It’s safe to say, if you don’t worry or feel nervous now and again, you must not be human!? Feeling anxious is one hundred percent a normal reaction to stressful events and situations. However, when these feelings of dread and worry are unfocused, overwhelming, recurring, and are not directly linked to stressful events, there may be a problem.
Anxiety can be defined as nervousness, apprehension, and self-doubt that may or may not be associated with real-life stressors. If a person’s anxiety persists and gets worse over time, then it may be an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are both very common in adults and children, and there are several major types of anxiety disorders, for example: Generalised anxiety disorder, Panic disorder, Phobias, Social anxiety disorder, Obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The first step in helping you manage your anxiety is to accept it and learn as much about it until you have a complete understanding of your anxiety. This can help reduce its frequency and intensity. You may think “oh I’ll just avoid any objects or situations that provoke or aggravate my anxiety, and I’ll be fine”. However, this type of avoidance behaviour can do more harm than good.
It is a good idea to have techniques that you can practise which will help you cope with your anxiety. Coping techniques can help soothe anxiety mentally and physically by training your mind and relaxing your body. A few techniques include:
When feeling anxious, sit up straight for a few minutes (if possible) and close your eyes. Take deep, long breaths in through your nose, hold the breath for a moment and then slowly exhale through your nose. You may even want to count to five as you breathe in and out. Repeat several times to reduce your anxiety.
Make sure you are comfortable by either sitting in a chair or lying down. Your eyes may be open or closed. Loosen any restrictive clothing and make sure your surroundings are quiet. Begin by doing some deep breathing (see above). Start by tensing the muscles in your feet. Bend your feet upward from the ankle toward your face. Flex your feet upward as high as you can, but not so much that it causes pain or cramping. Quickly release the tension in your feet. Do the same for your ankles, and calves, gradually working your way up your body until you reach your head and neck. Hold each position for 5 to 10 seconds and quickly release the tension. Stay relaxed for about 20 to 30 seconds before moving on to the next muscle group. Notice the feelings and sensations you experience when your feet are relaxed as well as how the tension feels.
When you notice yourself worrying or ruminating, try stop yourself. Try find ways to re- structure your negative thoughts into positive thoughts.
Counting has been found to help with anxiety as it changes your mindset. When you feel anxious, try to count backwards from 1,000 or start at 1 and add 7 to each new number.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), is aimed at changing patterns of thinking or behaviour that are the causes of people’s problems, and so change the way they feel.
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Written by Alannagh Kelly