Five ways to tackle anxiety
Anyone with anxiety will know that setbacks and attacks can come from seemingly nothing. A thought will enter your head and you can become fixated on it. There is a sudden rush of fear and you imagine all the worst things that can happen (and it is always the worst). We may know in a logical sense that we are doing it, we may dislike or feel ashamed of ourselves that we cannot stop it, but we seemingly continue to fall into the spiral of judgement and self-criticism. Yet by offering yourself a little self-compassion, and realising that you did not choose to do this to yourself, you can overcome the anxiety.
1. Challenge those unhelpful thoughts
Look again at the unbidden thoughts that judge you harshly or tell you that the worst will happen. Ask yourself if I were in a court, what facts could I present that prove these thoughts are correct? Remember feelings are not a fact, so "I know they hate me from the way they are looking” is not a fact. Then make the case for the defence - what facts are there to prove that the thought is untrue? Now examine your thought again - have you proved it to be true beyond reasonable doubt?
Research has shown that exercise is very effective in reducing anxiety. During exercise your body releases hormones like adrenaline and endorphins which give us more energy and give us a natural high. There are health benefits for the heart as well and that in turn helps us deal with stressful situations better. Many people find that when they exercise their mind is at its clearest, they have an uncluttered view and feel more able to deal with things. Finally exercise needn't be in a gym or jogging round the streets - a bracing walk, a keep fit class or going for a swim will all work just as well.
3. Look at your diet
Many of us when we are stressed reach for comfort food – cakes, sweets and chocolate. They all give us that temporary high that gets us away from the anxiety, a little boost to make us feel better. Alcohol is often used to help us relax when we are feeling anxious and while alcohol has a sedative effect, it has other effects including disrupting the quality of your sleep as well as provoking depressive or low mood. Healthy diets that include things like vegetables and fruit have been shown to make a real difference.
4. Learn to relax
Probably the most common type of relaxation taught is progressive relaxation. First find yourself a quiet safe space where you will be undisturbed. Starting with your feet first, tense then relax the main muscle groups - so feet, then calves, then thighs until you have done all the muscle groups in the body. The tensing and relaxing of each group should take about 20-30 seconds. Make sure you really notice the difference between the tense state and the soft relaxed state. As you rid yourself of some of the physical tension, you should find that some of the physical signs of anxiety lift too.
5. Get some support
Anxiety can be a crippling condition where you can feel very alone and under attack. Having as much support as possible can make a big difference to your recovery. Friends and family are the obvious ports of call, yet we can worry about what they might say or think so it's worth considering getting the help of a professional such as a doctor or a counsellor who can really help you make changes at the pace you want to get you back on track.
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