If you suffer from anxiety, it’s important to know that you are not alone.
As the Anxiety and Depression Association of America explains, anxiety is the most common mental health disorder. More than 18% of adults suffer from anxiety.
That means that about one out of every five people you meet has an anxiety disorder.
The exact causes of anxiety aren’t easy to pin down, but they are known to be multifaceted. No one factor can explain anxiety. Instead, it’s a combination of genetics, environmental factors, brain chemistry, and life experiences.
The good news is that anxiety is highly treatable.
The bad news is that only about 37% of those who suffer from anxiety receive treatment.
One reason for this might be the stigma around mental health issues. There is a pervasive idea that we should be able to handle our problems by ourselves and that asking for help is a sign of weakness. This stigma makes many suffer who do not need to, and it adds to a growing sense of isolation and secrecy for those who have an anxiety disorder.
Take Control of Your Anxiety
If you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety, there are concrete ways to take control of your life and get the help you need and deserve to climb out from under the shadow of anxiety.
- Talk to a Professional:
First and foremost, know that there are professionals who can help you. They understand your anxiety disorder for what it is: a combination of factors beyond your control. They are not going to judge you or think less of you for seeking out help. In fact, they have gone into their careers specifically to help people like you lead a more productive and happier life.
- Name It:
When you are having an anxiety attack, your flight or fight response is triggered, and this can make it very difficult for you to think clearly or control your reactions. You can feel like you need to run away. You may be overcome with feelings of anger, frustration, or fear. In this moment, one of the most powerful things you can do is name what is happening to you. Say to yourself, “This is anxiety.” It doesn’t necessarily make the feelings go away, but it gives you power over them and helps you remember that this feeling will pass.
Breathing has long been linked to overcoming feelings of anxiety. One of the most popular breathing techniques for restoring your sense of calm and control is known as the 4-7-8 breath. Promoted by health professionals as a way to calm down (and even as a way to combat insomnia), this breath consists of breathing in for four counts, holding your breath for seven counts, and exhaling slowly for eight counts. You then repeat the pattern two or three times. This signals to your brain that you are okay and helps you regain control.
- Exercise Daily:
You don’t have to become a marathoner or a full-blown yogi to reap the benefits of exercise (though you certainly can!) Just a little bit of daily exercise has been linked to very positive resultsfor those suffering from anxiety. Thirty minutes of daily exercise had the same impact as medication in one study group. In another, regular exercise improved the results of cognitive behavioral therapy. If you can take your exercise outside and fill your lungs with fresh air while listening to the sounds and taking in the sights of nature, that’s even better.
- Declutter Your Surroundings:
There is evidence to suggest that our brains mirror the environments they’re in. If you find yourself staring at lots of piles of clutter and feel trapped in your home rather than comforted, it may be time to make your external space reflect the internal calm you long to feel. Start small and don’t overwhelm yourself with tasks. Focus first on the space where you spend the most time. Maybe that’s your bedroom or an office. Focus on decluttering surfaces and removing unnecessary items from your space. The simpler your surroundings, the more of your energy you can focus on what really matters.
- Tune Out:
Constant news or social media updates can be anxiety-inducing even for those who don’t have a diagnosed anxiety disorder. If you find yourself getting worked up over the latest news or the drama of your friends’ fights, it might be time to unplug and tune out. While you don’t need to disconnect from the world entirely, putting limits on your screen time can help you build a healthy relationship with this information. If that sounds intimidating, start small. Designate the hour before bed as screen-free time. Tell yourself you won’t look at your Facebook feed until after you have showered in the morning. Gradually build up to more and more time away and make the time you do spend there intentional and purposeful.
- Be Honest:
It’s okay to tell your friends that you have an anxiety disorder. Often, people with anxiety (especially those with social anxiety) feel guilty when they cancel plans. Being upfront with your friends and loved ones about your disorder will help you explain those absences and give you a support system that you can lean on. What this means, though, is that before you can be honest with them, you have to be honest with yourself. Sometimes it can be difficult to recognize the little ways that anxiety is affecting our lives, especially if we’ve lived with the disorder so long that it feels like a normal part of our daily experiences.
Anxiety is a daily struggle that can make us feel alone, disconnected, and like we aren’t meeting our potential. It can be overwhelming to try to make changes for the better when the very disorder we are trying to combat is constantly making us feel incapable of taking on such a challenge. You don’t have to battle anxiety alone.
The professionals at Real Life Counseling are trained, eager to help, and waiting to hear from you. Contact us today to take the first step at reclaiming control over your life.