Our last blog discussed tips that people with mild anxiety can use to calm down when experiencing stress. However, if anxiety is a chronic problem, it is essential to establish long-term strategies to ensure that the emotion does not overwhelm your life. If stress and anxiety are part of your life, the below strategies may help. Remember, it is always best to consult a professional mental health counselor who may provide the insight and advice you need. Here are some recommended strategies for coping with anxiety.
1. Learn to recognize and manage triggers: Triggers can be as simple as too much caffeine or as complex as an abusive relationship. Other common triggers include driving or traveling, stressful work environments, withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, medication side effects, chronic pain, depression, phobias, or trauma. Anxiety may also be genetic. Once you have identified what may precipitate an episode, coping with anxiety can be accomplished by structuring your life to minimize your interaction with those triggers.
2. Establish a routine meditation schedule: While it requires practice and commitment, frequent mindful meditation can train the brain to banish anxious thoughts when they come up. If sitting quietly and focusing is difficult, yoga or walking meditation can be a good alternative.
3. Keep a personal journal: Those living with anxiety may find it very helpful to develop a habit of journaling thoughts and emotions in a daily diary. The practiced process of writing down and documenting your thoughts can result in more calm and peaceful moments. Journaling can also help individuals monitor and track anxious episodes, triggers, emotions, and reactions. Keeping a record of your experiences allows you to track progress and identify areas of improvement.
4. Make an intentional effort to socialize: Everyone is unique and different, and some may experience anxiety due to social interaction. However, they should try to push through these feelings and spend time with safe family members and friends. Make sure that you choose people who will not trigger your negative emotions. Socialization can help alleviate stress, enhance feelings of togetherness and well-being, and minimize isolation and loneliness. Being socially connected and engaged, even with very few people, can help individuals to gain more resilience over the long run.
5. Research supplements or make dietary changes: Changing your diet or adopting a regimen of supplementation is a long-term strategy for coping with anxiety. Scientific studies have identified some supplements or nutrients that reduce anxiety, including lemon balm, omega-3 fatty acids, ashwagandha, green tea, valerian root, and kava kava. However, your body needs to adapt and react to these new nutrients over the course of several months before benefits appear. If you take prescription medication, be sure to discuss any potential herbal remedies with your physician, as adverse reactions are possible.
6. Maintain a healthy body and mind: One of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety is to exercise regularly, maintain proper sleep patterns, eat a nutritious diet, and remain connected to those who care about you. Feeling sick and tired can cause anxiety and depression, while feeling healthy enhances overall well-being.
7. Review medications with your doctor: If your anxiety is serious enough to warrant medication, there are several options – and each of these may cause adverse side effects. Also, medications for other illnesses and diseases may be instigating anxiety attacks, so you may need to find alternative treatments.
Seek the Help of a Mental Health Counselor
We discussed above that writing your feelings down can help process feelings of stress and that being socially connected can also help to alleviate anxiety. However, some people may prefer to talk through their feelings and emotions with a neutral third party. A certified mental health counselor can help you to sort through confusing thoughts and structure a plan to move forward and work towards healing.
Denise Schonwald is a professional mental health counselor based in Sarasota but works with clients across the country. She is dedicated to helping people live their best lives through emotional and spiritual healing.