5 Ideas for Managing This Anxious World

Worried about the next snowstorm hitting your city or that your flight will be delayed? You’re not alone. In fact, every single one of us experiences anxiety. But when we constantly avoid socializing, excessively sweat before a presentation or are unable to sleep because our minds won’t stop, then anxiety may be taking us over.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 40 million Americans or 18% of our population is suffering from this level of anxiety making it the top mental illness diagnosis. Anxiety is clearly the malady of our modern day life.

What Exactly is Anxiety?

Anxiety, as I mentioned earlier, is a normal human response to uncertainty and we experience it often in our lives at work, in school (such as before tests), when we make decisions or if something unexpected arises.

Anxiety becomes a problem when our feelings and thoughts prevent action or cause symptoms that render us unable to cope. These include constant worry, panic, fear and apprehension. There can also be physical symptoms such as sweating, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, and restlessness.

Why Are We So Anxious?

Our modern world is exciting and fast. Thanks to technology we’re also hyper connected and constantly exposed to vast quantities of information. It’s simply too much to process.

In addition, anxiety is effortlessly fed by looming uncertainties like the slow economic recovery, rising terrorism, constant environmental stressors, and managing life’s increasingly complex responsibilities.

If we’re forward thinking, we easily become habituated toward worry, fear and anxiety. What’s going to happen? How am I going to manage it? What if I get Ebola?

To cope with anxiety, many people take Benzodiazepine medications such as: Xanax, Ativan, Valium or Klonopin. These pills target the gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA, a neurotransmitter chemical, enabling the user to feel more relaxed, and less anxious. They can be addicting and often, when a pill wears off, can make a person feel even more anxious.

What Else Can We Do?

Here are 5 Easy Ways to Address Anxiety Without Medication

1.     Manage It

The number one thing we can do to help ourselves deal with anxiety is to change our thinking.

Let’s reframe anxiety and accept that it exists, that we will feel it and experience it. Anxiety will never go away because we are hard wired to have it. Instead, we have to manage it and recognize it as a warning.

What Does Anxiety Want to Teach Me Right Now?

Do I need to make sure my car is filled with gasoline before the storm? Should I double check my alarm clock so I won’t be late for the meeting? Anxiety is a natural warning system but it doesn’t have to become a way of life.

2.     Be Present

Often we fall into anxious thoughts because we’ve moved ourselves out of the present moment and into a future scenario.  We imagine terrible suffering and awful possibilities. To quote Mark Twain, “.. life does not consist mainly -- or even largely -- of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storm of thoughts that is forever blowing through one's head.”

Instead, if we can bring our attention back to this moment, most of the time, nothing awful is happening. It’s all in our heads. When I find my mind careening forward and painting scary scenarios, I remind myself to come back to now, back to this present moment.

Then I ask questions like:

Am I safe right now?

Am I supported right now?

Are my children okay?

Am I healthy?

And nearly all the time, the answer is yes.

3. Foster Healthy Mind Habits

Left to its own devices, our minds wander, projecting lots of “what if” scenarios or telling us scary stories and other negative things like: “They don’t like me.” “I’ll lose my job.” ”He’s talking about me.” “They’ll never hire me.” “I won’t have enough money.

Catching ourselves thinking like this is the first step.

Then we can begin to change those thoughts and shift into healthier patterns. Choosing positive self-talk, reassuring words and kind messages instead. Phrases like:

“I’m doing a good job.”

“I can ask for help if I need it.”

“I’m an excellent money manager.”

4.     Limit News

We can also support ourselves by limiting our exposure to the news. Today we can see what is happening across the globe and sometimes that level of knowledge can feed our anxiety. Learning about a military coup or suicide bomber can fuel our fear and propel us into anxiety when, in all likelihood, that occurrence will have no real impact on our lives. Especially avoid watching the news before bed.

5.     Exercise

The research that exercise reduces stress and anxiety is overwhelming. We all know it immediately makes us feel better, boosts our immune system and releases endorphins. And yet, when I’m in an anxious state, it can be hard to get myself motivated.

So the best strategies to ensure that exercise is part of your life are to:

  • Create a regular routine.

    • Maybe it’s a walk with friends once a week or an evening yoga class. For me it’s running 4-5 times a week.
    • Creating a routine can help us stay exercising even when anxiety appears.
  • Have a buddy.

    •  Initially it was really hard for me to be self-motivated to exercise.
      I relied on my husband to get me going. He loves working out and was like a cheerleader for me.

    • Another way to have accountability is to meet someone at the gym or studio. Knowing someone is waiting can get you there when you feel unmotivated.

So the next time you find yourself feeling anxious and stressed, try incorporating some or all of the above. If you need more help, reach out to a friend, coach or therapist. There’s no reason to feel oppressed by this life. It’s here for you to be lived and enjoyed to the fullest. So get out there, have fun and live anxiety free!

What do you do for anxiety?

Leave a comment below!

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