While it’s normal to get nervous about an important event or life change, about 40 million Americans live with an anxiety disorder, which is more than the occasional worry or fear. Anxiety disorders can range from a generalized anxiety disorder which is intense worrying that you can’t control, to panic disorder – sudden episodes of fear, along with heart palpitations, trembling, shaking, or sweating.
For those with an anxiety disorder, it’s important to look into strategies that can help manage or reduce anxiety in the long term. Talk therapy, herbs and acupuncture can help ease overall anxiety and stress levels in the system. I’ve listed additional ways to reduce anxiety below.
- Bring Yourself to the Present Moment.
Anxiety is a future-oriented state of mind. So instead of worrying about what’s going to happen, come back to the present. Ask yourself: What’s happening right now? Am I safe? Is there something I need to do right now? Ask yourself these questions throughout the day to break the patterns of constant anxiety.
- Re-Label a Panic Attack.
Panic attacks can often make you feel like you’re dying or having a heart attack. Remind yourself that “I’m having a panic attack, but it’s harmless, it’s temporary, and there’s nothing I need to do, except calm myself.” While scary, a panic attack is the body’s way of activating its fight-or-flight response – the system that’s going to keep you alive.
- Fact-Check Your Thoughts.
People with anxiety often fixate on worst-case scenarios. To combat these worries, think about how realistic they are. Say you’re nervous about a big presentation at work. Rather than think, “I’m going to totally bomb,” for example, say, “I’m nervous, but I’m prepared. Some things will go well, and some may not,” Getting into a pattern of rethinking your fears helps train your brain to come up with a rational way to deal with your anxious thoughts.
- Breathe In and Out.
Deep breathing helps you calm down. While you may have heard about specific breathing exercises, you don’t need to worry about counting out a certain number of breaths. Instead just focus on evenly inhaling and exhaling. This will help slow down and re-center your mind.
- Follow the 3-3-3 Rule.
Look around you and name three things you see. Then, name three sounds you hear. Finally, move three parts of your body – your ankle, fingers, or arm. Whenever you feel your brain going 100 miles per hour, this mental trick can help center your mind, bringing you back to the present moment.
- Just Do Something.
Stand up, take a walk, get a drink of water, pet an animal – any action that interrupts your train of thought helps you regain a sense of control and allows you focus on the present moment.
- Write Down Your Fears. Writing down your fears on paper can allow you to get perspective on whether they are true of factual, to help see them clearly for what they are. You can also write down small steps underneath each fear to help them to dissipate. Enlist in a friend or family member and run through the list to get a second opinion or additional suggestions to help them lessen their triggering intensity or to make go away.
- Cue Up Laughter. This final tactic may be the easiest one yet – cue up clips of your favorite comedian or funny TV show. Laughing is a good prescription for an anxious mind. Research shows that laughter has many benefits for our mental health and well-being. One study found that humor could help lower anxiety as much as or even more than exercise can.