6 Proven Tips and Techniques to Deal With Anxiety

These everyday practices for handling anxiety can help overcome anxiety and lead to a calmer state of mind.

May 22, 2019

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We all face stressful situations in our lives, and it’s normal to experience certain levels of anxiety from time to time. We may react in fear or panic when dealing with pressures at work or school, handling social interactions, managing finances, or coping with health concerns for ourselves or a loved one. Your heart rate can increase, your breathing may speed up, or your body may feel tense.

This natural “stress response” helped our prehistoric ancestors survive threatening situations like an attack from an animal or a flash flood. However, today, we no longer face these dangers in modern life generally, but our bodies continue to respond the same way by triggering a stress response.

Cultivating healthier ways to respond to stress can trigger the opposite: the “relaxation response.” Developed in the 1970s by cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson, at Harvard Medical School, the relaxation response invokes a state of deep relaxation that can diminish the effects of the stress response. These everyday practices for handling anxiety can help overcome anxiety and lead to a calmer state of mind.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on breathing while bringing your attention to the present moment and allowing thoughts about the past and future to drift away. Psychology researcher and head of the Clinically Applied Affective Neuroscience Group in the Department of Psychology at Stanford University, Philippe Goldin, led a two-month training on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. After just nine meditation sessions, participants with social phobias indicated feeling less anxious with improved self-esteem.

Body Scan Meditation

This type of meditation combines breath focus with muscle relaxation. During the practice, sit or lay down and take a moment to concentrate on certain parts of the body. Guided meditation can help relax and increase awareness of the mind-body connection.

Breathing Meditation

Focusing on the breath provides a simple technique for mitigating symptoms of anxiety. Breath focus involves taking long, deep inhalations. During breathing meditation, try to gently let go of distracting thoughts and relax the mind and body.

Yoga, Qigong, and Tai Chi

These three types of activities combine body postures and movements with rhythmic breathing and meditation. Slow, deliberate movements help to focus thoughts and improve flexibility, strength, and balance while also reducing stress.

Identify Causes & Triggers of Anxiety

A variety of factors can cause anxiety, including financial stress, the pressure at work or school, drug use, side effects from taking a medication, or genetics. Identifying the causes of stress, either on your own or with the help of a friend or professional, can help eliminate symptoms of anxiety, develop habits for relaxation, and heal from past trauma.

Know When to Seek Help

Anxiety disorders stand out as one of the most common mental illnesses, affecting over 40 million adults ages 18 and older in the United States alone. Although highly treatable, as little as 36% of those suffering from anxiety seek treatment.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines generalized anxiety disorder as “excessive anxiety or worry, most days for at least 6 months, about a number of things such as personal health, work, social interactions, and everyday routine life circumstances.” Common symptoms include heart palpitations, feelings of impending doom, trembling, sweating, and shortness of breath.

If you experience these kinds of symptoms, you should consult a doctor. There are many kinds of treatments for anxiety such as psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of both. Reaching out to a therapist either in your area or online through free counseling services, can greatly improve your quality of life and reduce the crippling effects of anxiety disorders.

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ALLISON MICHELLE DIENSTMAN, CONTRIBUTOR
Working from her laptop as a freelance writer, Allison lives as a digital nomad, exploring the world while sharing positivity and laughter. She is a lover of language, travel, music, and creativity with a degree in Chinese language and literature.