It has been estimated that over 40 million adults in the United States (almost 18% of the population) deals with anxiety, making it the most common mental illness in the U.S. Anxiety disorders also cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one-third of the country’s $148 billion total mental health bill, according to “The Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders,” a study commissioned by ADAA (The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 60(7), July 1999)
Anxiety can impact anyone, regardless of income, education, social standing, ethnicity, where they were born, or how they were raised. Many people suffer in silence and, worse of all, many people are ashamed to admit to others that they struggle for fear that they will be judged, or viewed as unstable. This is a tragedy.
I know that there isn’t a universal solution to this problem, and that simple tips alone may not be sufficient to effectively deal with the problem. In many cases, professional counseling is also needed. I also know that a “band-aid” approach isn’t realistic, especially in severe cases. However, I still hope these tips on managing anxiety work for someone, in the same way, that they have worked for me.
1. Watch for your triggers
If you know what your triggers are, then you can effectively plan around them. Plan periods of exercise (step 3) or time-outs (step 4) around the times that you know your anxiety is likely to be triggered or peaked. Having cognition of the danger spots can also lessen the anxiety itself.
2. Talk to someone who will treat you with kindness and understanding
Don’t suffer in silence. There is someone out there that you can talk to. If you don’t have support in your home, church, community, or with friends, then look up support groups in your area. There are always resources available to you.
3. Start exercising
Exercise has so many benefits, and alleviating anxiety is one of them. If exercise is not currently a habit, then just start by getting outside and taking a walk each day.
4. Take a “time-out” to breathe
Time alone to simply breathe is a highly effective strategy for calming our hearts and helping us to feel at peace. It also aids in our rational decision-making ability.
5. Have some fun and laugh
Spend time with funny people. Watch funny movies or TV shows. Look up clips of stand-up acts on YouTube. Laughter is good for the soul (and great for the anxiety).
6. Understand that you are in control
This was a big one for me–the realization that I always had power over my life. Sometimes it didn’t feel that way. Sometimes I felt trapped in positions that I couldn’t get out of, but slowly I realized that I controlled each decision of every day. Sure there would be consequences, but they were of my making. I was the architect.
7. Failure doesn’t reflect on your worth as an individual
Part of the reason I was ashamed of my anxiety was that it was a signal, to some people, that I was failing, and I didn’t believe that failure was acceptable. This belief was at the foundation of my anxiety to begin with, and when I torched this belief, replacing it with an empowering view of failure–that it was simply education–then I started to get control of my internal self. Failure wasn’t terminal. It wasn’t something that couldn’t be corrected, and most importantly it was not a reflection of my self-worth. Failure was simply feedback in this grand experiment of life. Adopting that belief system has had a tremendously positive impact on easing my anxiety.
8. Surround yourself with happy and inspiring people
The more I was around people, and ideas, that inspired me, the more my outlook started to brighten. The other side of this tip is to remove the people in your life that make you anxious. This was equally important to learn to manage my anxiety and can help you manage yours.
9. Take daily action on a goal that is personally meaningful
For me, a large part of my anxiety was feeling like my life was out of my control. A way to take back control was to work, every single day for at least an hour, on a personal goal that was uniquely meaningful to me. By working on the goal I felt that I had control over a small portion of my life. This made me feel good, and it helped me to manage any anxiety I continually felt.
10. Make a change
Sometimes, no matter how many tips you employ, it’s not enough. In these cases a change in environment is necessary, and this may also require a change in jobs or careers. That is why tip number seven is so important–as you make the change (if required) you don’t get bogged down in feelings of anxiety-inducing failure. Failure doesn’t exist, there is only feedback. So if you have to make a change, look at it as a new beginning rather than a failure.
11. Get enough sleep
Sleep is something that you can control, and making sure that you get enough of it is a very important step to managing your anxiety. Here is a quick tip to getting enough sleep: turn off all electronic devices for at least an hour before you go to sleep. This will help to relax you, and will also increase the restfulness of your sleep.
12. Get involved
Volunteering, or otherwise getting involved in your community, helps to build your support network, and it also helps you to focus on other people and their needs. As simple as this sounds, it can have a powerful effect on alleviating your anxiety.