Part 2 in a series on Anxiety. I want to give you some suggestions for reducing your anxiety. I know that it can be overwhelming when anxiety rushes in, but there are some things that can be useful to you in the moment as well as preventatively. When therapists treat anxiety we tend to focus on some basic skills that can be addressed, then we move into more specific issues.
Here are the basics:
- Reduce intake of caffeine and stimulants.
- Eat healthy food and make sure you are not trying an all protein diet, you need carbohydrates to make your brain function properly.
- Take 10-20 minutes each day to practice some relaxation or meditation. You can do this in small increments of 5 minutes each. One long period would be useful as well.
- Decrease time on electronics. They tend to be over-stimulating, and reduce the amount of time you watch the news. I would even recommend you skip the news. If there is something really outstanding to know your friends and family will probably alert you.
- Sleep 7-9 hours a day. Take a nap if you can.
- Exercise! Walking for 15 minutes each day can significantly improve your brain functioning and lower your anxiety.
- Eliminate alcohol or decrease it significantly. Though it may feel relaxing in the moment, alcohol actually is a central nervous system depressant. It doesn’t always increase your depression but it will depress the functioning of your brain.
- Stay in touch with family and friends for support. Make a list of those who you can talk to when you are upset.
Here are skills that can be used in the moment when anxiety arises:
- Read a book, watch a movie, go for a walk. If you are at work go to the bathroom and sit for a moment while you practice some deep breathing.
- Call a friend and talk about something other than what is bothering you.
- Take long deep relaxing breaths, noticing how the air comes in with each inhale and leaves with each exhale.
- Intense exercise: run in place or do jumping jacks, this will override the emotion.
- Place your hand over your heart and feel the warmth and comfort this brings. You may also want to follow that with a meditation to soothe you.
- Find a tea or another food item that you enjoy that you can use for soothing.
- Listen to soft relaxing music.
- Take a warm bath or shower.
- Snuggle up to a cozy pet.
When it comes to dealing with the anxiety-producing thoughts it is helpful to make a list of thoughts that occur when you are anxious. Then spend some time changing those thoughts to something that is more reasonable or realistic. This is where a good friend or a therapist can come in to help you identify those thoughts and make them more effective and rational.
For long-term more significant help, we suggest meditation and mindfulness. One of my favorite programs is Mindful Self-Compassion. This has been researched to show the effectiveness for anxiety. And it is a lovely way to decrease depression and insecurity.
Some of my favorite books related to changing thoughts about anxiety are:
Mind Over Mood, by Dennis Greenberger, PhD and Christine Padesky, PhD
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, by Edmund Bourne, PhD
Let me know if you need more ideas. I am always happy to help!