Self-Help for Anxiety: Tips to Help You Control Your Anxiety
There’s feeling anxious and then there’s anxiety.
There is nervousness before a big test and then there is being in a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension.
There are butterflies in the stomach and then there is compulsive behavior or panic attacks.
Anxiety impacts nearly one-fifth of the U.S. population. The average age of onset is 11 years old. The disorder falls loosely into three categories: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Symptoms continue for months and may include:
- Irritability or restlessness
- Being easily fatigued
- A feeling of one’s mind going blank
- Muscular tension
- Out of control worry
- Sleep issues
This disorder is marked by recurrent and unexpected panic attacks. These attacks present symptoms like:
- Heart rate: accelerated, palpitations, pounding
- Increased and prolonged sweating
- Shaking or trembling, feeling short of breath
- Overall sense of impending doom
As a result, some of the more generalized signs of panic disorder:
- Fearing a panic attack, worrying when it will next happen, avoiding places where past panic attacks have occurred
- Intense, overall fear
- Feeling out of control during and/or when anticipating a panic attack
Social Anxiety Disorder
Also known as “social phobia,” this common disorder exhibits with symptoms like:
- Fear of being humiliated, embarrassed, judged, or rejected
- Fear of offending others
- Excessive worrying about interacting with other people (often well in advance)
- Hard time making conversation
- Avoiding potential social situations
- Difficulty making new friends, difficulty in keeping friends
- Physical symptoms like sweating, nausea, trembling and shaking voice
The Importance of Self-Help
Evaluation for any of the above anxiety disorders starts with ruling out physical health issues. Manage low blood sugar, medication side effects, overactive thyroid, etc. Treatment often involves medication and therapy. However, there is so much we can do as individuals within the realm of self-help to enhance such treatments and feel more empowered.
8 Self-Help Tips for Anxiety
Sometimes the most common advice is best: Breathe. While anxiety can fill us with a sense of being out of control, breathing is something we do all day long without thought. Breathing is within our control and that’s where it’s self-help strength can be found. Research shows that long slow deep breaths calm the autonomic nervous system. Deep slow breathing is literally a way to shift our nervous system from alarm to relaxation mode.
Whether it’s doing CrossFit or yoga, taking a long walk or simply turning on your favorite song and channeling your inner Travolta, get yourself moving!
Making lists is a way to break down seemingly overwhelming tasks into small, easily digestible bites. And it feels so good to cross things off along the way.
Clutter can be both internal and external. If your mind is a jumble, the path towards relaxation could begin with rearranging your physical space.
Music has magical powers. We can all recall times when a song or even a note brought us a feeling of peace.
Movies, that is. Of course, something that makes you laugh is highly recommended. However, each of us responds to film in different ways. Anxiety self-help might mean a documentary to you or a foreign film (subtitles keep your mind focused) or perhaps an over-the-top action flick. And don’t forget the popcorn!
When getting through the day seems daunting, try breaking it into hours or even minutes. Be present and patient with yourself. Consult the lists we discussed above. Do what you can in the moment and enjoy that sense of mindfulness and control.
Ask for help. Talk to friends and family. Find a therapist. Accept that practicing self-help can often involve reaching out for support.
Rebecca Klasfeld is a licensed clinical social worker in Boca Raton, Florida. If you are experiencing anxiety and would like to take bring your mind and your life back into a healthy balance, you are invited to call at 561-441-9933 or fill out the contact form and click send. Together, we can strategize a plan to help you manage your anxiety and reclaim your life.