Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues in the UK. Research in 2013 indicated there were 8.2m diagnosed cases nationally. Anxiety can be debilitating but it can be managed, allowing sufferers to get back to enjoying life.
Here are 5 practical ways to cope with anxiety1.
1. Get the jumble of thoughts out of your head and on to paper
A common symptom of anxiety is a busy mind full of fears and worries about the future. This jumble of thoughts can feel overwhelming – like being stuck on a perpetual merry-go-round.
Instead of allowing these thoughts to dominate, write them all down on paper. Empty your mind effectively. Once you have committed all the thoughts that were troubling you to paper, your mind will feel quieter and it will allow you to take back control.
2. Deal in facts not assumptions
With your thoughts down on paper consider which of them are factual and which are assumptions. Anxiety can drive us to create ‘stories’ in our minds of possibilities based on assuming this or that ‘will’ happen. They can then easily escalate to what might be considered the ‘worst case scenario’ for that particular issue.
For example the thought “I might lose my job” is not the same as “I have been told I will lose my job”. Similarly, ask yourself what thoughts like “I’m terrible at this job” are based upon. Unless your line manager has asked you to make improvements in your performance, you are quite likely to be making incorrect assumptions. And negative assumptions fuel anxiety.
3. Use affirmations – but use the right ones
A quick glance over the many articles on ‘most popular searches on Google’ (found via Google of course), gives the initial impression our queries are a mixture of tongue-in-cheek curiosity, personal development and philanthropy.
With a clear head and an idea of which thoughts were anxiety-inducing assumptions and which are factually accurate, you can begin to tackle the real issues. Anxiety sucks up self-confidence better than a Dyson sucks dust so positive affirmations can help the re-building process.
It is important to pick the right ones. If your anxiety stems from concerns about your exam results, an affirmation like “I am going to get 100% in this exam” is not helpful. Instead an affirmation like “I am going to study hard and do the best I can” is much more effective.
Our lives are getting faster and faster. The time spent simply stopping and taking stock of the day is diminishing rapidly. With the advent of social media we feel unable to ‘switch off’ – unwilling to disconnect from social media for more than 10 minutes. Ultimately it leaves no time for our brains to process the tens of thousands of inputs received each day.
Meditation is a great way to focus on the present and to calm your thoughts and fears. Setting aside even just 10 minutes to meditate can clear your mind and reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety.
Putting your mobile phone to good use, there are many free apps to download featuring guided meditation, music for meditation or meditation exercises. Local meditation classes and mindfulness centres are popping up regularly in towns and cities. Search online for one near you and make a fixed, non-negotiable date in your diary to attend, perhaps with a friend.
5. Consider professional support for anxiety
Counselling can be a very effective tool in managing and overcoming anxiety. Providing an opportunity to examine the root of your fears and worries, counselling can be a liberating experience for sufferers. Counsellors can also help with practical coping techniques to deal with panic attacks.
Understanding the root of your anxiety and what triggers panic attacks can make you better prepared to take on the challenges we all face in life.
1 If you believe you are suffering from anxiety the first step is to speak to your GP. They can provide an accurate diagnosis and determine the severity of your anxiety. Your GP will also help you find out more about support services available and, if necessary, prescribe medication. For more information visit NHS Inform.