As someone who has anxiety, I know that it can be indescribably crippling.
(To learn more about my personal struggle with anxiety, read this article: My Journey of Overcoming Separation Anxiety.)
You feel on edge all. the. time. You feel like you’ll never be able to live a “normal” life. Countless things scare you, so you miss out on a lot. You feel alone.
But you are not alone.
One in five South Africans is affected by anxiety disorders. So, think about a group of five people you know, and, chances are, one of them will have some type of anxiety disorder.
That might seem unlikely, but consider the fact that there are six types of anxiety disorders:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Social anxiety disorder
- Phobias (social phobia and specific phobias)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Do you know anyone who is extremely afraid of heights? That’s acrophobia, and it’s a type of anxiety disorder.
It’s so comforting to consider that all types of anxiety are treatable. It’s all about finding the right coping tools that work for YOU.
So, without further ado, here are a few tips to help you cope with anxiety.
1. Talk about your anxiety
Talk to people you trust about your anxiety. It could be family members, your partner, your best friend, your small group at church… Talking will not only make you feel better, but it would help those close to you to understand and support you better.
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. It’s okay to be vulnerable; you’re only human.
“Being open about mental health may help people become less ashamed to discuss their own mental health issues. Let’s help end the stigma together!” – Neurocore
2. Surround yourself with people who make you feel safe
Instead of spending your free time with people who make you feel uncomfortable, choose to spend that time with people who make you feel safe and happy – people who make you smile, laugh, and forget about your cares.
Meditation is a great way to calm your anxious mind. Meditation is super easy to get into these days, thanks to technology. There are many apps available that incorporates guided meditation such as Calm, Headspace, Stop, Breathe & Think and Virtual Hope Box.
Exercise is truly excellent therapy. “As little as 20 minutes of exercise may temporarily lessen feelings of anxiety,” according to Neurocore.
So, find some type of sport or exercise that works for you. My top suggestions are yoga, dancing, boxing and running.
Make sure you get enough sleep. Sleep reduces stress and gives your body the energy to fight anxiety. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, can increase anxiety as well as the risk of depression and other diseases.
6. Eat healthy
People with healthier diets, including food with omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, and b-vitamins tend to be less anxious than those who follow more “western” diets of processed, fried, or sugary foods, according to a study.
Here’s a quick guide of things you should eat more of to get those anti-anxiety nutrients:
- Omega-3: Salmon, sardines, herrings, tuna and walnuts.
- Probiotics: Yoghurt, pickles, sauerkraut and brine-cured olives.
- B-vitamins: Avocados, almonds, cheese and legumes (beans, lentils, etc.)
7. Be mindful
Mindfulness is about being present and aware, every single moment. By being mindful, you can have control over your anxiety.
(Read more about mindfulness here: How to Live a Life of Mindfulness)
8. Find a relaxing hobby
Find a new hobby that occupies your mind to such an extent that you forget about your anxiety. For me, it’s playing
You can also try gaming, Sudoku, gardening, the list goes on. Find yours and stick to it.
Expressing your feelings through writing can be very therapeutic. If you’re not into writing, however, you can also try bullet journalling or mood trackers.
Words are powerful. A good way of harnessing the power of words to relieve anxiety is to recite positive affirmations: “Statements that are spoken, and often repeated, to encourage and uplift the person speaking them”.
- I accept the good that is flowing into my life.
- I am surrounded by peaceful people.
- I am calm.
- I have the potential to heal completely.
- My body knows how I can get better.
- I crave new, healthy experiences.
11. Reduce your caffeine intake
If you’re someone who drinks a lot of coffee or energy drinks, consider reducing your caffeine intake.
Although it’s true that there are benefits of drinking coffee, there are also some disadvantages of drinking coffee. As explained by Paula from Thirteen Thoughts:
“Large quantities of caffeine increase stress hormones, cause rapid or irregular heartbeat and it can also cause sleep problems.”
12. Get professional help
So many people are hesitant to get professional help due to the stigma attached to it. I was one of those people. But when my anxiety continued to be debilitating, I eventually went to see a psychologist. And a year later, I started psychiatry, too. The psychiatrist put me on chronical medication, which significantly improved my quality of life.
Finally, I could cope. I could live.
Now, I’m not saying you need psychiatry or meds, necessarily. Maybe all you need is therapy – be it group therapy or simply counselling.
But by all means, get help, if you feel you need it. You’re not alone.
Do you have any additional tips on fighting anxiety? Leave a comment below and let’s all help each other!