Living with anxiety can feel like you’re living in your own special hell. The tightening in your chest, rapid heartbeat, and the feeling that suddenly there isn’t nearly enough oxygen in the world. If you’ve dealt with anxiety for a while, chances are you can sense it coming before total panic takes ahold. No matter how good you think you may be at diverting total chaos within, it’s always good to learn new coping techniques.
Feeling anxious is a healthy occurrence in the body to assist fight or flight. In an emergency situation it’s perfectly okay to feel this way. However, if you begin to feel anxious frequently or you find it interrupting your ability to work or enjoy life, you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder.
If you’re someone who has just started experiencing severe anxiety it’s a good idea to seek help from a therapist. They can often help you work through any underlying trauma or events that might be causing your sudden bouts of anxiety.
If you are in immediate need of assistance for mental health please visit MentalHealth.gov to contact someone from the treatment helpline or suicided lifeline ASAP. Remember, you are not alone on this journey.
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What is an anxiety disorder?
An anxiety disorder is when worry, fear or anxiety frequently disrupt your ability to maintain and complete daily activities. You may feel extreme stress, restlessness, and an inability to stop worrying about everyday life events. Some examples of anxiety disorders are panic attacks, post traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Medication is available for those with severe anxiety, but may not be the best treatment plan for everyone. Speak to your physician or therapist about what treatment plan might work best for you.
One of the most important steps in learning to cope with anxiety is to become more self aware. Anxiety is different for everyone. Each of us have different warning signs, symptoms, and situations that trigger us. Developing self-awareness around your anxiety could help you ward off an anxiety attack.
The next time you feel anxious try to ask yourself these mindful questions:
What am I feeling physically in my body right now?
Where was my mindset prior to feeling anxious?
Where am I and who am I around during this feeling of anxiousness?
It can be a challenge to stay mindful during times of anxiousness, but try this exercise as best you can until you increase awareness. If you’re having trouble with this exercise try speaking with a therapist. They can help you develop a greater sense of self-awareness surrounding your emotions.
Don’t Forget to Breathe
Your breath is pure medicine when it comes for stress and anxiety. We tend to forget to breathe properly during times of anxiety causing our bodies to undergo even more stress. You’ll want to make sure to inhale slowly and deeply to allow enough oxygen into the bloodstream. Exhale calmly and slowly, but don’t overthink your breathing.
Breathwork is a great technique for daily living but during anxiety attacks it’s not always the best method of breathing. If the technique involves counting or hold the breath it can cause some people to become more even anxious from overthinking the breathwork. This can ultimately lead to hyperventilation.
You’ve heard of people going for a walk to clear their head. Gentle movement like walking, biking and yoga can help to settle anxious thoughts because they are mindful by nature.
Anxiety and stress are mind-centered, as we are generally overthinking and being swept up in our thoughts during times of anxiousness. Going outside for a walk or bike ride is a very grounding experience. Grounding yourself outside can help to get you out of that brief cycle of overthinking hence clearing your mind.
Sitting idle with your anxious thoughts creates a breading ground for more anxious thoughts. During days that you’re feeling heightened anxiety set thirty minutes aside for movement that best resonates with you. If you’re the type of person that destressed from going to the gym or cardio, you may find comfort in doing these activities to clear your head. However, some may find this too stimulating due to the increased heart rate, so be sure to listen to your body.
Calm Yourself With Sound
Music is so powerful. Think back on when your favorite song comes on the radio. It has the ability to completely change your mood and set the tone for a better day. Stressed at work? How often to you get into your car on your lunch break and search for the perfect song to blow off steam?
Music therapy is backed by science. It’s deeply healing due to the way our brains process sound. Each intricate part of a song- tempo, pitch, melody and lyrics are decoded by different lobes of the brain. Think of music as a massage for your brain, helping to release dopamine and endorphins.
Next time you’re feeling anxious try turning on your favorite song or something that brings up warm nostalgic feelings. Calming meditation music and sound baths can also be an intensely therapeutic experience if you have a quiet space to listen. Learn more about sound bathing in this previous post: What is Sound Bathing? How Can it Help Enhance Your Life?
Essential oils have recently gained popularity but have been used medicinally for centuries. These oils are created using high amounts of plant extracts. It takes several pounds of each plant to create a single bottle of essential oil.
Just like cooking with specific plants/ herbs helps to heal the body physically, the inhalation of these highly concentrated plants/ herbs helps to heal the body mentally. Aromatherapy is most commonly distributed to the body through a diffuser, topically with a carrier oil, or through an inhaler.
Because essential oils are made with such a high plant content it’s important to use quality oils made from plants that aren’t grown with pesticides or chemicals. There are a lot of overpriced MLM oil companies that have given essential oils a reputation for being expensive. No shame to those companies, but not everyone can afford a 5ml bottle for $20+ bucks (personally raises hand).
It’s very tempting to grab a bottle of oil at the grocery store, but chances are the quality just isn’t there. My go to source for essential oils is Eden’s Garden. They are extremely affordable and hold a very high quality content. This female owned company produces chemical free oils with ethically sourced plants.
My go to oils for anxiety are lavender, and Eden’s Garden tranquility blend.
Naturopathy is a medical system that uses alternative therapies to heal the body. These therapies work well to help treat anxiety due to their calming therapeutic nature. This form of alternative medicine uses massage, acupuncture and herbal remedies.
Much of our stress is held within the tissues and joints of the body long after we think this stress may be gone. During times of stress and anxiety muscle tissue tightens causing tension. Prolonged muscle tension can cause knots and chronic pain within the body. Getting a massage helps to loosen the muscles and release endorphins to calm the body.
Don’t worry about the cost of getting a massage. Most massage therapy schools offer free or highly affordable massages by their students under the watchful eye of teachers.
If needles and therapeutic touch aren’t your cup of tea try herbal remedies like tea, CBD oil or homeopathic tinctures. A combination of all three in your daily routine can help to keep anxious feelings at bay. For particularly anxious times I personally take a few drops of Rescue Remedy. This natural stress relief is made from an herbal blend of therapeutic flowers. It’s what I use when experiencing severe anxiety or a panic attack. Within a few minutes it helps to calm me down without any psychoactive or sedative side effects.
Stimulation is everywhere in our modern world so it’s often hard to escape. Did you know overstimulation could very well be the driving factor for your stress and anxiety? Registered Phycologist Olivia Brouillette states:
Overstimulation, or sensory overload, is when your senses are just completely overloaded with information, making it difficult (or sometimes near impossible) to fully process the information you are receiving. This type of overstimulation is often seen in what we often call highly sensitive people (or HSP for short).
Highly sensitive people tend to know a lot about overstimulation. We need some time alone, in our own private spaces in order to recharge, process, and collect ourselves after a stressful period, or after overstimulation.
We are overstimulated by social media, the news and way too much screen-time in particular. The constant need to be doing something or staying busy is most likely linked to being connected to everyone at all times. We no longer find tranquility or joy in simply being because we are a generation addicted to stimulation.
Try limiting social media, news and binge watching in your daily routine. You might be shocked to discover your anxiety decreases after only a week of implementing this practice. If you need background noise at home try lo-fi, jazz, or classical music instead of tuning on the television.
Sitting in the stillness alone with your mind can be very uncomfortable at first. You may find yourself reaching for your phone to absorb the discomfort, but try to resist by doing a less stimulating activity like journaling, yin yoga, or going for a walk. Putting down the phone and turning off the TV could very well help you discover a new hobby like gardening or painting. Both of which have extremely healing properties of their own!