Six Tips for Dealing with Anxiety





We all experience anxiety at times.  Occasional anxiety is natural and manageable.  Unfortunately, the busy pace of modern life leaves seven out of ten adults experiencing stress and anxiety on a daily basis.  Sadly, chronic worry and anxiety can rob you of your happiness.  When anxiety starts to interfere with your ability to be happy and have a functional life it's time to take action.

There have been times in my life that I've let anxiety get the best of me, but with years of study and a little trial and error I've found the following methods to effectively conquer anxiety.

Use Mindfulness to Understand Your Anxiety

Pay attention to your thoughts.  Learn what triggers your anxiety and identify your concerns.

When we identify our fears then we can question their validity and find solutions when necessary. Often worrying is wasted energy with your mind running through various doomsday scenarios. It is rarely productive.

Understand that although the things that trigger your anxiety may come from the outside world, your anxiety itself is self-generated.  Your internal dialogue and thoughts are what maintain your anxiety.  Listen to and identify your internal dialogue. 

Write a list of your worries and fears, then decide if they are valid.  If they are, then search for solutions.  If not, let them go.  When you hear the 'tapes' of fear and worry playing over and over in your mind, observe them but do not give them power.  Watch them and let them go.

Meditation

I've found quiet meditation to be the most important factor in dealing with anxiety.  When we stay too busy or distracted then our fears or concerns lie below the surface and fester.  It is important to spend a few moments every day meditating and becoming aware of our thoughts and emotions.  

If we are used to being busy or preoccupied then quiet time and mindfulness can first lead to an increase in anxiety before it gets better.  Unfortunately, many people stop meditating when they start to experience increased anxiety.  They keep themselves busy or preoccupied to try and escape their heightened anxiety but it won't go away.  We must face ourselves and our fears if we are to get better.

When you first begin (or restart) a meditation program, give it a few days.  Try and push through the initial uncomfort and see if you don't feel more calm with a daily meditation practice.

Talk to Someone

Some of my most enlightening moments have come from discussing my fears with someone else.  After weeks or months of keeping it bottled up inside, I would finally bring it up in conversation and it was like a veil was lifted as I realized that either my concern was exaggerated or more easily solved than I originally thought.  Just talking to someone will help.

Try talking to a friend or family member about your problems.  In some cases it may be prudent to seek a professional counselor.  Don't let pride stop you from getting your life back.

Get Some Exercise

I regret it every time that I stop getting enough physical exercise.  When I am maintaining my exercise routine I am calmer, happier, and I feel in control of my life.

Exercise basically burns away the chemicals like norepinephrine and cortisol which cause stress.  Vigorous exercise will also produce endorphins which enhance our sense of well being.

A brisk walk or bike ride can immediately reduce stress and anxiety but to reap the full benefits exercise it should be routine.  Make it a practice to exercise at least 30 minutes each day.

Get Adequate Sleep

I know, this sounds like a Catch-22.  You can't sleep because you're worried, but your anxiety builds because you aren't getting enough sleep.  

You must find a way to break the cycle.  Make sure that you aren't taking in too much caffeine.  Perform a physical activity until you are exhausted.  I personally do not like using medications, but talk to your doctor if you can't solve the problem yourself.  Proper sleep is essential to a happy and productive life.

Practice Living in the Present

When I say practice, I mean just that.  Most of us spend the majority of our time thinking about the future so it can be very hard to be fully present here and now.  Start by doing it for short periods of time -practice.  Take 30 minutes and sit in the sun not thinking about anything - just enjoy the sun.  It's hard, I know, but with practice you can learn to do it.  I'm now able to take entire days off from worrying or thinking about the future.  It is great to just enjoy the moment or an afternoon with no worry or anxiety at all.

For quick, short term methods of lessening anxiety check out my article from last year - 51 Great Ways to Relieve Stress.


If you need more help working through fear and anxiety then I highly recommend Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm by Thich Nhat Hanh.  It is an in-depth look at our deepest sources of fear and how to get past it and live a meaningful life. The ebook version is very affordable.



Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living







13 comments:

  1. Dan,

    I agree that in the modern world we live in it is hard not to get anxious. There are way to many distractions in everyday life. I personally have to have that quiet time everyday just to make it through. If I do get overwhelmed during the day I take a one or two minute break to just focus on my breath and that is like a reset button for my racing mind.

    Craig
    zenchop.com

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    1. Hi Craig, Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to participate.

      We really must learn to look past the distractions and focus on what really matters. The breaks help us remember.

      Dan

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  2. I agree with all of the above, but especially talking to someone. Works every time. :)

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  3. Great suggestions, Dan. Most of my adult life has been defined by this constant anxiety, and I think it is for a lot of people. The big thing is that we feel guilty about attending to our own needs, which is ridiculous, when you think about it. You're right--anxiety is SUCH a waste of energy. It will be interesting to see where life will lead, and that gradually becomes LESS of a part of my life... ;-)

    P.S. Good book rec!

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    1. Yes Bethany, although I've read a lot of Thich, you did introduce me to this particular gem. Thanks!

      Dan

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  4. These are all so important, Dan. I can say that daily exercise and getting a good night of sleep has really helped me decrease my anxiety. It is as if I am a different person than I was just three or so years ago. By adding exercise, I slept better and started living more in the present. I'm not meditating daily, and I think your point about pushing through the first few days is very important. I'm glad you said it is the "most important factor" because I'm thinking it is the next step. I've started and stopped so many times, but I do think it was extremely helpful and I know it just requires that I do it. I don't need a grand party or ticker-tape parade to get started. Thank you for the book title too!

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    1. Hi Tammy,

      I don't always meditate daily, but do always regret it when I don't.

      Dan

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  5. Dan! Our daily 5 mile walk has helped everything else fall right into place. The sleep, the talking, the mindfulness and being present have all stemmed from our simple daily walk. I would never have guessed it would be that important, but it is. Have a marvy one, Dan!

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    1. Hi CJ,

      My hike, walk, or bike ride is vital to my sanity. When I don't do it, I suffer mentally and physically.

      Dan

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  6. These are great tips! Meditation is an incredibly powerful tool and minimalism has greatly reduced my anxiety. Also, since I sold my car, I find there is never an issue with getting enough exercise, whereas, when I had a car, I would go through periods of inactivity. I will definitely check out the book. Thanks!

    http://peopleprofitpursuit.blogspot.com/

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  7. Anxiety is not a fun thing to deal with. Some people have anxiety just occasionally when they find themselves in a difficult situation while others have anxiety attacks every day. Exercise and talking to someone always helped me with dealing with my anxiety the best possible way. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!

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    1. Hi Elena,

      Thanks for reading and participating.

      Anxiety and fear can be smothering. Liberation requires focused and regular practice.

      Dan

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