiety only has as much control over them as they allow. With the appropriate lifestyle changes, therapy and the support of understanding friends and family, stress becomes something manageable.
If you or someone you know suffers from anxiety and would like to speak with someone about it, Australian Counselling can help you find someone that can help you. Click here to see our directory for therapists and counsellors.