5 Tips To Help You Overcome Anxiety

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Anxiety: What Can I Do To Feel Less Anxious?

BY DR SARAH HUGHES

Anxiety is far more common than most people think. In fact it’s experienced by 1 in 4 people at some point in their life, but far too many people don’t seek help.

Is worry giving you a headache?

Is worry giving you a headache?

This is partly because it’s normal to feel anxious in reaction to stressful situations, like demanding work deadlines or family stress, so it can be difficult to differentiate between normal anxiety and problem anxiety.

So how do you know when your anxiety has moved into problem anxiety territory?

• You can’t switch off from your worry
• Your anxiety makes you feel nauseas
• You feel irritable and tense
• Worry keeps you awake at night
• Your anxiety gets in the way of your usual routines and activities
• You anxiety is making it hard for you to concentrate

If your anxiety is more problematic than helpful, these 5 tips for problem anxiety will help.

Tip #1: Identify your Triggers

The first step in managing anxiety is to identify what’s making you feel stressed. If you find this difficult try keeping a diary. Watch out for times when you feel anxious through the day and write down what you’re doing, who you’re with, and what you’re thinking about. Also make note of what you do to help yourself feel better.

Tip #2: Develop an Action Plan

Some problems can be solved while others are unchangeable and have to be accepted. Once you’ve identified your triggers see if there’s anything you can do about the things you’re worried about. Brainstorm possible solutions, forget logistics and the feasibility of your ideas just get your ideas onto paper

Once you’ve brainstormed consider the pros and cons of each of your ideas then select the solution that is most likely to help you solve your problem. Think about what resources you’ll need to implement your plan and identify possible barriers and ways to overcome them. If your plan doesn’t work, go back and try a different solution.

Tip #3: Manage Your Thoughts

When we’re anxious we tend to catastrophise about the future and think about worst case scenarios. Thinking about worst case scenarios makes them seem more likely and this will make your anxiety even worse. Keep track of your worries and try to look at them objectively. As yourself:

Is what I’m worrying about likely or unlikely?
What’s the most likely outcome?
Have I worried about this before? What happened last time – did my worst fears come true or were they unfounded?
What reasons are there to suggest that what I’m worrying about won’t happen?
If a friend was worried about this, what would I tell them?

Tip #4: Change How You Respond To Your Anxiety

How you respond to your anxiety is important. Some actions will help you to feel better in the short-term but will actually make your anxiety worse in the longer-term. As a general rule, going along with your anxiety will offer reassurance in the short-term but strengthen your anxiety in the longer-term. For example, if your anxiety tells you that something’s wrong with someone you love, calling them to check that they’re safe will make you feel better initially but keep your anxiety around in the longer-term. Going against your anxiety (e.g. not calling or trying to delay calling) will make you feel anxious in the short-term but help your anxiety go away in the longer-term.

Tip #5: Make Lifestyle Changes

Look at your work/life balance. Many of us put off leisure time to meet deadlines, but a busy work life with little downtime can increase your stress and anxiety. Try to leave work at work and if your workload doesn’t allow this consider what you need to put in place to make it possible. Can you delegate some tasks to other people? Can you aim for 80% of what you consider perfect? Do you need to speak to your boss about your workload?

Make time for regular exercise, it’s a great way to manage stress and will also help to boost your immune system. You might also want to reduce your caffeine intake. Caffeine is a stimulant and can exacerbate anxiety.

Dr. Sarah Hughes is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Think Clinical Psychologists. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, postnatal depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and challenging behaviour.