There are simple measures you can take to help cope with anxiety. This article addresses 5 ways to cope with anxiety. “To experience anxiety is to be human,” said Dimitrios Tsatiris, MD, a practicing Board-Certified psychiatrist and Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Northeast Ohio Medical University in Cleveland, Ohio.
“We all experience anxiety and no one is immune to it.” It’s part of the human condition, he added. Most importantly, “the good news is that anxiety is treatable,” he said.
What is anxiety?
For example, it’s not uncommon to feel anxious about taking a test, giving a presentation, or facing a major life decision. This is temporary worry or fear.
“Our brains are meant to create anxiety. To have anxiety to some degree is normal and helpful. It gives us fuel to take action. The problem is when anxiety is excessive and so intense it affects your day-to-day functioning, Dr. Tsatiris said.
For example, if someone has a difficult time talking to people because they are so anxious, or someone needs to use drugs and alcohol to cope with anxiety, those are red flags—he explained. And professional help is needed. “Therapy can help reduce anxiety.”
The type of anxiety that is intense, excessive and lasts about six months—worsens over time and interferes with everyday life—is known as an anxiety disorder.
According to the American Psychiatric Association website, “anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30 percent of adults at some point in their lives.”
Presently, these are trying times. The pandemic has brought pain, despair and deaths. Every day living has drastically changed. Anxiety and depression have increased since the start of the pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention—Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report states that the “Symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder increased considerably in the United States during April–June of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019.”
If your anxiety isn’t temporary and doesn’t go away, and you have excessive anxiety, worry or fear—most days for at least six months—it’s important to get professional help. “The fear and anxiety can cause significant problems in areas of their life, such as social interactions, school, and work.”
It’s important to manage anxiety and find healthy ways to cope.
Dr. Tsatiris said there are measures to take to help cope with anxiety. Theses are 5 ways to cope with anxiety— Physical activity, mindful meditation, breathing exercise, journaling and nature can help.
5 Ways to cope with anxiety
One — Physical Activity
“Anxiety is a high energy state. When we are anxious, our thoughts are racing, our heart beats faster and we have a hard time unwinding to fall asleep” Dr. Tsatiris explained. “Exercise is a healthy way to release this energy.”
How much exercise do you need?
Ideally, the amount of exercise recommended by the CDC is—to get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (like brisk walking) or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity (like running) — or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week. Also two days a week to work for muscle-strengthening activities.
Walk, run, dance, hike, cycle—just keep moving. Choose what you like to do and make it part of your healthy lifestyle.
TWO — Mindfulness Meditation
When we are anxious, we are not present in the moment, said Dr. Tsatiris. When we are anxious, we are thinking about the future and thinking about “what-if” hypothetical scenarios — What if something bad happens? What if I lose my job? Mindfulness meditation can help us return to the here and now, he said.
For mindfulness meditation it’s about focusing on the quality of your breath. “It sounds simple, but hard to do, Dr. Tsatiris explained because “our mind wants to wander in a thousand different directions.” It wants to wander and think about the future. When you notice your mind wandering—gently bring it back to the here and now. Bring your mind back to your breathing and with time—mindfulness mediation becomes easier, he said.
As you inhale, try saying this phrase to yourself: “Breathing in peace and calm.” And as you exhale, say: “Breathing out tension and anxiety.”
THREE — Breathing Exercises
When we are anxious, we can become short of breath, explained Dr. Tsatiris. “Breathing becomes rapid and shallow,” he said. Breathing exercises are designed to slow the breathing rate down, he added.
BREATHE 4 — 7 — 8
4 Seconds— Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds.
7 Seconds—Hold your breathe for 7 seconds.
8 Seconds— Exhale— pursed lips for 8 seconds.
FOUR — Journaling Your Thoughts
“Our thoughts can be anxiety provoking, said Dr. Tsatiris. We can think worst-case scenario and worry about the future, the economy, the pandemic, our loved ones, etc., he added. “Journaling is a helpful way to write such thoughts down to examine them.”
“What are the odds that my fear will become a reality?”
“What can I do to further lower those odds?”
Focus on what you can control, Dr. Tsatiris said.
Here’s a simple example explained by Dr. Tsatiris: In light of the pandemic, you may be worried about going to the supermarket. Ask yourself—What can I control? You can:
- Go to the supermarket during quiet hours—when there are fewer shoppers.
- Clean your cart with a bleach wipe and bring hand sanitizer.
- Follow CDC guidelines and wear a face mask properly.
- Have groceries delivered to your house.
These are simple measures you can control.
FIVE — Nature
Nature can help improve mood, health, cognition and overall well-being.
Spending time in nature can help relieve anxiety. Find harmony and balance in the great outdoors. Go on a nature walk or a hike and be mindful of the beauty in front of you.
Developing this tool set and implementing these measures into your lifestyle can be beneficial for your well-being.
These are five ways to help you cope with anxiety. They can help you live a healthier and better life. Most importantly, as Dr. Tsatiris mentioned, anxiety is treatable.
How do you cope with your anxiety? Let us know in the comment section below.
“Gratitude allows us to have a full picture of life, and it balances the negativity that comes with anxiety.”—Dr. Tsatiris
Everyone experiences anxiety and no one is immune to it. When excessive worry or fear becomes unmanageable—that is when professional help is needed. The good news is—it’s treatable.