Anxiety affects millions of Americans each year, but there are ways to manage it, Huffington Post reports.
Below are seven psychiatrist-backed ways you can manage your anxiety to cope with the disorder.
- Schedule your anxious thoughts.
Anxious thoughts often creep up on us throughout the day when we are doing something unrelated to what we are anxious or worried about. When this occurs, try to push your anxious thoughts to another, more appropriate time. University of Michigan psychiatry associate professor Ricks Warren calls this “worry postponement” or a “worry schedule.”
If you are enjoying time with a friend and start to worry about a work presentation you have coming up, identify the anxious thoughts and say to yourself, “I will think about this at work tomorrow.”
By pushing these thoughts to a later time, you are ensuring they do not take over your life. Later, you may even feel less anxious or have decided on a way to navigate the worry, such as talking to a friend.
- Put your worry on a ‘catastrophe scale.’
When experiencing anxious thoughts, it is easy for the thoughts to spiral out of control. Soon enough, your small worry has transformed into a large monster that is much harder to master.
To avoid this, develop a ‘catastrophe scale’ to help you determine how bad a situation is, or how likely it is to happen. A catastrophe scale can be as simple as a line on a piece of paper – marked with the number zero at the beginning, 50 in the middle, and 100 at the end.
The end of the scale is for worst possible scenarios, such as a child dying or a life-threatening illness. By doing this, “it helps people put things in perspective,” Warren said. “Not everything gets a 100.”
This scale will help you look at your situation more logically, and not allow your anxiety to run amok. By breaking down what it happening, it is easier to manage.
- Take one big project and turn it into multiple smaller tasks.
A large project at school or work can feel overwhelming and impossible. This often causes people to turn to procrastination, which often makes the anxiety and worry worse.
Stanford University psychiatry professor Keith Humphreys, said, “[People with anxiety] often want to show up on time, wanting to complete the work. Anxiety is what paralyzes them.”
When presented with a large project, break it down into smaller goals and tasks. This will make it more manageable and the more smalls tasks you accomplish, the less anxious you will fill.
- Prove your anxiety wrong.
The unknown is often scarier than the situation itself. For instance, you may be anxious about a public speaking role, but once you do it, you feel much better and are not as anxious to do it the next time.
Research from the University of California at Los Angeles’ Anxiety and Depression Research Center concludes that exposure therapy helps people with anxiety. Meaning, when someone confronts their anxiety trigger, they are better able to cope.
If you are afraid of the subway, consider exposing yourself to it by taking a ride. You are likely to find out it isn’t as bad as you think.
- Fake it until you make it.
Just as your body has a built-in flight-or-fight trigger to help you handle dangerous situations, it also has a built-in stress reliever. This means the next time you are anxious, you can calm yourself down on your own, all through bodily responses.
“Focus on your breathing, put your feel flat on the floor. Smile even if you don’t feel like smiling,” Humphreys said. “Tense your muscles then let them go, then tense them again and repeat. Relax your body and a lot of people will find your emotions will follow.”
- Learn to accept yourself and your anxiety.
It is common for people with anxiety to feel ashamed of themselves and the anxiety they experience.
It is important to accept yourself as one of the millions of America adults who experience anxiety over their lifetime.
Practice self-compassion and self-acceptance. Do not make yourself feel bad for feeling bad. Guilt will not help the situation.
- Remember, anxiety disorders can be treated.
There are a variety of mental health treatments and techniques that help people with anxiety improve their quality of life. If you are struggling, take hope in knowing that it can get better and reach out to a professional.