Controlling anxiety is a skill you can learn 

Tired of living your life with anxiety controlling your every move?  Learn self help strategies on how to control your anxiety.  Although avoidance of anxiety-provoking situations is usually considered the easy way out for most people experiencing an episode of anxiety, in the long run anxiety is best conrolled by confronting your fears head on.  Working with a professional therapist or counsellor may be supportive to you if you are worried about tackling anxiety on your own.  Conquering your fears and often the fear of a potential anxiety or panic attack may be very empowering for you.  

Also, often when we are feeling anxious and stressed we blame others or other things, but in reality we can only control our anxiety and other mental distress ourselves.  Self-responsibility and self-care become essential in these circumstances to get control over anxiety provoking circumstances.  Self help techniques for anxiety can give you more control over anxiety and stress.  Some thigs you can do right now to boost your mood, negative emotions and thoughts are:

Breathing Exercises

Breathing Exercises can be one way of controlling anxiety.  Consciously become aware of your breath for a couple of minutes.  You can focus on abdominal breathing where you follow your breath as you inhale 

  • feel it go in through your nostrils 
  • all the way down your throat and into your lungs.  
  • feel how your ribcage expands in the front, your sides and your back and 
  • watch how your belly pops up (like a sleeping baby)

And then follow the breath all the way back out of your body as you exhale

  • feel how your belly contracts as the stale air starts to leave your lungs
  • feel your ribcage contracting
  • follow the air up all the way up through your throat
  • into your mouth and out through your mouth

Another breathing exercise of controlling anxiety is to focus and count each breath.

Both these exercises act to bring in more oxygen which will help clear your mind and they also act as distracters from the negative emotions and thoughts.

Exercise

Exercise can be another way of controlling anxiety, stress and even depression.  The human body is quite wonderful in the sense that it produces its own anti-depressant when you do 20 – 30 minutes of regular exercise.  By doing exercise which increases your heart rate the body manufactures Endorphins and Serotonin hormones which are nature’s own anti-depressants and often called the happy and feel good hormones.  Aerobic exercises include walking, hiking, swimming, jogging, horse riding, martial arts, cross country running, dancing, gardening and cycling.  There is nothing stopping you turning up the music when you are cooking in the kitchen or feel like doing a bit of dancing in your front room.

Relaxation

Relaxation is a great way to learn to conrol anxiety.  And flopping out in front of the television or playing games on gadgets are not usually classed as a relaxing activity, especially not if the game involves raising anxiety and stress levels because the body cannot differentiate between real actual dangers or modern day stressors.  Relaxing activities include leisure time, getting rest, reading a book or a magazine, a relaxing,refreshing shower, focused muscle relaxation, visualisation, guided imagery or meditation techniques, mindfulness, tai chi, complementary therapies like massage or accupuncture, creative writing, colouring, painting, art, engaging in music listening or playing.  If you cannot think of anything, try to remember what you used to like as a kid or before you had financial or parental responsibilities.  Asking for support from other people who are around you can also help to lighten your load.  Often a problem shared is a problem halved.

Food and nutrition

Food and nutrition can play a significant role in chronic anxiety and even depression if blood sugar levels fluctuate.  Aim to eat regular meals that will replenish you and release energy slowly to avoid blood sugar spikes and drops as that is the time that a strong caffeinated drink like coffee or sugary sweet or chocolate bars are most tempting.  Consuming high amounts of caffeine and alcohol, refined sugar and refined carbohydrates like baked and sugarty treats can lead to irritability, fatigue and moodswings. To optimise mental health add slow-releasing energy foods and complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein to your diet as that would limit blood sugar drops.

Sleep

Sleep – it may often feel that your sleeping patterns cannot be controlled if you class yourself as an insomniac, are sleep deprived due to caring responsibilities or work irregular hours.  But at the very least try to schedule in 4 hours of sleep at some point of the day.  The problem with sleep and health (physical and mental health) is that the one exacerbates the other.  It is a vicious circle.  The less we sleep the more we worry and the more we worry, get anxious, stress or depressed the less we sleep.  When we are sleep deprived it makes it much harder to stay positive and deal with negative thoughts, feelings or behaviours as we are too exhausted and cannot find the motivation from anywhere.

The general recommendation is that people sleep on average between 3 and 11 hours and if you wake up feeling refreshed the next day, you have slept enough.  It is also commonly accepted that it takes about 20 minutes to fall asleep.  Therefore, if you haven’t fallen asleep after 20 to 30 minutes get up and out of bed and do something like reading from a book or magazine (not gadgets, mobile phones or television) or drink something warm without caffeine or alcohol.  Being in bed when we cannot sleep reinforces that it is a place where we cannot sleep.  Go back to bed when you feel tired again. 

Creating short but regular opportunities throughout your day will make you feel more in control of your own self-care which will empower you to become more confident in controlling anxiety and stress in your life. 

See more tips to control your anxiety on our Self Help for Anxiety page

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