By Melissa Chalos Riddle
Even before COVID hit, coping with anxiety has been a major challenge for a significant part of society. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, impacting 40 million adults.
The mind-body connection is no joke. Managing stress and anxiety means taking good care of your physical body.
Managing anxiety can be challenging, but it is a problem you can tackle head-on without adding worry on top of worry. How can you cope with anxiety? There are a range of strategies for how to control anxiety. Everyone is different, so finding what works best for you takes times. Here are five anxiety coping techniques to help you keep this disorder in check.
1. Punch-List the Physical Basics
When anxious thoughts or feelings creep in, try spot-checking the basics of your physical health: Are you skipping meals or eating poorly? Nutrition has a profound impact on your energy levels. Are you sleeping well? Your body needs even more rest to process stress when it hits. Are you getting enough exercise? Exercise reduces stress, improves sleep, and has proven mental health benefits, so it’s a significant advantage in terms of anxiety management techniques. The mind-body connection is no joke. Managing anxiety and stress means taking good care of your physical body.
2. Tap into Mindfulness
Coping with anxiety means being intentional about your mental health. You can’t just let your mind, the portal by which anxiety enters your life, run on autopilot. Mindfulness can come in many forms, whether mindfulness-based cognitive therapy with a professional or guided meditation you can explore via the web or an app. It can also be less formal as you make an effort to be more present in the everyday moments of your life.
When you make that cup of coffee in the morning, try to experience the process. Watch the coffee brew, breathe in the steam, the aroma of the grounds, and feel the heat on the cup. Sip slowly and savor it. You can apply this same kind of intentionality to your posture, breathing, stretching, daily activities or tasks, and even learn to say “no” by creating boundaries. Practicing mindfulness creates calm and space to move past negative emotions, which helps eliminate the stress that triggers anxiety.
3. Identify Your Triggers
Learning to identify triggers is an essential coping skill for anxiety that can make it possible over time to reduce your exposure. Is it work- or school-related? Is it a specific person or situation? Journaling or keeping a record of the stressors that cause anxiety in your life is an easy, positive step. Don’t let the idea of journaling intimidate you. It can be as easy as using a stack of sticky notes or scrap of paper and just a few words instead of complete sentences. You may even prefer to draw or doodle it. Just record the date, time, and enough to help you see the patterns of the who-what-when-wheres and whys that allowed stress and anxiety to creep in.
4. Reconnect to the Universe
One powerful and free anxiety management technique that anyone can do just about any time of day is getting outside and reconnecting to nature. The sunlight increases serotonin, a natural antidepressant, while the fresh air clears your lungs and improves blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, focus, and energy. Mentally, the benefits of being outdoors are immense also. A simple walk around the block can help reduce stress as you feel the wind and sun on your face, look up at the expanse of sky overhead, and listen to the sounds of life all around you. Go outside at night, look up at the stars, and be reminded of the bigness and beauty of the cosmos and your place in it. It may change how you view your life and how to control anxiety and the stressors in it.
5. Detox the Digital
As difficult as it may seem, one of the best, most effective ways to manage anxiety in your life is by disconnecting, or at least limiting, your exposure to social media. According to U.S. News & World Report, a 2021 Reboot survey found that more than 50% of those surveyed said that social media increased anxiety and depression and negatively impacted self-esteem and concentration. It’s no wonder that health experts have started calling social media a public health crisis.
A digital detox may require more than you’re willing to do, so one idea is to log out of your accounts. If you have to log back in to access your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter account, that tiny delay will help to limit the amount of time you spend there. Even small breaks from your smartphone — and social media — can increase productivity, improve your mood, and facilitate more time spent with friends and family. And ultimately, reducing your exposure to the unreality of social media means you’re serious about reducing the stress and anxiety it produces.
Managing Anxiety Together
Learning how to control anxiety should not be one more thing that gives you anxiety. If you start small by implementing minor changes from each of these five strategies, you will create even more space for emotional health and freedom in your life. Find yourself struggling? We at The Meadows would love to help. With all kinds of therapy options for managing anxiety and more, our trained professionals would love to come alongside you to give you the tools you need to get on the other side of what’s holding you back. Reach out today to learn more.